Around this time last year, I was browsing for early Christmas presents at Barnes and Nobles when a small book caught my eye. The cover showed a picture of the lower half of a man’s body standing on the edge of a precipice; the title was something along the lines of “Life of a Vagabond”. The adventure-esque cover combined with the fact that I had no idea what a vagabond was intrigued me enough to pick it up and start reading. What I found out was that a vagabond is somewhat of a permanent nomad, and this particular author had traveled the world for years before deciding to publish what was essentially an instruction manual to that lifestyle. My first reaction to the book was honest jealously of the writer, which faded away into intense inner turmoil. The elation and yearning that my heart and gut were so strongly emoting was rapidly stifled by the checklist that my brain was firing off: job, lease, car payment, cell phone, responsibility. So what did I do then? I basically threw the book down, took one last glance, and walked away. Thinking back on this now disappoints me. I don’t think I fully realized it then, but in the store that day I came face to face with my dreams and I reacted by literally and figuratively putting them back on a shelf and going back to life.
To me, the most ironic aspect of the “American Dream” is that it seems most people are so busy striving for it that they forget their own dream. How many of us are truly happy sitting at a desk or cubicle bathed in fluorescent light staring at a computer screen for 8 plus hours a day? Yet for some odd reason, the majority of people seem to accept it without putting up much of a fight. The first couple of years after I graduated college and joined the ranks of the “real world”, I remember consistently feeling disappointed and confused. This is what I’d been eagerly striving for, why I couldn’t wait to graduate? This was it? Where was the adventure, the passion, the feeling of endless possibility and opportunity when I woke up in the morning? I could pay my bills, was financially independent for the first time in my life, and was actually pretty lucky with the job I had…but I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting more. I’d like to think that I’m not alone in reaching this crossroads in life. Down one path, you have stability, a steady paycheck, healthcare; normality by all standards of society. The other path guarantees the exact opposite, but also promises that which some never experience when taking the safe road: discovery, self fulfillment, uninhibited happiness. The reaction that I’ve gotten most often when telling people about my plans is somewhere along the lines of “I wish I could do something like that!” I always answer by telling whoever it is that they can. Because the truth of the matter is, it’s never too late to veer off the path you’re on and choose the one that’s always lingered in the peripheral of your heart; no matter if it involves traveling the world, starting your own business, going back to school, or just moving to a new city***.What matters is that when you realize your dreams, you trust yourself enough to grab on to them, run (don’t walk!) away from the shelf that they have been sitting on, and don’t even think about putting them back. In the words of the wise Mr. Tolkien:
“Not all those who wander are lost”
***To all of the incredible people in my life who have recently begun their own journeys, I am so proud of and inspired by you. It was only a matter of time. 🙂