“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
I had a bit of a meltdown this evening. And I use that term very loosely – nothing crazy happened. I mainly just felt kind of sad and bad and talked to Kelly about it.
The last few days have been filled to the brim with RV planning. It is the beginning of December, and we are really hoping to have something purchased by the end of December, if at all possible. This means gathering up any extra money we have lying around (or money that tied up in things, as the case may be). It means researching endlessly about what we want and where we will find it. It means lots of small arguments (discussions, of course) about what we need for the RV and what we don’t, about where we’re going to go once we have the RV, about how we will make money on the road, and about how accurate our current budget projections are. We are talking constantly – Kelly is peppering me with links to this and links to that. It has started to feel a bit overwhelming.
I knew I was feeling stressed, but I didn’t know why. Of course it makes sense to be stressed in this situation – it is not unexpected. But I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why this felt like a bad stress instead of a good one. After a long day at work, I was taking the train home, mindlessly scouring my phone for amusements per usual, and I decided to set it down and think this over.
Deciding to leave the life I have and go off in an RV is a HUGE life change. It is a life-restructuring event. It means not only moving, but also figuring out how to make a job work, figuring out how to make a relationship work in a small space, and figuring out how live in a completely new and modified environment. It means trying to make sense of how an RV works, including deciding how much we can realistically afford to spend on one, and trying not to screw ourselves in the process. It means learning about towing, pumping our own sewage (ew), and how to drive a living room down the road. It means figuring out what I have accumulated, what I can get rid of, and what I need more of. (Results are in: Hair Products, Clothes, and NOTHING.)
It also means taking a cold hard look at where I am in my life. It means thinking about my job, my career, my life goals. I turned 30 this year (which of course is just another number, but eek). I can’t help but reflect on where I am and what I’ve done, and I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed. Who have I become and what do I believe in? Have I succeeded on my own terms? Have I been good to other people? Have I made a difference in the world? In so many way I feel like I haven’t. I feel like I am not trying hard enough. I haven’t succeeded enough. I haven’t always been true to myself. I haven’t even figured out exactly who the person I’m supposed to be true to IS. I have always felt like I was given a big bag of mixed personality traits that don’t go together. One part of me is always disappointed in the other.
Dealing with the disappointments of where I am and where I am not is painful. It is so hard not to compare yourself to those around you. I see people I know succeeding in a variety of different ways: One gets a big promotion, another is on vacation in Hawaii, another buys a house. And collectively I look at these things and think: Well I don’t have ANY of that! And then I pout.
I know deep in my heart that so much of a person’s personal happiness depends on PERSPECTIVE. (Oh you had a bad day? You stepped in a mud puddle and your boss yelled at you? That sucks. But at least you have food on the table and a roof over your head. These things are important to remember). So I try very hard to keep perspective, and try not to compare myself to others, and to focus on remembering what I believe in and who I want to be.
And setting out in the RV seems like this fantastic idea. It is big and different and exciting and it brings so many of the things I feel like I’ve been missing directly into the forefront of my life. But with all the decisions and details to work out, it has started to feel like a huge chore. There are so many opportunities for error and misjudgment and failure. I have also begun to see the ways in which it will be limiting. I am thinking about the jobs I won’t and can’t have. I am thinking about the lives I won’t and can’t lead. By living life on the road I am giving up some of these lives, for good.
In a weird way, it feels like if I stay at my desk job with my predictable and comfortable life, all those life-options stay open. I can pretend like maybe one day I will go back to school and become a biologist and travel the world discovering new species. I can pretend that I will decide to become a veterinarian and save animals’ lives. I can pretend like I am only one LSAT and 3 harried years away from becoming a lawyer. By living in this comfortable 9 to 5 office-limbo, and not deciding what to do with my life or what direction to go in, I keep all of these options open in some fantasy sense. By not doing anything, I can live in this dream world where I am doing everything!
But by making a choice, by deciding to live life on the road, I am making a statement. I am deciding that THIS is who I am going to be and THIS is the type of life I am going to lead. And then all of those fantasy options start to melt away. I am not going to veterinary school. I am going to live on the road in an RV. By choosing to live in one reality, the comfort of those dreams starts to disappear.
So I confessed to Kelly what was going on. I’m not having second thoughts, I’m not changing my mind, I’m not ANYTHING, I’m just sad and disappointed in myself and worried about the future. I’m worried that I’m not making the right choices.
After getting it all out, I realized that going out into the world on the road and making this decision is NOT limiting me, and it is NOT the end-all-be-all choice. It is what I am doing right now, because it is what truly excites me. And if in 5 years I decide I want to become a biologist or whatever, then by-golly I will! There is no turn in the road that I am missing. There is no “final choice” that determines the rest of my future. I am making my future every day. Every day is a new chance to start over. So I am starting this day over with deciding to leave the things I’ve accumulated behind, and start over from the road. If it doesn’t work out the way I want it to, then I begin again.
And yet, the human condition remains. We are all just mortal beings on a one way trip from birth to death. As time passes, it is inevitable that the potential lives we could have led turn into the lives we didn’t lead. There is too much world and not enough time. In all the preparation for this big choice, I end up feeling weirdly homesick even though I am home, nostalgic for the things I will never be. Time passes and opportunities come and go. And all I can do is keep trying my best and keeping marching onward.