Today I have finished my holiday to the wonderful Galapagos Islands. Sitting just off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are known for their extraordinary wildlife and microclimates. They were made famous by the great naturalist and explorer, Charles Darwin, who spent a total of only eleven days on the islands before writing his greatest work, On the Origin of the Species.
Whilst I am extremely happy to have seen one of the great wonders of this world, it made me think about how achieving ones dreams is also coupled with a form of grief. Many years ago, I had seen photos of the Galapagos Islands and watched nature shows about it. It became a long standing dream of mine to one day stand on those very islands myself, to see the blue footed boobies, giant tortoises and swim with sealions. Years later, that life goal has now been checked off. Unlike my goals of last year, the Galapagos was a very different type of goal that represented something significant to me. It was one of the few big dreams I had, shared with having a great career and owning my own apartment in the city. Lucky for me, I had already achieved those other items ten years ago, with the Galapagos a journey I somehow thought I’d never make. It was comforting to have such a big dream – a direction to move towards and also something to cling to when times seemed difficult. Achieving such dreams can sometimes invoke a sense of grief as you realise that it’s time to let go.
The naturalist guide of our tour shared a wonderful parting message which was, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”. It’s true, we should be happy with our accomplishments and achievements of dreams or goals. Much like working really hard on a project or degree, when it’s over you feel a great sense of accomplishment but also a sense of loss due to having dedicated yourself to one topic or thing for so long.
Dreaming of something for a long time involves investment of time and energy. Achievement requires having to put more time and energy into making a thought into a reality. It is much like one character in Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist who actively chose not to turning his dream to reality for fear of not having the beauty of the dream to cling to, as if reality could end up being disappointing. Sometimes some people don’t take the action to achieve their dreams because then comes the question, “What next?”.
There is something so incredibly humbling about seeing the wonders of nature and so many animals in their natural habitat. Life and death are merged in an endless cycle. Just this morning, standing on Mosquera Island, a sealion pup was rolling around happily on the white sand, surrounded by the bones of a dolphin or baby pilot whale. Whilst the dolphin/baby whale’s life had long since passed, it had provided sustainance and life for other animals and had become part of the sand as its bones deteriorated. It reminded me of the cycle of our dreams – how they are born and then pass, although they are never truly dead as they give life to other things. In my case, this trip has given birth to a newfound interest in ecology, snorkelling and bird watching. Whilst I no longer have a fixed destination in mind, it has made me very keen to explore nature even more. Instead of just enjoying my surroundings, I have a sense of interest in understanding how they make a bigger whole rather than act as separate parts – the roles of the elements, flora and fauna, insects, worms, birds, larger creatures, and even us as humans. We are the evolving tapestry of life, never so separate from the next thing as we may think.
So as I say farewell to my dream of many years, I say hello to the unknown and welcome new adventures. I shall smile at the beautiful memories the Galapagos has created and take a step forward, continuing in the cycle that is life.