Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

The Underlying Questions

Today marks the two week point of my arrival in Sydney. In that time I’ve worked on sorting pictures for my mom, music for a friend, my old text messages and cell phone contacts for myself, and a little bit of reading. I’ve gotten a decent sense of parts of the city. I’ve picked up a mobile phone plan, some groceries and a few dental visits. I’ve spent a lot of time cooking, eating, acclimating, sleeping, and hanging out with people from the hostels. All in all, I’ve been on a weird kind of vacation where I didn’t really let go. I feel like I’m back at beach week as one of the students who keeps checking to see if their teachers have put up their final grades, or one of the people so connected in at work that they have their Blackberry on the beach and at the restaurant.

So what am I doing here? Am I on vacation? Am I on holiday? Am I on travel? Am I on business? Is this a spiritual quest to find myself? Is this a journey where I hope to learn about myself and grow up? Are there really any rules I need to be following?

Keeping up with the blog is going to give me something to look back on at the end of the year. But is it going to be a catalogue of how I wasted my time?

I really don’t know. I’m not even sure where to look for the answers. Are these questions that I should be asking myself out loud? Are there paths I should be following? Guide books for what the hell to do with myself?

Settling into a life here and going native would be something. I would truly detach from my old self, learn myself in a new city. But it would be a modulated version of home me. It would be me at work in a different city. Do I truly expect to learn any more about myself working a corporate job in Sydney compared to back in DC?

Going on holiday and seeing the sights would be enriching and fantastic. But without the grounding of a home base from time to time, a city to call my own, a glimpse of a long term life, does it really keep meaning something? A week of holiday is great and relaxing. But can I sustain it for a year, or even a few months?

And what is it I’m doing here so far? I’m not working, but I’m trying to be productive. And with no set hours of business I end up reverting to my “working” schedule post-layoff (and honestly my working schedule for the few months pre-layoff). I’m waking up late, I’m working on things for a few hours, and then people are around and I’m distracted. I don’t end up accomplishing what I meant to, and so the days drag on as I never quite finish enough to move on ot the next step. I’m not being a tourist and seeing the sights. In two weeks of living here I have seen the harbor bridge, the outside of the opera house, and walked around an amusement park on the water. I’ve spent a day at Bondi Beach to see an art exhibit. With the last item as an exception, all of my sight-seeing has happened in a 6 hour period.

As I walk down the streets listening to music I ask myself from time to time, “Really, what am I doing with my life?” The question is larger than my time in Sydney. It is larger than this trip. What do I want? Here, there, in life, long term? What am I doing? What is going to make me happy? What can make me happy?

Speaking of people in the States, I feel that the question is so much easier for most people because they’ve limited their scope. Be it out of self-knowledge, or obliviousness to the wide range of options, or fear, or comfort, most people are content (and as far as I can tell happy) to live in a place, to have a job, to have food on the table, to have a roof overhead, to have family and friends and sometimes religion. It doesn’t have to be much of any of them, as long as it is enough to survive. The natural course of things is, as Danielle Ate the Sandwich sings in American Dream, “Go to school, Get a job, Find a wife, Settle down.”

That option doesn’t seem to fit me, at least not now. Long-term travel, vagabonding, itinerant living. That is where I am. I don’t want a job. I don’t know what job I would get if I did want one. I don’t want to party all the time. It is a hollow victory to go out and get smashed after a long day of doing nothing. I don’t want … I do want… Adventure? Fun? Friends to share it with? A purpose? Knowledge? Something I can be proud of creating? A skill?

Whatever it is I’m searching for, I’m not finding it here. Not any more. In a few days I head out of Sydney in the direction of Melbourne. As much as I want to believe that getting out of Sydney will help, I can’t honestly expect that my answer lies in the next city. It is going to come (if it comes) from a eureka moment. A fellow traveler saying something that makes it all click. Seeing some situation that stirs that spark in my soul. Hearing of an opportunity I had never considered but now seems so obvious. Figuring out the question to ask myself and how to search for self-knowledge. It isn’t a destination I’m searching for but inspiration. And that isn’t a point on the map you can drive to. It is like evolution: you set up the conditions as best you can and hope that by some virtue of properties you don’t fully comprehend it just sort of happens. And so I amble onwards, trying to be happy until I can figure out how to be happy.

2 comments on “The Underlying Questions

  1. Shaun & Sarah's Outback Adventures
    December 5, 2011

    I hope you find the answer!

  2. Beth
    December 6, 2011

    What fun would the answer be without the confusing journey to get there?

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This entry was posted on December 5, 2011 by in Australia, NSW (Sydney).

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