Vulnerability, Naked Dreams, and Daring to Be Batshit

“I’m a writer”.

There is no phrase I can utter aloud that both fills my heart with as much joy and shakes my soul to the core to the same time. Writing has always been ‘the big one’, the dream that never faded, that stands quietly waiting behind my more ‘realistic’ goals. Most importantly, it’s always been the thing that makes me come alive.

I’m currently taking a publishing course, I’ve written over half of a book. I’ve let go of the ghostwriting someone elses ideas to step up with my own voice, I’ve published a few things online, I have a blog with a fairly decent following, and I got an award for a poem I wrote last year. Yet still when people I know ask me what I’m up to, I tell them about travel, I tell them about the English classes I teach online, I tell them about how I might maybe one of these days finish my therapist internship, or how I’m applying for teaching positions abroad, because uttering the phrase, “I’m a writer”…makes me feel a lot like one of those nightmares where I accidentally show up to school with no pants on.

Those words “I am a writer” feel true, but make me feel naked, vulnerable, and  quite honestly… batshit.

Naked because saying this requires me to remove all the layers of ‘should’ I’ve spent my entire adulthood hiding behind, and say, “Hey, this thing that I’ve wanted since I was a kid, that every social construct and ounce of rationality tells me should be a hobby- I plan on doing it for a living. Everything else I tell you about my career plans is either fear, socially acceptable bullshit, a distraction, or a means to pay the bills while I figure this making a living with my words thing out.”

Vulnerable in the recognition that some people are going to look at me like I’m crazy, tell me about how many books get published and fail, and how many aspiring writers never make it, and ask me what my back up plan is, which essentially feels like stripping down to my essential self and someone saying, “Duuuude weirdo, you’re in your 30s. Put your clothes back on, preferably a pair of dress slacks and some sensible flats, and start worrying about a 501K. If you need a goal, train for a 5k like everyone else your age. Write a book? What a delightful but absurd fantasy.”

And then batshit when even with the awareness of all this I confess, “I’ve decided not to have a back up plan anymore.” Why? Because my back up plan always makes more rational sense, and then it sneaks up into the front seat, and I end up realizing I haven’t written a damn thing for weeks. Sure, I’ll find ways to pay the bills, and hopefully continue teaching in a way that feels authentic, but as far as future plans go… career goals…  Writing. Is. It.

I recently started realizing how off track I’d gotten when I sat with my little brother and talked about his plans for the future. He just finished his first year of college, and I saw the same look I had in my eye when I was his age. It’s that quiet confusion that comes when you realize for the first time that you don’t want to settle for typical, yet it butts up against everything you’ve been socialized to believe about what your career and life path ‘should’ look like.  I think he’s already aware that he doesn’t want to settle for anything less than what he’s passionate about. The urge to have him jump in my car and go on a road trip was strong, but I realized he’s on his own unique journey which quite likely doesn’t have anything to do with crisscrossing the globe and refrained.

So instead, I immediately started yammering on about how big rewards require big risks (there is nothing that turns me into an obnoxious bumper-sticker-speaking motivational speaker like realizing my youngest sibling is asking all the same questions I struggled with), and it was healthy to question whether the things that were supposed to make him happy really would and to carve his own path. Yet as I drove away, I realized how I needed to practice what I was preaching. I have this big scary dream of my own, yet still feel afraid to take those risks and step outside of the cultural norms- for fear I might appear crazy, or even face for a time being something considered even worse than crazy in Western culture… unsuccessful.  

Screw playing small, screw playing it safe. In this moment I’m recommitting more energy to being a naked, vulnerable, and batshit crazy writer, even if that means I end up living in a foreign country so I can afford to work part time and have more time to do what I love, and failing 80 times before I finally succeed. In fact, I know myself well enough to say I’ll probably find five reasons I shouldn’t be putting it all on writing, I’ll probably announce ten more career paths I’ve decided on besides this one while my friends laugh because its only a matter of time before I change my mind.  But I’m going big, especially now that I’ve realized it’s not just about me anymore, it’s about announcing my big dreams, and showing up to prove that no goal is too big, no ambition too ‘batshit’.

….and hey, if I’m going to be crazy, I think  go-big-chase-the-fuck-out-my-dreams is my favorite kind of crazy.

