So, it’s tax time again, and that means going over everything from last year; all of your old transit receipts, charitable donations, etc. It has a similar effect for me as New Year’s day does: you relive the past year in a flurry of papers.
I looked back on this past year and saw a lot of ritual and routine. I spent this much on transit to get to work, this much on rent, so on and so forth. It looked….well….pretty boring. And you know what….it FELT boring. I am never one to discount any blessing or privilege in my life. I know that I had a relatively good job, meaning it was steady, dependable work, it was easy, and I was working with people who were all really nice and that I really liked. Yet, something felt like it was missing.
I’ve always been a bit of a restless person. Perhaps it’s because I am still growing constantly as a person, but when I am caged down in one thing for too long, I always tend to want to spread my wings and fly away. The fever for flight came to me again last year around this time. I had to fly to Germany because my twin brother was having a very serious brain surgery and I wasn’t about to let him go through that alone. The trip was great, the surgery was a huge success, and then I headed back home feeling thankful that everything went so well. But then, I began to be plagued by the realization that I had just used a week of my vacation time (which by the way wasn’t anything close to a vacation) and that I only had one week left. The year had barely started! And I knew that that last week should be reserved for spending time with family around Christmas time.
I know I know, first world problems, but I felt completely trapped. I suddenly began to feel the weight of the drudgery of my life – every single day the same – and I became exhausted and very unhappy. Logically I knew that I didn’t really have a right to feel so upset, too many people have it so much worse, but I couldn’t change the way I felt. I felt stuck in a point of my life where it didn’t seem like anything was going to change any time soon. And day-in-day-out I took the bus and train with miserable people heading to a job they hate, spending the greater part of their lives unhappy, because they have to pay bills and they have to meet other responsibilities.
So, I decided to make a plan. I decided that I wasn’t going to allow myself to end up like that. I decided that I needed to be the change that I wanted to see in my own life. I began to save as much from each paycheck as I could, applied for a German work and travel VISA, and by the end of the year I had quit my job and was flying off to spend the next year in Europe….or at least for however long I could until my money ran out.
Trust me. This decision was not arrived at easily. I spent a long time thinking “I can’t quit my job and flit off to Europe…that’s irresponsible, I still have a huge amount of student loans to pay back.” I gave myself a million reasons to stay in my prison, including the fact that I couldn’t afford it. But one day it sort of just hit me: I don’t have to get up and go to work today if I don’t want to. I don’t have to keep maintaining this same routine if I don’t want to. All of the “responsibilities” that tether us to a life that we really don’t want to live are merely excuses that we tell ourselves which ultimately keep us sheltered in a little secure (but miserable) bubble and keep us for achieving our dreams.
I wanted to head to Germany, not only because my brother and his family are here, but because all of my life I have wanted to travel. While in school I kept on putting it off, saying after this I will go or after that I will go. Then when I started working, the same thing. But the “after that” never really comes. I knew that the job I was in last year was always meant to be temporary, but I realized that if I did get into that permanent, career starting job (which starts at 2 weeks of vacation a year) then I was never going to be able to travel or live abroad.
Once I made the decision I noticed two things: 1. I was happier and I felt less miserable with my situation and less trapped. 2. The majority of people I told all said “that’s amazing, I’m so jealous, I wish I could have done the same thing.”
This response made me think of a very important concept that I want to live my life by: I never want to let “I want to” turn into “I wish I had.” I want my life to be extraordinary, not ordinary, and I want to live it with passion, not just with practicality. The safe road is safe for a reason, but anything worthwhile in life comes with a little bit of a risk.
Published in Fusia magazine, March 2015