Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Quick clarification...

(since I didn't have time to finish the real entry I was writing)

So my good friend Wade wrote the following comment on our entry 'I hope this is us in 30 years':

"I think "easier said than done" is quite the understatement. Not everyone is in a position to undertake a four year journey around the world. The world would be a better place if more people had that ability, but that's a discussion for another time."
It's a really good point; we absolutely realize how fortunate we were to be able to take 15 months off from 'real-life' and travel. But it also misses the point.

My blog entry was not suggesting that everyone should take off four years and travel. In fact, I don't think we ourselves would actually enjoy traveling for four years like they did. One of the things we learned about ourselves during our trip was that 12 months was about our limit for constant movement. We missed having roots and feeling like we belonged to a community. Rather, what I was reacting to and admiring so much about Pat and Cat was their willingness to say "why not?" and do something that on the surface sounds crazy. And I really responded to Cat's quote:
"You just have to be open-minded and willing to take chances and risks and not be afraid..."
That doesn't necessarily mean you have to grab bicycles and leave your jobs and homes for four years. It just means taking yourself out of your comfort zone and trying something that would normally make you say "I could never do that". It could be taking an art class or showing up for open mike night or changing jobs or writing that novel or training for a marathon or whatever.

Five years ago I would NEVER have thought I could have done our trip. I was 'too responsible', I had a mortgage, I had worked hard in undergrad to get good grades to get a good job and work tons of hours to do well and then go to a good grad school and get good grades to get another good job where I could work tons of hours and eventually someday it would pay off in traditional 'success'. This was what I believed I was 'supposed' to do, what I thought was expected of me, and what I assumed would make me happy.* When I heard about people doing things like taking months backpacking or quitting the for-profit world for the non-profit world, or even leaving the job they had for another similar one that they thought they'd like better, I was envious and admiring, but I couldn't relate to it and always had lots of reasons why of course I couldn't do something like that.

I would give anything for my eyes to have been opened without such a high personal cost, but I am grateful that they were opened. (Imagine my surprise to discover that the world didn't end when I didn't dress in a suit and go to work and present a powerpoint deck.) And what we found is that once we said that first "why not?" the next one and the next one after that were easier. And now that we're back and finding ourselves starting to get buried in the work routine we try and stop every once in a while and examine and question what we're doing to be sure we're still on a path that makes us happy.

Anyway, this turned out much longer than I expected, but Wade got me thinking. And I didn't want to come off sounding like I thought that only those who were able to go off and spend months/years traveling the world were really living life. Rather, I just wanted to encourage everyone to question their own assumptions and find their own ways (as small or as big as it needs to be) to do something they never thought they could do and experience how freeing that is.


*and the point of this was NOT to say that someone who does well in school and gets a good job and then is very successful professionally is doing something wrong. To the contrary if they are happy and fulfilled doing it that is wonderful (or even if they're not particularly happy but they believe it is getting them to where they need to be). But I was NOT happy and fulfilled and for years I didn't think there was anything I could do about it.

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