Son and I were sitting at the dining room table having a philosophical discussion about how most people spend their lives operating in one box. He illustrated his meaning by pointing to one square on the table as representative of where most people live and then pointing to another box at the far end where few people venture.
It doesn’t matter whether the “other” box represents geography (i.e., living in another place) or a career change. The point is to get out of the mundane and take a chance. This conversation came about because I contend there are ways to live in both boxes or to merge the boxes. For example, if one wants to travel, then that could be accomplished by taking a job that includes travel or if one wants adventure, then it can be found either through work or hobbies.
As I think about my missed opportunity to go back to the UAE, I find myself examining the attraction. Why did I want to jump into that box? It was a combination of things. An opportunity to do a different kind of work – quality and accreditation. It was life in an Arab and Muslim culture. It was living with other expats. But, most of all, it was the constant, day-to-day challenges and experiences of ordinary life in a foreign country. I was frequently converting money (dirhams to dollars) and temperatures (centigrade to Fahrenheit) and remembering to say Shukriyaa (thank you) to Indians, Sukran to Arabs, and Salamat to Philipinos. These “ordinary” things kept me alert.
Here in the US, I find myself falling back into routine, but most alarmingly into inattentiveness. I recently had the experience that many of us have from time to time while driving and realizing that I had been daydreaming, went into automatic, and missed the last few minutes of the drive. This is a classic example of what happens when one spends too much time in the same box.
So I pledge (to myself) that I will begin to bring the extraordinary (or something different) into the ordinary.