Why is it that the most defining experiences of our lives are often the most difficult to describe? Just when we need the “right words” the most, suddenly we have none. Try as we might, it seems impossible to string together the most accurate series of adjectives, nouns and verbs.
Does our desperation to paint the perfect picture override our cognitive abilities and cause our brains to force-quit? Should we have been paying closer attention in the moment in order to have a better memory of it later? Or, is it because there are some things in this world that can only be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched and felt by means of personal experience, and there is no substitute for the real thing?
Love. Heartbreak. Happiness. Anger. It’s no surprise that such grand, powerful and universal emotions like these would fall into the category of “indescribable” experiences. But what about places? What about structures, cities and countries? Surely the tangible and empirical nature of these things must mean we can capture them on film or paper.
But is that true? Can we really? Can our words, pictures and videos do justice to all the treasures that this world has to offer? After recently returning from the Eighth Wonder of the World, Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I am having a hard time putting my experience into words. So I guess the answer is “no.”
I am at a loss for words, which would normally frustrate any writer. But in this case, I’m grateful. I’m grateful because it means I’ve just experienced something truly extraordinary and life changing. I’ve learned, seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched and felt things that no second-hand experience ever could’ve given me to the same extent. And that’s an incredible gift.
In part, this blog is about trying pass along as much of that same gift to other people as possible; taking readers along with me to the places I go, the people I meet and the things I do. But after thinking about it, I’ve realized the most I’ll ever be able to give is 99%. For some reason, the universe is always going to withhold that last 1%, preserving it in my mind, heart and soul where the experience first originated, in a form that even I can’t articulate.
Maybe that’s the universe’s way of giving us permission to be a bit selfish sometimes, to keep some things completely to ourselves even when we want to share it with those around us. Maybe that’s how we become inspired to communicate with one another, to tell our stories and listen to those of others, because if we do, just maybe we’ll find the missing pieces to all the second-hand information we acquire over a lifetime. Or, maybe it’s the universe telling us to get out there for ourselves; that there is no substitute for the real thing; that it’s time to stop settling for 99% of someone else’s experience when we could have 100% of our own.