It was June 28, 2016. I woke up in my van in Colorado, still high on the fumes of my very recent vacation to Alaska. I turned 30 there, watching a silly live show cuddled up with my platonic friend followed with chocolate cake in a hotel room in Anchorage. I blew out the candles around 2AM and wished that I could find what I was looking for – and be content when I found it. It turns out one of the “things” I was looking for was literally right in front of the candlelight- staring back at me with loving eyes. I discovered that a few days later in Denali. And the other was the opportunity provided me by losing my job on this day in my van on June 28.
After the call finalizing my exit, I took out my list of what I would do if I ever quit or lost my job. (This wasn’t entirely unexpected and I already had another contracting job mostly lined up.) I made a bazillion calls to cancel a bunch of bills, change a bunch of automatic payments, and put my financial life into a place that felt a little safer with the questionable continued income. Then, I took a deep breath and started driving to the gym. The whole twenty minutes drive to the gym, I cried about the loss – mostly of a stable income, the life I’d gotten used to, the coworkers I would leave behind. When I hit the parking lot, though, I wiped away my tears and started laughing. I called up the aforementioned Alaska man, who was understandably worried about me in my new job status. He asked me how I was feeling and I said “I’M FREE!” I was free of the job I had hated, the boss I couldn’t stand, and suddenly had literally no excuses not to re-write my life in the way I wanted it to look. It almost felt like my house burning down and the subsequent thoughts of “Welp, I’ve got nothing now. Where do I go from here? What do I actually want to acquire?” Needless to say, he thought I was a bit crazy. But he already knew this.
I thought a lot about what I wanted in my life at that point. I knew freedom, cooperation and a feeling like I was working *with* a supervisor and not against them was vital to enjoying my next job. I wanted more variety, a feeling of fulfillment in what I do day to day, and an ability to be myself and be appreciated for it too.
I spent a couple hours over the course of a few days writing down all my skills (personal and career-related) and what kind of jobs I could acquire with those. My main career would still be my main money in the bank, but I didn’t want to work more than 3 days a week doing that. I wanted at least a 3-day weekend and another day working on things that I am passionate about that I could make money off of but not depend on (and see if maybe that could become money I depend on too).
I also made a list of things I wanted to do with my free time besides pursuing career passions. Those included my other hobbies and passions (hiking, dancing, backpacking, photography, writing, self-improvement emotionally and otherwise, etc) and new ones I’d always wanted to begin (or begin again). I still haven’t gotten through all of those, of course (and hope I never will and hope the list gets continuously longer). I also wanted to have the time and space to devote to people I love – those in my life already and any new people I met that I connected with.
Acting from these goals, I ended up meeting my goals above and more- with sacrifices, of course (this just from June of 2016, not the previous year, which also included many adventures):
- It took two weeks to finalize the contracting job and another back-up contracting position with an old boss. It’s come down to currently working Tuesday-Thursday contracting in the medical field, counseling patients by phone. It’s rewarding, I love my boss and all the people I work with, and have a huge amount of time freedom as long as I don’t have scheduled patients. I am appreciated for who I am, not just what I do, and I am actually using my skills that I went to school for. I also have unlimited vacation time (as long as I can be okay without getting paid that time). I’ve sacrificed money and stability (no benefits, no sure bet I have a job for any amount of time, no consistent income monthly) for time, freedom, and happiness. Totally worth it. And I don’t dread working!
- I started cuddling for money. And realized I would do it for free. It’s so freaking rewarding. See this post for more on that. Oh and I also started cuddling contests. Ya know, because.
- I started writing again (aka this blog among other things). I love writing. 🙂 Maybe I’ll make some money off it, maybe I won’t.
- I entered a relationship that has been amazing in innumerable ways. I never thought I’d be able to have such a healthy, loving, accepting, integrated and yet independent relationship in my life. And I’m lucky enough to have more than one amazing relationship with amazing people in my life – platonic and otherwise.
- I climbed and hiked and danced a shit ton.
- I tried a number of activities I always said I wanted to do: Pointe (since I was 8 years old and was told in ballet that my ankles weren’t strong enough), Silks (since I saw my first Cirque Du Soleil show as a teenager), tango, and handbalancing.