To my baby brother… Dream ginormous kiddo, I freakin’ love ya.

Advertisements

Welcome To My ‘Office’

My ‘cubicle’ has a drink menu, my coworkers and bosses are on different continents, and today my office is furnished in hammocks, vintage furniture, and beanbag chairs.

photo (1)

 …Allow me to elaborate. I don’t have a normal job- I have many jobs and they are all online. My main source of income is teaching English to students all over the world via Skype, but I also do freelance writing and editing, as well as running an online business of my own. My office… wherever I can find a decent WIFI connection. Today it’s in the bar of a large hostel in Cusco, Peru, munching on fresh bread and avocado. Later I will migrate my office to the courtyard, so I can sit in the sun while I work.

I’ve become whats known as a “digital nomad” partially on accident. By the way, digital nomad ….loosely translated, it’s just a fancy word for anyone who works entirely remotely/online, be it from coffee shops, shared work spaces, or in my case, a hostel in South America… usually one who uses that freedom to move around, travel, and explore. The internet is a beautiful thing, as far as the potential it offers for stepping outside of the traditional career box.

I personally realized that a ‘normal’ career in one place wasn’t what I wanted when I was traveling in South East Asia. But even as a kid, when we’d write essays in class about what we wanted to do ‘when we grew up’, I would rarely name a career, and instead dream of seeing the world. Dress pants, time clocks, and office walls have always made me cringe. I have the heart of a traveler, but equally important ‘the American dream’ of working a 50+ hour workweek so I could spend the weekend buying things… it felt like a trap, and never made much sense to me.

 In December of 2013, I started a business selling antiquarian books online. I had just returned to the states after teaching English in Thailand, and after stumbling upon a few valuable books in local thrift store, started as a means to support myself while I searched for my next job. I got to spend hours digging through dusty piles of my favorite thing- books!- and within a month, I ended up turning down two full time job offers because my accidental online business was already paying better… and because I was hooked on the freedom of being able to schedule my own life. If I wanted to take the afternoon off to go to the park and work later that evening, I could. If I wanted to sleep in one morning, work in my pajamas, or take a break to grab coffee with a friend, I could. Freedom AND income, what a concept….

it always seems impossible until its done

 Six months later, I decided that I wanted even more flexibility- up until that point I’d been able to schedule myself but was still tied to a location by my inventory. So I shipped my books to a warehouse where my customer orders would be shipped by a third party.  I spent the next two months road tripping across the US, camping in national parks, couch surfing, and visiting old friends. I used the travel experiences as an opportunity to start doing some freelance writing and expand my blog, started getting some of my work published, as well as getting small editing jobs.

I was hooked. I started exploring all my options- buying and selling was great, but realistically I could only do it from the US. Yet again, I wanted to expand my possibilities.

Two years later, I have rewarding work that I can do from anywhere. I teach English and various other subjects via Skype to students all over the world, helping tutor many of them towards gaining admission to American universities, as well as freelance writing and editing…while having free time to explore whatever location my happy heart decides to visit. Right now that place is Peru… my next destination is yet to be determined, but being completely open to possibility… feels amazing. 

photo 1 (6)

I’ll be honest, my lifestyle is not for someone who needs it all to be predictable, and like any job, working online has stressful moments. I’ve lost clients because of internet issues and I’ve taught English class from a hallway with my finger on the mute button in case a hotel guest wanders by speaking another language. Working on the road requires adaptability and a willingness to believe things will work out even when the going gets tough. Initially building enough online work to travel had its challenges, as did finding the resources to travel in a sustainable way. Getting to this point has been a trial and error process, and I am constantly learning. However, traveling and working can be as predictable as you choose, and the options for achieving a mobile life nearly infinite.

Along that vein, before leaving for my latest trip I decided I wanted to share those resources as well as utilize my own background in counseling to help others explore what their best life looks like, and how they can design a more adventurous and mobile existence, by launching a business, LifeCREATIVE… because I truly believe we all can create a life we love.

