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Continuing with our guest post series, here is one of my favourite bloggers, Kim Dinan of So Many Places, and her take on the words ‘Life the life you want to, not the one you think you should.
When I was younger my mom drilled me with a single lesson: by the time I reached the age of 30 I should have a good career and all that came with it (money, house- you know the trappings). By that ancient age (30 definitely felt ancient to a 16-year-old kid), my mom assured me, it was crucial that my life was assembled in such a way that I could easily shoot through my working life and position myself comfortably for retirement.
Security, she insisted, should be valued above all else.
Looking back, I don’t blame my mom for selling me this story. It was an ethic of her generation, after all, and she lived her own life with the stresses of financial insecurity. She did not want her own children to suffer in the same way she had. Too, she must have seen the wanderlust in my eyes and guessed at the free-spirited dreams that I indulged in as I lay in bed at night waiting for sleep.
What did I know about life? I followed her advice because I was scared that what she warned was true. And I was fearful that if I followed that tug inside of me that wanted something drastically different than the life I was chasing, I might end up as directionless and lost. It didn’t occur to me that living the experiences I so desperately dreamed of might actually open my life up in the most unexpected ways.
This isn’t a criticism of anyone’s parenting, not in the least. Just more of an insider’s glimpse into what I was up against and the pressure I felt to do what was “right.” And I have to admit my own hand in the game. It was so much easier for me to follow the path that everyone else followed, the path my mom was pointing me down, than to divert and follow the path that every ounce of me wanted to live. No matter the pressure I felt to follow the traditional route, in the end it was I who chose to go down it.
So here’s how it went. I got a job, and then I got a better job and then a better job still. I got married. We bought a house. We bought a fuel-efficient car for my husband’s one- hour commute. We had expensive clothes and high-tech workout gear and a washer and dryer. We had a good life. We lived in Oregon, on the west coast of the U.S.A., with the mountains and ocean so close you could almost touch them. We loved it there. We were happy.
But there was a hitch.
No matter what I did, no matter which new job I took or how many miles I ran, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t doing the thing I was supposed to do with my life.
From the time I was a tiny girl I’d wanted to be a writer. From the time I learned that people did such things, I’d wanted to see the world. But I’d given up on those long-held dreams. I was facing a future filled with the regret of unlived things. I didn’t want it to be that way.
I won’t go into all of the details of what happened next (I’ve written about them exhaustively on my blog). I will tell you that once I reached the point in my life when I could no longer ignore what I really wanted, I had to make a tough decision.
Could I give up everything I’d worked for to chase a dream? Or should I just keep trudging down the same path I was on, with all of the security I might hope for but none of the things that made me feel alive?
When it came down to it, the answer was clear. So at 30 years old, the exact age my mom told me to settle down, my husband and I uprooted. We sold our beloved little house and all of our possessions. We left our good jobs. And we set out to see the world and write about it.
It has been the most incredible journey. It has not always been easy, of course, because the things one really wants never are. But in the past two years I’ve lived the experiences I used to only dream about, things bigger than I’d even dared to dream.
My husband and I have trekked the world’s biggest mountains in Nepal, lived on a beach in India, and volunteered with school kids in Ecuador. We’ve kayaked in Patagonia, played with monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest, and chugged through Europe on trains. And there’s so much more. More than I could ever write here.
I don’t have a single regret. Because the life I live now is the life I chose to live, the life I always wanted. I feel more comfortable in my skin and in my decisions than I ever did when I was faking it in the roles I used to fill.
I’ve come to believe that we all have an obligation to give to that deep part of ourselves that harbors the things that make us feel on fire. If we honor the things that make us come alive: knitting, traveling, writing, drawing, cooking, or parenting, we not only do ourselves a favor but the world a favor too.
Kim Dinan has been traveling the world with her husband since May 2012. Her new book, Life On Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide To Living Your Dreams, was written to encourage and inspire those contemplating their own bold move in life. The book is available in e-book format and paperback here and in PDF here. Follow Kim on Facebook and Twitter.
If you’d like to contribute a guest post to this series, email me at victoria [at] bridgesandballoons [dot] com