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  • jeniferfoster2


Today is my last day in Roatan. At least for now. I can’t imagine that this is my last time here, but I don’t have any definitive plans thus far. Life is funny sometimes though.

I think it might be too early yet to do a “lessons I’ve learned” from being here, which is what I was contemplating. But I have a thought that has been brewing for a while.

I went to a conference several years ago, and one of the programs was on the brain. There has been mad progress on understanding the brain in the last ten years. I mean, really astounding. I am not really going to lecture on the brain right now – but, on one tiny thing they said. (If it isn’t obvious quickly – I am NOT a doctor or scientist – this is my layman’s interpretation of what was said).

They were talking about the fact that when we do something over and over, it “cements” the neuropathways in our brain, making it very difficult to change. However, when we do something new that we haven’t done before, we literally create new neuropathways in our brain. Considering our brain is a muscle, it’s important for it to stretch, or it, like any muscle, it begins to atrophy.

What interests me about this is that things don’t stay new too long. Take, for instance, traveling to work a different route. The first time you do it, it feels weird. The second time you know a bit more about what to expect, but maybe you’re still checking the GPS. The third time, it begins to feel somewhat more familiar.

Change is really fricking hard though.

So – how this is all hitting me right now – I was terrified of coming to Roatan. Terrified might not be the right word. I was full of doubt. I did not know Roatan particularly well; nor did I know the people at the resort terrible well. I didn’t have transportation. I knew where I was living by name only. I didn’t know whether I would like being an instructor. I suspected I would – I love diving and I enjoy teaching, but I wasn’t positive. It makes sense for me, but I didn’t know. I also still feel like a fairly new diver, especially in comparison to the thousands of dives most of the guests seem to have. Almost everything when I arrived was pretty new.

But, now going home seems hard.

It’s not though. I KNOW that this resort is not the right place for me. Not for many reasons. I don’t know that I need to go into why right now. That might be for a different post. What I do know is that I really do need people I love nearby. I am an absolute introvert. I can survive for long periods of time without a ton of socialization. But, I miss it and need it. It makes me a better person.

Sorry. I am a bit stream-of-consciousness right now. Returning to the importance of doing new things, I think what makes this challenging is that we crave the familiar. I noticed with diving, even though there are numerous routes I could take, I almost always dive the same dive route. When I do a “new” route, my brain is awake. That’s not always what I want. Most of the time when I dive, I enjoy swimming, and gliding, and floating, and hanging with the fish, and seeing new things. But, I also enjoy having time to think. When I go somewhere new (even a boat dive), I have to be more conscious of where I’m going.

So, we have competing interests. Our brain needs stimulation. It needs to stretch. It literally must have new things to do or over time it will wither and die. But, our sense of being, our safety, our security requires the familiar. Well – how do we marry the two?

You move to Roatan and change your career. Kidding, kidding.

And, I think we can take that into the bigger question of how do we find balance? Because, the pillars of wellness are literally all competing interests. It’s easy to get sucked into one aspect of wellness. For instance, in my twenties, my social life was definitely a focus, while my financial wellness and my intellectual wellness were not particularly strong. As I got older, that changed. My career and my financial stability became more important and my social wellness became weaker. As people in my family have gotten sick (and died in the case of my mother), my emotional wellness took a hit. Our balancing act is constantly adjusting to the things that life throws at us.

So, the question for each of us is, is our life balanced the way we’d like? If not, what is getting in the way? Are we “stretching” ourselves and growing, or are we stagnating? Returning to the question of changing our brains – I don’t think stretching always means a major change. Sometimes it means making small adjustments. Spending five minutes a day reading or creating art, or doing a puzzle or learning a new language (sorry – most of us are going to need more than 5 minutes a day!). Our brains are capable of so much. Are we awakening it with something new each day?

Right now – my something new is going to see what fish I can see on my last day in Roatan (for the time being). I hope you find something new that stimulates you.

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