We have, if we’re lucky, about 30,000 days to play the game of life. How we play it will be determined by what we value.
There are some things I never imagined I’d say at the age of thirty-five. The phrase, “I’m moving into my mom’s basement so I can travel around the world running ultra-marathons” was definitely not one of them.
Some people dream of the details of their wedding day, or how many kids they will have, or know exactly what type of car they will drive when they grow up. For some unknown reason, thirty-five has always been one age for which I had a crystal clear vision. I was sure I would feel like a real adult. I had envisioned financial prosperity–the buy-anything-at-any-time type. I imagined I would be nationally known for my professional endeavors. My closet would be filled with a high-fashion wardrobe that would delight my passion for design. I didn’t think I would have a big house, but that I would be able to choose whatever one I wanted. It would include a colorful modern kitchen and walls packed with original artwork. But, more than these material matters, I envisioned I would be in complete control of my universe and my place in it.
I certainly couldn’t have predicted that most of those items wouldn’t rank anywhere close to the top of my priority list today, several months after my 35th birthday. It’s not that I believe these accomplishments, possessions or mindsets are inherently bad. But I see now that had all of those visions come true, I might be a pretty miserable person.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a sucker for “stuff”. Nothing makes this clearer than being one month out from walking away from my house–and all of the items in it–for the better part of the next year. That’s right–I’m leaving my house and moving into a basement within the month. But, as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned to live with the bare necessities (a relative term in the US) for a long time while building my business. I’ve also just completed five months of purposefully not spending a dime on myself. (A topic worthy of a separate future blog post. Read this one for the specific goals I set at the beginning of the year and this one for the big picture.)
Through these experiences of sacrifice and re-prioritization of the material, I’ve come to find purpose and meaning in adventure, personal connection, movement, internal exploration, nature and community. These weren’t all places that I sought out. Many snuck into my life by surprise. And I think I’m better for it.
At first, it only felt like limitation–all of the things I couldn’t do while putting time and resources into a fledgling business and into some of my big goals.
I can’t go to J Alexander’s for date night. I can’t go to Ikea on the weekend. I can’t go see the new cult film. I can’t buy those new dress shoes I like. I can’t go on the friends vacation. I can’t pay for a new roof.
As a result, I had to begin using my time in different ways. Slowly, “limitation” turned into the parameters of a daring new adventure–an alternative freedom and new passions were born. I discovered…
Running long distances gave me energy, creativity and relieved stress. Coaching people in my community connected me to them on a regular and deep level. Reading fueled my excitement for life and stimulated my brain in a different way. Making dinner while dancing in the kitchen next to Chris made me feel in love and alive. Hiking with friends provided time for meaningful conversation.
It saddens me to think that had I been able to maintain a default mode of busyness with all the “regular” things of life–shopping, going out to dinner, filling our house with stuff, seeing movies, going on vacations–I may never have discovered the things that actually make me happy. My initial limitations are ultimately what provided me with long-term freedom.
It is these transitions that have helped me be okay with something so seemingly far out as giving up my personal space and comfort of my own home in order to make traveling around the world a possibility. It may not be normal to cart my Shepherd-Husky, three cats and husband to move in with my parents and map out an around-the-world ultra-marathons adventure. But it is the thing, right now at least, that helps me feel like this precious life of mine isn’t just passing me by.
If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.
There were so many years in my 20s and even up until a few years ago, where I would’ve really cared about what other people might think of this decision or how it might look. I felt the pressure of our unspoken social contract—get a good job, work regular hours, buy stuff, have a family, and make sure you keep your shit together. Don’t ruffle any feathers and definitely don’t do anything that might make people think you are over-confident. The perception of how it might look stops so many of us from ever reaching our full potential and for too many years I let that dogma trump my true desires.
Recently though, the more I disobey this contract and find joy in going after what my heart craves, and what the world might deem crazy, the easier it becomes to keep doing it.
And even though in this current moment I’m scared as hell–scared of leaving our home, scared of giving up privacy, scared of the continued effort it will take to make this trip happen, scared of the effect it will have on our pets and on our personal relationships, scared that all of this sacrifice won’t be enough to make this dream come true–what frightens me more is NOT doing it, regretting what could have been.
I feel like I’m on the edge of a precipice, peering over in anticipation of jumping to the other side. It is a place in my life I’ve been many times before. It is frightening and it is thrilling. I’m unsure of what will happen or how it will turn out once I’ve jumped. But risking the unknown has never let me down. I may not know how exactly I will get there or what’s on the other side, but I certainly know what it feels like to fly.