Yesterday I shared with you, dear reader, my plans to travel for the second half of 2016. I’ve never been one to make ten year or even five year plans. Any attempts to decide what my life is going to be like has fallen short of what the adventure has been thus far. I’m more of a six-month out planner. I don’t know what I’ll be doing a year from now. No idea whatsoever. But I do have a vision of what I hope to be doing 6 months from now. And that plan is really exciting to me.
It’s been quite interesting, telling others my news, watching their knee jerk responses and feeling the shock waves of their responses. Many, many people have been so excited with me, supportive, and inquisitive listeners. Some people have received this news with wide eyed shock that swiftly switches into a launch of logistics, firing a barrage of questions. How are you going to afford this? Are you going to go alone? Where will you stay? Can your car take that kind of trip? What mileage does your car get? What color is your car? Other people have expressed sympathy that my current career, that which I got a college degree for hasn’t worked out in the long term, and they receive my news that I’m switching gears with a wary assessment of my mental stability. Other still have gone into solution mode, trying to “fix the problem” by suggesting a change of scenery or moving to a different school would make me feel better. These reactions have been hard to receive, have caused confusion and hurt and doubt.
I find two driving factors that motivate my actions, my thought life, my choices. At my core, I want my outer life to line up with my inner life; what I believe, what I value, what seems authentic or true. I want a life that is congruent with who I am. Self aware to a fault, I can sometimes agonize over situations where this doesn’t seem to be the case. For those of you who speak Myers Briggs, I’m an INFP, described this way on this website: “As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.” So that’s why it’s jarring to me when my external realities feel incongruent with my values and desires. It’s why taking an extended cross country trip feels less scary than staying in a job that is really draining to me.
While that is the driving force and ultimate core of me, there is another factor that can weigh heavily in my decisions, my thought life, my choices. It’s my desire for others to think well of me, to find me desirable, wanting to sense their approval. While I have grown a lot in this arena and believe that I am less driven by people pleasing than I was even a year ago, it is still a battle I will continue to fight for years to come.
So as I share this news, and I sense other people’s a) disapproval b) anxiety or worry over the logistics or safety of my choices c) their impulse to fix me, or even d) jealousy over my opportunity, I have had to reckon with my desire for people’s approval, and the isolation and loneliness that hustling for this has caused. I can recognize that the myriad of reactions and responses I’m getting are all valid and make sense. I can see reason to ask questions, and a natural curiosity of how this will all work. I don’t think traveling cross country, alone, for several months would be a wise choice for everyone, and could easily be seen as a cry for help or a running away.
Here are some things I want to share with you, some things I know and believe to be true about myself and this journey I’m about to take:
I need to be okay with “I don’t know.”
I’ve learned a lot about certainty these past few months. It’s a painful process to loosen my grip on attempts at certainty, but even more vulnerable to admit those I-don’t-knows to inquisitive left-brained question askers. I am someone who has one foot planted firmly in practicality, strategy, wanting to have a framework and an action plan and the other foot dancing in spontaneity and a deepening appreciation for being out of my element. This is an adventure- and the nature of adventures is to step into unknown territory. Certainty isn’t a part of the deal.
I am not running away.
I wondered about this at first and didn’t want to say yes to this trip if it was just me being drawn to this bohemian free-spirited hippy life as an attempt to escape staying in something hard. Considering my motives was really important to me as I made this decision. Here’s the thing: I love Kansas City. And Kansas City loves me back. We’ve got a good thing going here. I am in a healthy rhythm and I know how to thrive here. And I know that there will be a cost to this reality of traveling; it will be uncomfortable and lonely at times. I am trying to be realistic. I was listening to a lecture by Cheryl Strayed a couple of days ago, as she was describing her own Westward Trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. Others wrote about her saying that she was running away from some hard circumstances in her life. She corrected that assumption, saying “It was not a running away–it was a running towards.” I believe this journey will be an encounter with the one who calls me Beloved, a deepening knowledge of who I am, and what I was made for, an unfurling of my wings, and a growing trust and practicing dependence that we are thrown into when we travel.
The last five years were not a mistake.
A friend of mine asked me if I thought I had picked the wrong career. I thought about it for a minute and then replied “No! I am grateful to have been a teacher for the time that I have. I have grown in ways I never thought imaginable and have felt deeply satisfied by my work. If I were to remain a teacher, that would be something I’d regret.” It is not uncommon for people in our generation to switch careers. In fact, it’s statistically expected. I think that is such a privilege that I don’t want to take for granted.
I am not a hippy. Or a loner.
While this is an unconventional move for a twenty-eight-year-old white girl from the Midwest, what I’m discovering is that this is very doable. That other, responsible, good-head-on-their-shoulders people are doing this, more and more, in fact. I still plan on having health insurance and finding a source of income. I also know and deeply believe in the value of sharing life with people who know me well and will love me enough to ask me hard questions. I want to stay rooted in live-giving relationships and connect with people along the way.
This is my story.
A big theme that keeps coming up in conversation and in various things that I’m reading and listening to is the idea of life as story, and the necessity of owning my story. I can see evidence of the process of this being worked out in my life over the past few years, letting go of narratives that I thought my life would be, stepping into new ones. Part of this process has meant battling against comparison, that thorny life-choking weed that we can so easily be ensnared in. Though I don’t always functionally believe it, I need to keep declaring to myself that comparison kills joy. That my life is meant to be lived by me, and that is a full time job.
I want to thank you, sincerely, for reading, for coming alongside me, for supporting me, and listening to my story. I am so eager to keep moving forward, and to share the messy glorious process with you. More on that tomorrow!