Archers have a bad rap for being control freaks. Any human who can sustain the mental warfare that is shooting one hundred and twenty seven arrows at the same target could be classified as bonkers. A wrist turn here, extended elbow there—two centimeters of a mistake and your arrow lands in Brazil. It must take a certain kind of domineering bitch (à la Fifty Shades of Grey) to devote years of discipline to such precision. Or does it?
My brilliant archery coach growing up instilled a principle in me that has changed the landscape of my adulthood. It has nothing to do with controlling shots and gripping bows—in fact, quite the opposite—and comes back to me at the strangest times, most of which have been at dinner tables as opposed to archery tournaments.
A lovely Italian friend took me to a Swedish café in Shoreditch last night. Over Halloumi and Finnish beer we talked about the immense pressure we were beginning to feel to stop traveling. As our friends and siblings began to settle down with families, we felt a similar demand to smack down a suitcase and call the next place home. The demand was not coming from within us, I should clarify, but from the general notion that human beings need a zip code in order to classify as successful.
We realized that the same questions were popping up in both of our heads like a sick game of Whack-a-Mole. Should I have been a doctor? A veterinarian? An actress? An Olympian? Is London going to be my home, or Hong Kong, Singapore? Will I ever go “home,” and if not, am I doing something wrong? Kids, husbands & SUVs…are they even in the cards?
Twenty-somethings everywhere encounter these questions, but as an expat, it is a tad bit more complicated. Sometimes I feel like Peter Pan – flying on to the next best destination to avoid what is stale. This drive has brought me to incredible places: Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, Russia, Switzerland, London…the list chugs along. I’ve eaten some incredible food and fallen into the arms of incredible friends. But the blaringly obvious caveat remains: Peter Pan never grew up.
Giulia and I threw out a thousand examples of people we knew. Brothers, friends, exes who had settled down and begun to make a life for themselves with a definitive perimeter. We admitted that we were tired of being reminded how “strong” we are for picking up and leaving home. Neither of us feel especially heroic. In fact, sometimes we feel quite stupid. We have a good sense of what we want from life, but the question is: where on earth will we find it? And that’s when another round of questions began. And another round of drinking.
When the conversation hit fever pitch, a tiny memory drifted into my rearview mirror. Not a particularly glamorous one, but a lingering melody that plays on cue when I’ve hit anxiety levels worthy of a Xanax prescription.
My archery coach once told me that a bow is designed to perform flawlessly, but it is the shooter who introduces the mistakes. In an effort to control an arrow’s destination, we grip the bow and its string unconsciously. We choke, pluck & pull on something that merely needs a bit of guidance to perform perfectly each time. We try to direct what would naturally go to the bullseye without our overbearing influence. It is our willful domineering, not our bow, that causes the bad shots. In other words, “we have to give up control to get control.”
When you watch a great archer, their fingers are barely touching the bowstring. In fact, the entire apparatus leaves their hands as the shot releases, gently directing the arrow to the bullseye. A perfect shot is a work of art. It is a testament to the zen principles spiritual gurus have understood for ages. We get nowhere when we try to put a chokehold on life. It is only in letting go of the insatiable desire to control the cosmos that we wind up exactly where we are supposed to be. In the words of science fiction great Larry Eisenberg, “For peace of mind, resign as General Manager of the universe.” Bullseye.
I looked at Giulia and had a good laugh. Here we are, two twenty-somethings living in London, having seen a good part of the world already & feeling hungry for more. We’ve lived adventures some have only dreamed of, and what is better, we are not finished yet. Kids and cars – they are not exactly easy to pack in a carry-on, so why were we gunning for them only seconds earlier?
I don’t know when it’s time to go home. Unfortunately, you’ve read an entire article devoted to that question and I have offered no answer. Feel free to sue. What I do know is this: living in fear of what is right and wrong serves no one. Just like choking a bow produces nothing but a bad score and a hand cramp. You need only to ask the question “am I happy?” to produce the answer that will lead you to a next step. If it’s anything but yes, by the way, you’re wasting precious seconds on a gorgeous planet.
Walking back to my flat from King’s Cross after dinner, I got sidetracked to a pop song and wound up on the wrong street. Feeling a little pissed at my propensity to be a space cadet, I hastily pulled out Google Maps for a quick browse. Just then, an enormous, golden-white firework erupted across the clear November sky. I stood in shock, barely able to stand steadily as my eyes readjusted to the darkness. If I hadn’t been lost, I’d never have seen it. And this was one firework worth the detour. The start of Guy Fawkes celebrations had kicked off in London, and while I’m glad that dude never got his hands on the Parliament, I have to say it’s one holiday I can get used to celebrating.
Perhaps someday there will be a time to go home. Someday this city, this life and all these things I’ve chosen may turn out to be steps toward another great destination. But as a series of fireworks guided me back, I knew the answer as intuitively as I know how to shoot an arrow: ”not yet.”