I hoped that the lessons I learned throughout this road trip would somehow serve as a microcosm for life. I’m five days in and numerous times, I’ve contemplated my return. It wasn’t the literal or moral hangover that came after an incredibly interesting “Idaho” night that didn’t represent my best pandemic-appropriate ability to act or think. It wasn’t the negation of all my plans because a cold front moved in and I found myself in Montana’s 30 degrees, wet and rainy conditions. It wasn’t loneliness or regret. Instead, it was a crippling sense of insecurity that seeped out through my pores when I thought of myself or my future. Insecurity is like a secret wound and when it tears open, your worries, doubts, and darkness spill out. We do our best to keep it hidden, to keep it contained, to heal it, but it is undeniably there and it only takes a certain situation, conversation, or the shivering cold to bring it out of you.

I’m actually welcoming this insecurity right now because I want to learn from it. That’s what this trip is all about after all. A “spiritual” journey is really just a chance to see yourself unobstructed by any other influence. It’s a chance to go out on your own in order to see you for you. I’m starting to play with the idea of how much we are influenced by our surroundings. It’s evident that we all come from certain places and circumstances that greatly affect who we turn out to be on the bigger scale, but what about when we simply change our environment, even temporarily. How much of myself is actually myself and how much of me is my environment? This concept is making me beg to define my core values—the ideas and theologies that I hold most dear—the things that are unwavering. But is having an unwavering mindset, ultimately, the definition of a closed mind? One core value that I have cultivated over the last year is an appreciation for an open mind—so where does that leave me?

I think I’d like to further define who I am and who I want to be according to a set of foundational beliefs. These beliefs won’t be etched in stone but they should certainly be beliefs by which to live. That’s where this path looks like it might be headed. Of course, I could still turn around tomorrow so please don’t expect too much out of me.

On a hike the other day, I realized that I have stopped the practice of contemplation. I used to have pages of written and digital notes of random mind abstractions about the nature of existence, reality, consciousness, as well as personal discoveries, flights, and narratives. I used to think, question, and ponder much more than I do now and on this particular day those thoughts started coming back to me. Contemplation and exploration are inherent in the mind of the philosopher. This is something that I missed and something that I realized that I hold dear—the ability and the time to philosophize—perhaps the etchings of another core value.

The past few days have honestly not been great, but I feel inspiration starting to crack through to the surface of awareness. I have immense hope that this will all be worth it. I’m happy to be contemplating again. I’m lucky that I have a lot of time for that.

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