“And bleed this skyline dry —
Your history is mine.”
– History, Funeral for a Friend
The path you must tread to reach your destination may not always be linear.
In the great wide savannah, the untarred roads that criss-cross this vast open land follow the contours of the gentle hills and sometimes wind around a random, single tree. With every twist and turn, our eyes were treated to magnificent views of the ever-changing landscape laid majestically before us. I could not sit still in the safari vehicle; I stood for much of the journey, so that I could breathe in the dirt and the dust and be one with nature; so that no window stands between me and and the advancing herd of elephants or the shy zebras running back into the wild.
Going on a safari is not about reaching a destination; it is about reaching an experience. We would drive for hours on end in search of a herd of elephants, or a cheetah on the hunt, sometimes with little success. It is not a physical destination that we were after, but rather the experience of validating the existence of God’s incredible creatures with our very own eyes.
Safari is also about serendipity. When you’re driving through thousands of square miles of open territory, these animals could be anywhere. And that encounter between you and them is one pre-destined by God — if it’s not written in the books, it will not happen.
I am a firm believer in taking the long road — if it can lead you safely to your intended destination. The whole reason I found myself on this safari in Masai Mara, Kenya last summer was because I needed answers — about what to do now, and where to head next in my life. I was at the end of long, but thankfully enjoyable, doctoral mission. But was academia what I wanted to do for the rest of my life?
Life in the village as a volunteer worker certainly had its charms, but it also brought discontents: I was, above all, tired of all the bureaucratic bullshit demanded of us by the charity, and frustrated by the lack of creative freedom I found in our work. Well, sure, we had “creative freedom” to design and paint a mural of a world map in of our school’s library, but I just wasn’t passionate about the causes that we were fighting for. As we were walking home from a neighboring village, I found myself actually reminiscing about the long days I get to spend in the library just reading and writing about the issues that I was actually invested in.
In a way I came back from Africa slightly richer — in experience, and also in confidence, particularly when it came to the question of what next. For me, there was no longer any doubt about it — back to the library it was. Most people didn’t need any time to figure this out, but I’m glad I took this break to put my books down for a while, and throw myself into the depths of Africa (and subsequently, Australia, and some parts of Europe…).
The road to self-discovery can sometimes be twisted and is not always straight-forward. But if you have the patience to take it one step at a time, you will find yourself safely led to surprising destinations.