by Kelsey Oke
When I was 21 years old I almost slept through my connection in Munich en route from Toronto to Milan. One suitcase, one solo passenger, one aching heart, and Chapter One of my Abroad Life lying in wait. Who was I, to be so brave?
When I was 22 I held his hand stepping off of that second international flight, taking my second international job, moving into my second international home, beginning Chapter Two of this life I knew would be unparallelled, now that this time he was next to me, instead of breaking my heart at the airport. Who was I, to be so sure?
When I was 23 I came running home. I quit my job, I backed out of my British lease, he broke my heart again, anyway. My dream life, my 5 years of uni and 3 invested in him to get us to ‘exactly where we wanted to be’ was going up in flames. Who was I, to have failed?
When I was 24, I came blinking out of the airport after the longest possible flight and hopped into a car of girls my age I’d only ‘met’ on Facebook from 15,000km away. I took their spare room in their little southern Sydney home, without a job or a partner or a clue in the world. I felt so happy I cried that night. Who was I, to be starting over?
When I was 25 I let him convince me all over again that our abroad lives were meant to be in parallel. I left my ‘happiest life yet’ not realizing I was also leaving my happiest identity behind with it. I moved to the small Thai island where I saw the ugliest versions of myself through the pain and rage and jealousy and shame I had enabled and harvested for so many years. Who I was during these two years, and what I survived, are some of the worst and proudest details of this story.
This Story that is my life, with all of these different chapters that have seen different shapes and shades of my identity. It makes it impossible to know, even all of these years later, who I really am. Who was I back then? How much of her is still here and now? Where is my center? How far off of that center have I found myself, or do I still find myself on the days when balancing it all seems toughest. After two years in Thailand, there was Madrid, Spain for another two. Then there was Zanzibar, Tanzania for just 9 months before the world shut down and the universe brought me here: to Nassau. Chapter Seven.
So who am I now?
Over the past eleven years I have found a most noteworthy and impressive balance between making intentional next steps, while also letting the wind (and the universe) simply blow me from life to life. I have loved it that way. But balancing other aspects of this (at times) comically diverse lifestyle has been harder to wrap my mind around. How do I navigate having lived so many different lives on so many different continents, learning different languages and curriculums, building different versions of myself to best fit all of the different relationships and opportunities I was coming into?
How have I been both a teaching assistant and the Headteacher of multiple schools? How did I live as a solo muzungu in a 400 square foot African hut without running water or electricity and walk into Justin Timberlake’s kitchen only a few months later? I have worked for pennies to put together a school’s first ever playground. I have survived two near-death motorbike accidents and an eye infection that left me blind for eleven days in the middle of the outback. I shared mushroom shakes with my mother on Gili Air, and sailed for two weeks along the eastern coastline of Spain. I have hiked more than one volcano. I learned the news of my best friend’s passing, standing in the middle of Trafalgar Square. I took a pill in Ibiza and I’ve skied the Swiss Alps. Angkor Wat sunrises, Chiang Mai elephants, Christmases in 6 different countries, Red Light District black outs, sailing the Scottish lochs, Philippine fireflies, caught in an actual monsoon on a dhow boat far off the coast of Dar Es Salaam, a diamond ring in a tropical garden…
But who am I as a result of it all?
Am I meant to be some final product of all of these young moments?
Our south nodes can be so telling. I was reckless, and brave, and defiant and careless. I was invincible. I was unbreakable, and I felt so lucky to be out here testing that, taunting and teasing and pushing this world to its limits with me. How could it rock me hard enough to ever stop running? I was arrogant and I was selfish, in only the most remarkable ways a 20-something year old can somehow get away with. This is the me-first energy of Aries season, in desperate need of some perspective.
Because the world did knock me around. And some of those scars run much deeper than I ever wanted to give them credit for. And many of these parts of my identity are only just coming to the surface now, retroactively demanding a recognition of the choices I made then, that I couldn’t even begin to understand until now.
Who we are now and who we are meant to become. Our True Nodes. Forming, establishing, maintaining an identity we can be proud of has to be one of the most fundamental goals in our lives. Navigating that identity with kindness towards ourselves, with patience & permission to bend and shift and veer at times, this is essential.
I think there is so much value in learning about these things, taking (with however many grains of salt necessary) into account that not all of it is in our control. This month we are talking about the harmony-seeking Libra: the balance between our identities of a past life, who we were ‘back then,’ and the guiding lights of our future - the unknown. Acknowledging and appreciating all that we have been through to get us here, and beginning to understand that our destinies, our purposes, our divine decrees are still waiting patiently and proudly for us to claim. The North Node dictates what we are moving into - which may be scary since it’s a place that we have never been before.
But if I have learned anything from this whirlwind decade abroad, it's that the scariest, the most foreign, unknown and uncharted lands are always the most beautiful.