While I’m busy sharing my new project, my blog will feature guest contributions from friends and fellow travelers, artists, writers, and creative entrepreneurs who have discovered ways to live the life they love. BONUS- I’m also going to fill the new site with a ton of free resources for making travel sustainable, including links to many of the resources I’ve used to land online work, free and cheap accommodation, and work exchange opportunities. Feel free to share your own travel/freelance/life resources in the comments below.

If you are ready to leap, or just explore new possibility, visit LifeCreative.org.

(PS- Stay tuned, the next post will feature an excerpt from the absolutely wonderful and resource packed book, The Abundant Bohemian- Live An Unconventional Life Without Starving in the Process, written by my friend Joe Downing, a Dayton, Ohio lawyer who is using his own life to shatter the illusion that we must either choose adventure or material success… Joe’s new book highlights how we can easily have both)

impossibility, terror, and taking flight.

I was having coffee with a friend last weekend, talking about the future, careers, and the often terrifying prospect of following our big dreams. You know the ones; the dreams that we decide not to follow because they are so huge and so scary that our rational brain tells us they are impractical… or my least favorite word of all… impossible

As we were discussing this idea of dreams vs. practicality, he reminded me of a personal truth that I try to live by. He reminded me that it ALL has a purpose, even what seems like confusion or misfortune in the present will make sense when we look at it down the road.  The truth he reminded me of was that even when it’s not clear, everything that happens fits together perfectly, that it’s all part of a path we are meant to be walking.

Someone once explained this much more gracefully… “it’s the path off the path that leads us to God.”  The idea that there is no such thing as a misfortune or mistake is a truth that is easier said than lived, especially when we are in the middle of tragedy or personal crisis, or really even when we just have a bad day.   It’s like we get so focused on what we want to happen, some goal we want to achieve, or some dream we can’t wait to be living, that in the moment we forget that it’s those twists and turns that are the real journey.

As a self-acknowledged accomplishment junkie, I am often guilty of  being so focused on my long term goals, the cause I want to champion, or my next big dream  that I get tunnel vision that prevents  me from seeing the beauty and divinity of the now. This is especially true right at the moment, as in a couple weeks I fly into California for grad school and visiting family and friends, and then fly from there to teach in Thailand for nine months.   Having a one way ticket to SE Asia has made living in the present more of a challenge than ever, my brain is a mess of future and past.  When I’m not distracted by  a mental  list of trip preparations, I find myself reflecting on the past, and the winding, unexpected paths that have led me here.

mba_unexpected_turns

So, I’ll indulge myself by lingering in the past for a moment, because as I look back over the last three years, all the pieces seem divinely orchestrated.  There were things that had to fall apart and come together, lessons I was meant to learn, friends I needed to meet, and places I needed to be in order to take this journey.   I feel like the last six months tested me in a necessary way.  Did I really want this?  Could I let go of the life I was used to in order to embrace a new adventure and perspective?   Most importantly, my gut has been telling me that going to Thailand is what I should be doing, but I’m not really sure why…so could I follow my heart when I didn’t know what it was leading me to?  When I answered those questions with commitment, and put my faith in the same higher power that continued to point me in this direction, I began witnessing each obstacle falling away.   I stalled on this dream for two years, avoided the signs, pushed forward on the practical career path I had chosen … until now. And now is perfect timing; had I not faced some of the challenges I did, I might not feel as strong, inspired or supported as I do.  I might not have the faith in my dream that I do now.

My experiences in the past couple years have granted me the ability to travel without seeking something out there, but rather stepping out of the known to see ordinary things with new eyes.  In this way, while I have no idea what the next step will be, I  know that coming home next spring will be just as valuable an experience as leaving.

Taking this trip represents only a first step; in doing the thing that no one thought I could or should do, I’m achieving my own impossibility.  Which is both exhilarating and terrifying, because suddenly I realize that the only thing that has ever limited me was the scope of what I believed I could be.  The way I see the world will change, because the things I ‘can’t do’ will suddenly be the things I choose not to do, and perhaps I’ll see doors where before there were none.   While this seems like a small step, I realize I am taking one more step towards letting go of fear and living the life I am meant to, whatever that ends up looking like.  So, thank you to all of the people who remind me to live fully and burn brightly, especially those who have loved me enough to let me take flight.

b2b07d4b3bec0a585ab2d1a46797a2cb