Over the last few weeks, I’ve been adjusting to life back in the USA for a while. Surprisingly, it has been every bit as difficult as my first few weeks in India. My time in India changed me, in every way possible. In fact, I’m writing a book about it. I’m not the same person that left here feeling anxious and lost a year and half ago. I’ve grown tremendously, and as a result, I’m noticing things that I didn’t before. Here are some things that I’ve observed about Americans since I’ve gotten back, and they are some of the things that have made my transition feel a bit unsettling.
Americans are too damn busy
I came home with an extensive list of things to do because I had been gone for a long time. I had deferred maintenance stuff to take care of on my house. I had to file my taxes, get new eye glasses, go to the dentist, visit friends, etc. But what has fascinated me most is that all my friends and family are even busier than I am. I’ve already been home almost a month, and there are many friends I still haven’t seen because they haven’t been able to squeeze me into their busy schedules. Americans are all on a hamster wheel, running around in circles checking things off their massive To-Do list. Rarely, do we just sit and enjoy each other’s company. In other cultures, people often start the day with tea or coffee and just visit with strangers.
We have become a bunch of human doings, not human beings.
In America, I don’t see many people just being in the moment, relaxed and enjoying the present. Instead, Americans are too busy thinking about what they need to do next. I find it alarming now. It causes stress and anxiety. It isolates us from one another. It’s the reason that I’ve decided to break the chains of corporate greed and work for myself again. It’s why I’ve decided to travel so much. When I travel, I feel like I am enjoying the present moment and engaging in this day, these people and this place. I’m not preoccupied with bills to pay and errands to run.
We have too much stuff
America is the land of over consumerism. I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that read “He who dies with the most toys wins.” I’ve been there and done that. But I now find the philosophy of that bumper sticker downright tragic. It’s a trap that society has perpetuated. In the words of the rock band Styx, “It’s a grand illusion.” The fact is, you don’t win anything. You just get deeper in debt and have more shit to do. The more stuff we own, the more responsibility we have, and the more things we have to do. So, having too much stuff is closely related to being so damn busy. Think about it, when you buy a car you have to register it, get tags, buy insurance, get the oil changed, and so on. Such is the case with most stuff. The more you own the less freedom you have, not visa-versa. As for me, I am re assessing my relationship with things and trying to minimize. The best things in life aren’t things at all.
We are too divided
Sadly, we are a nation entirely too focused on our differences. Additionally, most people get agitated when others don’t think as they do. The idea that I am right and you are wrong is just driven by the need to feed our ego, and what it does is isolate us from each other. It’s not only the current political climate, but Americans allow religion to divide us too, as well as other groups. Think about it, Ford versus Chevy, Seahawks against the Patriots, east versus west, this group against that group. Why don’t we focus more on what we have in common? I don’t see the same level of division as much in other countries. Maybe it’s because they are more focused on survival, or family, or art. Whatever the reason, I wish we would find more common ground and appreciate, versus fight about, our differences.
What’s next for me?
Personally, I’m still proud to be an American, but I don’t want to live here any longer. For me now, it’s too expensive, too busy, and too divided. I’m home for just a few more months and while I’m here I’m selling my things and diminishing my belongings. Then, I’m heading back out to travel again. Ultimately, I’m going to live internationally, at least the majority of the time. I will probably settle in Rishikesh, where the positive energy is infectious and wellness is top priority. I’m ready to slow down and smell the roses, or in this case, the patchouli.