You don't always have to run toward something
There’s a gluttony of run toward something, not away from it blog posts on the web. Therapy sessions, friendly advice, and early retirement extremists seem to pass on what looks to be hard-won wisdom. This pearl of knowledge has been touted as gospel. To be honest, it is a good piece of advice. It’s solid. Move in the direction of your life, your goals, your dreams. Don’t run from a decent job, a decent marriage, a life of comfort and certainty for one of the unknown.
This doesn’t seem to be sitting too well with me lately.
You know, I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my head since this weekend. Of not playing it safe, running away, picking up and moving out. Actually, I’ve had these thoughts for months—nay, years now—of spitting gravel, of not knowing what the future holds for me. I had so many phrases and words planned for this post, and yet, as I sit down to write it, the words fail me. They falter and fall, tumbling out of my fingertips half-formed and barely breathing. One could think this is cause to make me stop, make me question running away.
Maybe I do question wanting to run away. Why I would want to run from a wonderful job, wonderful coworkers, a steady—and robust—paycheck, friends and family close by, a cottage all to myself. Why would I give up writing my own words a stone’s throw from where the words of Walden itself were put down? Could I just try something else? Move to a different apartment? Work somewhere else? Maybe take a class or spend my weekends in the Maine woods?
Why this need to run away?
It’s an easy question to answer, truly. I feel small here, in this place, both physically and psychically. I am too much in my head. I am not part of this world because the comfort and certainty that I’ve worked for keep me insulated from the rawness of life. Hardship, being tested, the problematic bits in life are what we remember the most. I could take these past eight years—up until my Europe trip—and crumple them into a ball, toss it into the trash bin, and not lose too many precious memories.
I’ve had an old friend1 tell me I should “Head East, young woman,” to Hong Kong or Thailand or Vietnam. His description of those places forcing me to slow down, theirs a culture of self-reflection, the kindness of the people in those lands. He writes of lines blurring between nationalities with other travelers. This feels scary and uncertain and real and raw; like running away. And it feels right. It may not happen as soon as I’d like but, well, wheels are turning.
There is a trend here on the blog. It’s self-centered and introspective. In my journal, I plan for someday. Reading my entries during my travels in New York City, Europe, and Washington, DC, they are more robust. I peek out from behind the veil of myself. Rather than being the star of my one-woman summer blockbuster movie2, I’m just part of the audience when out in the vast, wild, wide world. My observations become less about me; I become interpreter and no longer on center stage (thank god; the center of attention I loathe). I learned more in those few weeks of traveling than I did here in the many years in Boston. I crave more of being an observer.
A piece of advice I read not too long ago went something like this: “Want to write? Go have experiences.” Forget about learning grammar and putting prepositions in the correct place, forget about writing groups and 750 words a day and staring at blank pages with nothing to say. Experiences make words flow. This I know. This I’ve directly experienced.
I will be told I am crazy to give up the life I have. Hell, I even think I’m mad and insane some days. The real fear, though—the one that keeps me up—is that I keep on the course I’m currently on and death or disease or cancer or my lousy shoulder keeps me from doing this when I turn fifty-five and have a decent enough nest egg to retire with. That fifteen years from now, I will no longer have the daring or gall or absolute stupidity and excitement to head into this world with nothing but a backpack and headphones.
Hardship will come no matter the direction I take. So, why not take the one that makes me smile just a bit wider?
- I love rekindling old friendships. I am the type of person that just picks right back up where we left off, even if it’s been almost a decade. People come and go and so do friends; what joy to have them step back into your life?! ↩
- I think this is human nature: to see ourselves as the protagonist in our own lives (I mean, of course, duh). We tend to always view ourselves as the hero though, right? We’re not always the hero. We could very well be the villain. I have most certainly been the villain in many scenarios. Imperfect beings, we all are. ↩