this post is from a night that i spent in a hostel after a day long hike on the South Island of New Zealand.
“i feel better at home, i want to go home”
is what i thought when i confirmed that the hot itching on my arm was in fact caused by bug bites. i’m also pretty sure i saw the tiny bug that caused those bites after i started flashing my phone’s light all over my bed in the dark. The next thought was to get my laptop, cell phone, and chargers and make my way downstairs to the kitchen/lounge area. I did that, and I still felt uncomfortable. I felt dumb for getting the bites on my arm, slightly cold sitting in the chilly kitchen, annoyed that this happened at all and that i wouldn’t be in a bed, my bed, in the U.S., that I feel excited about, for another week and a half.
And I saw myself feeling all this. I sympathized with myself for having those feelings and also recognized that while suffering, I was simultaneously telling myself that it is too early (in this trip) to become miserable or annoyed. I had to continue to make the most of my time away from Cambridge for several reasons:
- I did spend money on this trip, which is a form of commitment. At some point, I felt that this trip was the best use of my resources and I had good reason to believe that, so I should follow through even if another feeling is taking the foreground to my all of my previous thought. And, I knew that when I one day looked back at this trip, I will have want to made the most of my time there.
- I also went on that trip to strengthen my friendship with my co-traveler, my friend. I knew that I should not let temporal annoyances get in the way to the extent that he notices my sour mood and remembers it.
- This is really not that bad in the grand scheme of things. I got bit. I chose to stay in a hostel. I need to suck it up because I value keeping perspective and staying grounded.
I notice that I miss home particularly so whenever I have an unpleasant experience like this one. Which makes me wonder: do I really miss home for home’s sake or because it makes me feel safe? It’s analogous to the skepticism that I develop whenever I have feelings for a new romantic interest and I start to wonder whether I like that person for who they are or for how they make me feel. I can (and probably have spent) spend hour upon excruciating hour trying to grind away at those two similar questions in my mind, bouncing between yes and no. But really, now I think the question I need to address if I want to keep perspective, is, whether loving or wanting something most noticeably in a moment of vulnerability means that that love isn’t pure. And by pure, i literally mean unadulterated and intrinsically desirable.
My gut tells me that isn’t the case.
I believe that people love others because to love is in our natures because it IS a need. It is an act of self-preservation that might just come from our animal past, but that does not make it un-beautiful. The part of love that I think is beautiful is the choice that precedes it. My home in NYC is lovable because it is always warm, safe, full of nourishing food, and the people that are dearest to me. But I don’t have to love it.
In fact, I don’t think we are ever compelled to love anything- we can only be compelled to be open to the possibility of loving something. Those extra charming people that seem to drag trails of attached souls around them are just effective at getting others to be open to the possibility of loving them by showing their lovable parts, I now think. The noble, loyal, pure, admirable thing about a loving feeling towards something or someone is that we made a choice to dedicate our mental and tangible resources to loving that thing or person. The thing that makes the act of love self-less is that we give away our irrecoverable time to someone / something by choice. And even if that choice further protects our own individual state of comfort, it’s still an expenditure of our most precious resource: time.
Even by the end of my philosophizing, I felt awful looking at my arm. But, it was worth it. I continued to enjoy the time away and am proud that I honored the commitment to travel that I made. And I continue to love my home- and look forward to plopping down onto the couch right by our apartment entrance as soon as I return to town. It is love, unadulterated, pure love.