For those who have watched “Pirates of the Caribbean,” you will recall that Capitain Jack Sparrow’s compass points to his greatest desire. For him that was loads of money, for me, I have always assumed it was a home, somewhere I could return to to think over what had happened in my world that day. But recently I realized that if my greatest desire were home, then my compass is now entirely confused because I am officially homeless.
To be clear, I’m not properly homeless, I have a roof over my head, and a family to return to, but I am mentally homeless. My brain has decided that neither India nor Massachusetts is my home, and in fact it has also decided that it wants to remain homeless for a while. Since that thought popped into my head, I have taken the time to a) figure out how it got there, and b) begin making some goals.
What sparked the whole homeless thing?
It took me sometime to figure it out, but I think I have found the culprit. For the past two weeks, our house has been flooded with relatives and well-wishers in lieu of the 1st year anniversary of Papa’s death. This has meant two things, I was surrounded by all sorts of relatives who spoke fluent English and Punjabi, and I was surrounded by another group of people who spoke absolutely no English at all.
Both groups asked me the same questions: how long will you be in India? Where do you plan on going to college? And do you miss home? (the Punjabi ladies also added in “will you get married” to which I replied that I didn’t know, the entire room erupted in laughter…)
As the weeks moved on and more and more people asked me these questions my responses got progressively more uncertain. Initially, I replied to the questions as such, “one year,” “Not sure, but I hope to be accepted to Minerva at KGI,” and “yes, but I am enjoying my experience.”
Later, I was more hesitant (that may have been because I was speaking in Punjabi though...) and eeking out something a little more like, “one year, I think, maybe more?” “I am waiting on an application decision, but I might not even go to college,” and “I miss my family, but I am not sure that home is home anymore.” All of these were accompanied by various acrobatics by my amusingly expressive and very confused eyebrows.
At the end of the two weeks I turned into our driveway which was then empty for the first time since people started arriving, and I thought I may never see any of those people ever again. Somehow I knew that even if I do spend more time in India, this house in Punjab will not be my home. It is only an intrum on my way to somewhere else.
I was and am quite certain of this but when I tried to analyze the feeling by comparing it with my ‘real home’ I drew a blank, kind of. My house in Mass showed up in my head, to be sure, but it was no longer associated with thoughts of home. It was just a house.
And I thought Oh, I’m homeless…
For goodness sakes, what does that mean?
That thought smacked me and it took a lot of me asking the question above to figure out why. It was like I was on a trapeze and I had just realized that the net had been removed from beneath me. It was time to take a leap and accept the potential consequences, it is finally time to use what I have learned so far. I finally realized that what I do here matters.
And not just “what I do here” being my work at the school, but everything I do; the habits I forge, the connections I make, and the languages I learn will directly shape the paths I take from here on out. They are the fuel and the finishing touches on the rocket of my life just before launch.
I knew that counting the days and just taking in my time in Punjab wasn’t going to work anymore. I needed to pursue it and probe it so for it to give me all I needed.
Suddenly the plethora of business management and strategy books I have been listening too on my dads audible account (anyone else out there who will read literally anything they can get their hands on?), were there to back me up.
I had read books on finding direction, and on staying focused, I had read books on how to milk experiences and apply them to next stages in business (life for me). And at just the perfect time I picked up, or turned on, yet another book Measure What Matters by John Doerr.
In this book the author argues that businesses should adopt a system of OKR’s or Objectives and Key Results in which they transparently set a goal to reach by the end of a quarter, a year, or a couple of years. The company should then create key results along the way to measure how they are progressing towards their goal.
Half-way through the book I found that not only did I want to make what I did here in India matter, but with OKR’s there was a way to get my ass off the bed and to suck the vibrant life out of my time in India. (The other half of the book was mainly explanations of how to implement these ideas when working with a lot of people, so it wasn’t quite as relevant. Right now I am a one man army who just likes to read…)
Do I know that I will get everything I can get out of India? No. But at least I will be able to trace what I wanted to get out of it, and see how miserably I fail if I don’t reach those goals. I’m still in the middle of creating this metric to measure my progress, but right now my objectives look like so - learn to speak and read Punjabi by Christmas, see measurable progress in writing skills throughout the year, and work better with people.
These will get more specific and I am currently in the middle of developing key results for them so I can actually track my progress, but even the act of creating, thinking, and writing about them has stopped my meandering approach to travel so far and given it a place to go. Once again, I am excited about being here, what I can learn, and what I can contribute (if anything at all).
My Jack Sparrow compass is broken and confused, what I thought I always enjoyed and wanted most has somehow disappeared, and instead I have found that living without a (supposedly) secure future is fantastic. Instead of measuring my visit to Punjab in time - which is ever diminishing - I have begun to measure it by what I can learn, something that can only go up.
*Signing off now to go send my OKR’s to my productivity buddies before the high rubs off and I slink away without implementing any of this…*
Elianna DeSota is a young teacher who is obsessed with deep diving into new cultures and ideas. Right now she is on a journey to discover more about India and herself before jumping into the next chapter of her life.