I’m going to do this all wrong.
Here’s something you might want to know about me: I live in a world of pretty grand dreams. There are a lot of things that I want to do with my life that many people would call crazy. Countries I want to live, staircases I want to climb, things I want to do and food I want to eat and adventures I want to accomplish. When I look back at my life, I want to be like that Mark Twain quote and have no serious regrets about the things I could have done but didn’t do. (If I have regrets about things I have done, well, that’s my own fault and an entirely different subject.)
Part of my “problem”, is that despite a fairly regular upbringing, once I finished high school I did something rather unpredictable considering the life I had been living. I didn’t choose the “normal” path many people (including myself) had probably imagined. Opportunities came up, small ones at first, and I took them. Accounting school? How about drama school instead! College graduation ceremony? Skip that, let’s go spend the summer in San Luis Obispo! No, I know, let’s work for Disney and go live in Singapore! Making unconventional decisions was my drug of choice. Then those choices opened up new doors, which I went through. Not every single time. I did a lot of conventional living too, but I did enough unconventional things, including a few big ones, to realize how easy it can be to do. You just have to choose it, and somehow things always work out. I now know nothing is out of my grasp. I was painfully timid at times as a kid and didn’t grow up thinking I could be President, but I realize now that I could be. President. If I wanted to, which I don’t, because what kind of crazy person would want that, certainly not me, so I’m definitely glad I didn’t go down that path. But I could’ve, I know now. Could. Pretty much the only thing that prevents me from doing exactly what I want to do is, you guessed it, me.
It is my own version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Only in my case, Hyde is freaking awesome. He travels, he backpacks the world, he moves to a new city every few years and meets awesome new people and has crazy fun adventures. Dr. Jekyll, on the other hand, is borderline autistic and craves routine and order. He likes balancing spreadsheets and eating the same thing for lunch every day. (Skippy peanut butter on potato bread, if you were sadistically wondering.) He likes quiet nights at home with maybe a nice walk in the twilight to look for lightning bugs. He often feels the longing to let Hyde take him out on an adventure, but his innate sense of responsibility keeps him grounded and he resists. The struggle can get so intense that occasionally he just gets overwhelmed and drowns his frustration and sorrow by sitting in front of the computer watching SNL reruns and playing mah jong to distraction, though he does occasionally indulge in classic adventure novel binges. He is grateful for Hyde’s appearances, but often stops short of calling him out, knowing just how dangerous that can be. After all, Hyde has frequently initiated life-altering decisions with carefree abandon. Of my last six moves, five of them were cross-country, and four were made spontaneously with the move happening in a matter of weeks, if not days. When I play, I play big.
For the first time in my life, Jekyll is making some big accomplishments. My finances, though far behind where they “should” be at my age, have never been better. Two frugal guys in a household with no kids currently working four jobs can make a financial spreadsheet weep with joy. We still have to watch our pennies, but progress is steady, and growing.
My new career as a nurse is going great. Five years in I’m still learning a lot, trying out some different specialties to figure out where I want to go from here. I know I’m not one to stay in the same job for too long, though Jekyll is very happy at present and quite content to stick with it for a while. But I have my fingers in a couple of different pots, so when Hyde does wake up, he’ll have a few options at least.
On one level, I am currently very content. I’ve got a great husband, a great job, another great job, a third job with some very interesting potential, I love where I live, and I know I’m making the financial progress I need to someday be able to do all the things I REALLY want to do.
And that right there is where it all starts to fall apart.
Remember when you graduated high school, and your parents or a sibling or someone no doubt gave you a copy of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss? I could write a book just on how awesome that book is. Probably so could you, because everyone has read it and everyone loves it, and rightfully so since each page was personally kissed by an angel. When I first read it, the get up and go inspiration resonated with me immediately. Because once I threw off my heavy burden of teenaged angst and suffering, I felt light as a feather. The world seemed like Oz in dazzling technicolor, and I wanted to go out and experience it. All of it.
What scared me wasn’t the setbacks, or the struggles, the Lurch or the Slump. Those things happen to me just like they do everybody, but my inner Pollyanna can always see the light up ahead. The force of optimism is strong within me. I’m more like a combo Pollyanna and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, calmly but relentlessly happy because no matter how many vampires try and tear me down, dude, I’m the freaking Slayer. So no offense for the Luches and Slumps and vampires in the world, but I always win in the end.
