Beautiful Insignificance

The cynic in me tends to flair up when people say things like “if it’s meant to be, it will be” or “everything happens for a reason.”

While I understand these are typically intended to be words of comfort and encouragement, I cannot help but think they are wrapped in privilege. How lucky one must be in life to feel secure enough to assume that everything is going to work out in the end and – if it doesn’t – that we can rest easy in the knowledge that there is some great master plan we aren’t currently privy to that will make sense of our struggles. There are some things that happen in the world that are so just horrific  that I shudder at the thought of someone spouting that rhetoric to the people who endure them.

See? Cynical. Cynical. Cynical.

Still, I do relish in those tiny, kismet moments that we are occasionally graced with. The ones that bring about revelation, comfort, or validation; affirm a decision; or just seem to make sense of things. I had one of those moments a few months ago, while I was going through a tough time.

Readjusting to life back in the U.S. was messier than I had expected it to be. Having studied psychology and worked in higher ed, I knew about reverse culture shock. Unfortunately, a working knowledge of a theoretical model isn’t all its cracked up to be. It turned out that being able to know just about where I was falling on the “W” Curve on any given day did not save me from experiencing the challenging feelings that so many people face when re-entering their home culture after an extended time away. Throw in a lengthy job search, an ambiguous relationship, and a variety of other confusing pieces, and it all added up to me feeling pretty lost.

I was in need of a mindset readjustment, so I hopped on an opportunity to take a break from resume revisions and go on an impromptu trip to Utah with my brother and sister.

Spending a few days hiking, camping, and conversing with the two of them, surrounded by mountains and vast expanses of desert, ended up being exactly what I needed. I think that some of the most impactful experiences you can have are the ones that get you out of your own head and make you feel gloriously small and in awe of the magnificence of the world around us.  A beautiful feeling of insignificance – vastly different than the type another person can elicit in you.

As the end of the trip approached, my anxiety began to grow and I started to feel a bit guilty for taking a trip when I probably should have been writing cover letters. We decided to stop for dinner in Park City and, while there, happened into one of the many art galleries that speckle the town. I browsed around until one piece jumped out at me. A painting of a place engraved in my heart: Perast. It turns out that the Russian painter featured in the gallery that day, Margarita Kolabova, vacationed in Montenegro with her family and was inspired by its beauty – as many people are – there were scenes from other locations around the Bay of Kotor as well and I squealed with recognition at each: Stari Grad, Prcanj…

Perast - a painting by Margarita Kolobova.  Found at: http://artnow.ru/en/gallery/3/6992/picture/0/0.html

Perast – a painting by Margarita Kolobova. Found at: http://artnow.ru/en/gallery/3/6992/picture/0/0.html

For some reason, standing in a random Utah town and unexpectedly seeing a painting of my favorite place across the world struck me hard. It felt as though the seemingly disjointed pieces of myself came back together, a perfect collision that made me feel like one whole again. It brought tears to my eyes and much of that growing anxiety melted away: I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be.

One of my favorite shots of Perast during my time in MNE.

One of my favorite shots of Perast during my time in MNE.

I will probably never buy into the idea that everything happens for a reason, but perhaps that makes it all the more important to embrace the moments in which everything suddenly seems to make a bit more sense. One of the best ways to cultivate these types of moments is by only letting that beautiful type of insignificance into your life: To strive to surround yourself with people who make you feel big while seeking out experiences that remind us that the world is even bigger.

Feeling the best kind of small in The Subway at Zion National Park.

Feeling the best kind of small in The Subway at Zion National Park.

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