- I went to Japan and Hawaii. I rode a bike in the streets of Japan with the cars and buses. I visited multiple onsen (public bath/hot springs). I blues danced in Japanese gardens. I hiked in bamboo forests. I took a bullet train (then a cable car then a bus) to a mountain with Buddhist temples and stayed in one, served traditional vegetarian breakfast and dinner by Buddhist monks. I hiked mountains in Hawaii and paddled 8 miles synchronously with 50 other people in canoes into the Pacific Ocean. I snorkeled in a coral reef.
- I traveled all over the US, while still working consistently from wherever I had wifi. I saw/hiked/backpacked more than 30 national parks (I can’t remember the exact number and am too lazy to calculate again). I even took some patient calls from the entrance of Canyonlands. I went dancing in so many different scenes and met so many awesome people. In one day, I hiked in Yosemite, took a soak in a natural hot spring, and danced blindfolded and topless by the light of the moon in a camp between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. I hiked in three slot canyons with amazing people and even had a naked muddy dance party in between two slot canyons. I hiked 100 miles in 7 national parks in 7 days. I climbed naked on the rocks in a national park at the end of a hike. I took my first bath in 4 days in a freaking cold waterfall. I ate breakfast and watched sunrise and sunset in amazing places. I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years. I rode horses in Sedona. I spent an entire week in Acadia National Park eating ice cream for every single lunch, stargazed cuddled up next to a wonderful friend and her family, watched the sun rise on the first place to see sunrise (Cadillac mountain). I showered in golden light from peak Aspens in Colorado. I learned how to start a fire with a knife and flint.
- I explored friendships and relationships in all the ways I wanted to – as much or as little as we were both interested in and could afford. I reconnected with people who used to be in my life and ended connections too.
- I learned how to be frugal, live well on little, have few needs and few wants. When I finally got the few boxes I had left in storage for the time I’ve been traveling, I realized I didn’t need any of it. I gave >50% away to other people or to charity. I furnished my apartment with $40 at Goodwill to get some chairs to have more people over. And my entire bedroom is filled with blankets and pillows for crashing.
The best part about all of this? I feel like I have all the time to explore the things I want to explore without feeling rushed to take advantage of every second of my free time. I sometimes even just hang out and don’t do anything without feeling guilty that I *could* be doing something. A new one for me! Oh, and sleep! Oh glorious sleep. I actually get like a real 7-8 hours a day!
Oddly enough, the more freedom I had and the more I explored it, the more I realized I was more happy settling for less. As I traveled, every new place felt less and less new. I found myself wanting to grow roots and bloom somewhere with others I loved. I even went to Japan- with people I loved and alone at parts- and felt no culture shock. All it felt like was “not home” and everything had become that feeling. I felt more than location-less…I felt homeless.
And so here I am now, trying to create a home – not just a place to rest my head (because that can be anywhere, even my van), not just a place where my stuff resides, not just a place to invite people into. I’m trying to create a place that others *want* to come to for safety, for love, for genuineness, for true “seeing.” A place I can tell people “This is where you can come for family” and mean it.
Then, maybe, the people I love will also find their niche, their freedom, and their perfect place in the world too and we can all live together in our very well-constructed dreams around us.
January 1 has just come and gone and I’ve never felt less interested in making “New Years Resolutions.” The goals I made for myself in June were for my life in the bigger picture and they were positive, things I really honestly *want/wanted*, not just commitments to avoid things I *didn’t* want (like weight gain or managing too much stuff, etc). What I found was that when I’m committed to doing the things I love and committed to avoiding the things I’m not so in love with (like having stuff, like having a job I hate, like feeling so pressed for time that I can’t even enjoy the small amount of free time I would have with a full-time job even if I was getting more money) all the time, the sacrifices in order to get that are not difficult at all. The things I don’t want…just aren’t really relevant anymore.
Instead of making New Years resolutions (and likely not succeeding at them), I urge you to make lifelong resolutions to yourself. Consider not what you want to avoid, but discover what you really *want*, work towards that actively (while taking informed risks in that direction), and I will bet that the rest of your life will automatically fall into place.
Here’s to wishing you the best, most ambitious, happiest 2017! Don’t look back, only forward.