A baby boomer’s Buddhist pilgrimage

Some of us baby boomers haven’t had to reinvent ourselves and reinvent our happiness and contentment. But many have, sometimes because of our age, sometimes because of our place in life. One of them is Leslie Clary of Doyle, California, who lost her job while halfway around the world … but found herself on a Buddhist pilgrimage to make things better.

Leslie Clary at Bodhgaya, India.

Leslie Clary at Bodhgaya, India.

Just when I thought I was at the apex of my teaching career, it crashed. I was in my mid-50s and in northern India on a Fulbright research scholarship. A month before I was scheduled to return home, I received a generic email. The small community college where I had been teaching for two years, and which oddly enough had written me glowing letters of recommendation for the Fulbright, decided they didn’t want me back full time. The job I had been doing went to two young men under 30.

So instead of returning to a secure, tenure-track job from which I assumed I would retire, I found myself facing a huge, gaping void. I was truly terrified. The town where I lived was small without a lot of opportunities. I didn’t want to move, but I figured well, if my life was going to fall apart, it might as well be in India.


And so with a few weeks left, I decided to go on a journey of my own and follow the footsteps of one of the men I admire most and whose teachings have truly helped me make substantial changes in my life: Gautama Buddha. I went from Lumbini Nepal when he was born as Siddhartha Gautama, to Bodh Gaya where he became enlightened, to his teaching place inVaransi and finally to Kushnigar where he died as an old man.

I sat. I cried. I plummeted. Yet now, three years later, I have to admit, I am so glad I didn’t spend the rest of my working out my years at that small community college. Life has a funny way of taking us on paths we never expected.


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