But if adverse advents are mere obstacles to conquer or tolerate, I have to admit there is something that scares me. Terrifies me. My kryptonite: the Waiting Place.
The Waiting Place is where people wait for whatever it is they feel they need before they can continue their journey. Another Chance. A Better Break. Not moving, not growing, just waiting. This place has always utterly and completely terrified me. Because it is my weakness. I’m not ready. I’m not prepared. I’m not as special as I think I am. In my eye, the Waiting Place isn’t all cute Dr. Seuss yellow grass and people standing in lines for nothing, waiting for a phone call from a phone that isn’t even connected. In my eye, the Waiting Place is full of clowns and old fashioned dolls and ventriloquist dummies, walking around and staring at you from the shadows hoping that you get so bored with waiting that you close your eyes and give them the chance to make their move on you. I can’t breathe, flames, flames on the side of my face, I have to get the heck out of that place!
I don’t want to wait to do the things I really want to do. I want to do those things now. When I was an actor I was always waiting for someone to pick me to be in their show. Now I’m waiting until I have enough money to do the things I “really want to do”. I really want to jump in a plane down to Colombia and spend nine months backpacking around South America. I want to live in Hawaii. I want to learn Spanish. I want to run a marathon. I want to write a book.
But instead, I wait. The waiting isn’t without accomplishment and pleasure. I have a job where I make a difference. Maybe not every day, but often enough that it feels good. And I know I have to save enough money so that one day I’ll be able to retire to Ecuador or Indonesia or Guatemala and live comfortably doing my old man adventures. Every month my financial independence gets closer and that feels awesome. But even by the early retirement crowd’s standards in a third world country, I probably have another ten years of work at this rate, 20 or more if I wanted to stay in the US. I’m just not sure I’m gonna make that. Hyde won’t stay silent that long.
And, frankly, I don’t want him to.
So, the blog. I have lots of ideas of what this blog could be. Or might be, in the future. Businesses I could run, content I could create, things I could help people do. But while there may be wisdom in waiting until you are ready to launch something so ambitious, I don’t think that is my best move at this point. There will always be a Better Time. I could always be More Educated. Or I could wait for the deadline at work to pass, or to see if some other opportunity is going to happen or not. And I could wait, and wait, and wait, and one of these days my eyes will shut and the clown is going to eat my brains.
Because that is what clowns do. They eat your brains. So do dolls, after they have their fake tea party in the attic while you are sleeping. And ventriloquist dummies are even worse, they slap your face before they eat your brains, and say “Really? You didn’t see this coming? You are a moron, which is great for me, because moron brains are extra salty! Nom nom nom.”
Like, you know this already, right? Basic Survival 101, people.
I am starting this blog as a way to keep me motivated, to keep me going. The goals I am rightfully focusing on right now are long term goals, and the only way to keep me from breaking down to chase other dreams is to make sure I keep myself busy with the right kinds of busy. Not just work and routine, but to make sure I’ve got other goals and dreams, other things I can still be doing right here right now. Yes, I feel pretty pleased with myself when I’m hiking through the Andes going the back way to Machu Picchu. Or riding a motorcycle through the jungles of Vietnam. But DC, where I’m currently living, has a great deal to offer too. There are lots of things I could be doing here. If I’d focus. If I were accountable. My so-called bucket list – and mental note, I need think of a better term for that – is long and varied. I just need a reminder that there are things I can do now, today, right now.
So hopefully this can be my frequent reminder. I’m gonna try and sort it out here, talk about how and why I do what I do. I’m sure my mom will enjoy it because, duh, she is my mom. (Hi, mom!) But maybe someone else will learn a thing or two, or better yet want to join me on the journey and be encouraged to take steps toward living your own personal adventure. I’d love to build a community of like-minded people, here to challenge their expectations and assumptions and to inspire the rest of us to do the same. The adventure is in our grasp. We just have to say yes.
Also, you have to keep coming back, reading and commenting. Like, duh. Otherwise, I’m totally not responsible for all the angel tears you cause.
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Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt