Learning from the past, enjoying the present and foreseeing the future
Back in the nineteenth century a very old , famous Rabbi Hafez Ayim living in Poland was visited by an American tourist. The American was surprised to find that the very famous Rabbi lived in almost a hovel. It was one room with a rickety old chair and an old bed, and piles and piles of books – books everywhere.
‘Rabbi, where’s all your furniture?’ asked the tourist.
‘Why, where’s yours?’ retorted Hafez.
‘Mine? But I’m just passing through.’
‘So am I,’ said the rabbi.’1
The Visitor´s Tale from Tales for an unknown city.
One of the many wonderful things that I´ve learned as I leave one country and head for the next is that life goes by really quickly. In a way, we´re all passing through. And this made me think of a poem by French writer Edmond Haraucourt, who wrote “partir c´est mourir un peu” (to part is to die a little). I leave a link to the full French poem and its English translation here.
When I read it for the first time, I thought that this poem was too sad to read (or I was simply not ready…), so I disregarded it. However, a couple of years later I went back to it and saw it in a different and brighter light.
Imagine that it´s the first time you go abroad. You arrive at a new country in which you don´t know how to act, how to react, how or what to say in different everyday situations. Literally having no idea of what is right or wrong (or believing that you do). In addition, you have no friends, you don´t know what places to go or what to do in this unfamiliar environment.
You don´t realize at this point what´s going to happen exactly. You just hope that everything will be ok, that you´ll have lots of fun and will learn a lot in the process.
A few weeks or months later and after some adventures, embarrassing situations, funny anecdotes and memorable moments, you will notice that you are getting used to the uncertainty and even begin to like it a little bit more each day. Accepting the things that you didn’t like initially and not taking for granted any of your recently-made friends or just-learned lessons that you incorporated to your brain along the way.
After a while and all of a sudden, you realize that there are certain people, food, smells, rituals, places that you wouldn´t like to let go. But you, your circumstances or both have decided that, after having spent a while there, you are going to leave soon. And, in a way, it´s as if a small part of your life is over; as if a part of you was about to be left behind.
Whether that is a month, a year or a decade, a period of your life took place in that setting. You had experiences, learned the language with the locals, met new people, saw incredible landscapes, developed new social, work or personal abilities… But all good things come to an end and it´s simply time for you to go.
The act of leaving is not good or bad in itself. It´s the meaning we attribute to it that counts. And this in turn depends on your own personality, your family, your social circles, your upbringing and your personal experiences among others.
The bright side about it is that you might be under the impression that you´re living several lives within one life. Every time you switch places, use a new language and make new friendships is like a new you is born.
“EVERY TIME YOU SWITCH PLACES, USE A NEW LANGUAGE AND MAKE NEW FRIENDSHIPS IS LIKE A NEW YOU IS BORN”
In a sense, it is normal to be sad and excited at the same time. Sad because you´ll have good memories associated to a particular location that will be in your heart forever. And also, excited because a new future lies ahead of you and it has a visible starting date.
In my opinion, one is constantly learning a lesson from the past. In my case one of those lessons was to let go and travel light. When you know that family, friends and partners might be far away for some time or for good, your mind comes to terms with this situation and you learn to accept. You learn to detach yourself from and flow with the emotions associated to be away from it all.
“LET GO AND TRAVEL LIGHT”
What about the future? Since you know that your stay in a particular country has an expiration date and sometimes such departure might leave you without an incoming cashflow, you learn to plan for the future. Debts become a thing from the past, as you experience that cash is king and that it will allow you to not have to carry half of your house with you, to settle more easily and to create a new home wherever you´re going next.
People before could stay in the same company for many years and even retire there. Nowadays this is becoming increasingly rare and we should be mentally and financially prepared for life vicissitudes, as constant, rapid and unexpected changes is the hallmark of the 21st century.
Come up with a plan and follow it. Prepare your bed so that, at least for a little while, you can lie in it, until you establish your new routine. Be aware and ready, however, that you might have to change it as you go, as circumstances or new priorities may modify your original idea at any time.
The past and the future are important, but even more so is the present. As a quote attributed to John Lennon says, “Life is what happens as you´re busy making other plans.” And I know that it´s easier to understand it than to apply.
It is possible to plan ahead as you keep it in mind. Besides, once you have a time and money budget ready, things usually go more smoothly and worrying about your future will become a sweet thought from your past.
So yes! Assimilate what you´ve got from the past (learn and leave behind), use it to plan well your future (prepare and don´t despair), but don´t let any of the previous two keep you away from what is truly important: the present. And take it for what it really is, a true and valuable gift.
I wish you a wonderful and happilingual week and I leave here a video about finances so that you can plan for your next trip wisely!