My brother spoke those words to me a few weeks after I initially told him what the new plan for my life was; leave the job, sell everything, own next to nothing and leave the place I have called home for the last twenty-five years and travel. Since I started to divulge to friends and former colleagues what the plan is, the reactions have been as varied as the people I know.
Excitement, revulsion, envy, defensiveness have confronted me in ways both blatant and subtle and have often left me feeling the need to appease those I am talking to. I have found myself at times reassuring friends that they are not making a mistake in their life choices while at other instances I find myself defending the decisions that I have made under the disapproving gaze of a someone who clearly thinks I am nuts. Needless to say, this reinforces all of the feelings of doubt that I have about this entire adventure. On good days, it rolls off of my back with relative ease, but on those bad days it can sink my mood faster than I care to admit. Doing something like this is hard, you have to confront things about yourself that are often contradictory and confusing. (Now don’t get me wrong, this is not the hardest thing in the world to do. Leaving your homeland and becoming a refugee is hard, dealing with a cancer diagnosis is hard, this by comparison is not in any way analogous to those struggles). This is not something we are supposed to do. Not in this culture and not now (at sixty-five it would be ok) and the reactions that I get from those who do not approve reflect that. Telling someone I bought a new car would be fine, buying a bigger house would be fine, going on a two-week vacation would be fabulous! Selling all of your possessions and not having a job; not smart and definitely not ok.
I feel like in a small way I am revolting against everything that we are told is good and right to do in our culture. It is totally fine to want to possess more things, even if it becomes and absurd amount of stuff (I know someone with six TV’s). I worked in the world of retail for a very long time, buying more and more and more to the point that you cannot even fit it your home is not only encouraged (we would fly top customers across the country to come shop at our flagship store), but celebrated in ways both big and small; from the thank you notes that come with that perfect purchase from the online retailer to the knowing glance from the stranger that you are carrying the right handbag for the season. This has become the point of our existence, buy more, buy a bigger house to fit it all in and keep on working so that you can afford all of it. Work, buy, repeat. Work, buy, repeat.
I think this is where people start to feel as if I am challenging the way they live by telling them what I am doing. Some take it personally, as a rebuke to their very existence and become extremely defensive. We are told thousands of times a day to buy more. Everything from a latte to a Rolex, we are in a very real way what we buy and also buy into, so to even suggest a different way of living is seen by some a condemnation of how they have built their lives and I am learning very quickly that it can make some very prickly. We all want to believe that we are on the right path, the endless marketing encouraging this life of vapid consumption is enforced to us thousands of times a day and soothes us into knowing it is the right way to go, it is much easier to just go with the flow.
On the other hand, to my surprise, I have been called courageous more than once. I find this a little curious as I don’t think following your dreams or passions is something that is in any way courageous and I can confidently say that I have never done anything in my life that is in any way truly courageous. Courage to me is really standing up for something that is right, risking your life, defending those you love and the values that you hold against those who would take it away from you. That is courage. What I am doing is not, but someone describing what I am doing as courageous clearly speaks to the fear that we all feel in taking a big step, which is something that we all can relate to. I am often full of doubt; staying in my career, making more money and not upsetting the status quo would have been easier, I have days where I am so full of doubt I convince myself that I have made a massive mistake and just want to go back in time and fix it. I called this blog “the huge leap” for that reason, it is a leap of faith, but I don’t think you need courage to do it, I think conviction is a better word. The conviction that you know yourself better than anyone else, that you know what works for you and what doesn’t and the conviction to be true to that and try to find a new way forward.
I hope that in the years to come I can define this way forward more. I am not so naive to think that it is ever going to be perfect or ever totally fufilling. I just know at this point what I was doing wasn’t working and that there must be a different way that will be more suited to who I am. If people think I ruined a good thing, so be it. So far blowing up my life, as scary as it feels at times, still feels right.