I graduated from college in May of 2015 with a journalism degree and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
What did I know?
I knew that whatever came next in my life I wanted it to be something that I truly wanted to do. That may sound obvious, simple even. But it’s really not at all. I wanted to stop dreaming and wanting for something else…a different job, a new city. I wanted to break down the limits that I had created for myself and live the life that I dreamt of.
Yet somehow, by September 2015, I found myself in exactly the position I didn’t want to be. I took an administrative job in an office in Boston. It was the first job I’d been offered since graduation and I didn’t know what else to do. Every single person I’d run into since my graduation in May asked the same things: Do you have a job yet? Where are you working? What do you want to do? Everyone else I knew was on the same path towards a job and an apartment: things that made you successful in “the real world,” after school.
So I did it too.
For the months of September and October I spent 40 hours a week indoors, behind a desk, staring blankly at my computer screen. I would quite literally sprint out of my office everyday at 4:59 PM and hop on the soonest train home. While I liked my coworkers, I felt completely unbalanced not being able to spend my time outdoors. I hated the lack of physical activity. I hated the silence of the quiet office and the lack of conversation and collaboration. To be honest, I felt like I was losing my mind.
Each day I squirreled away an hour to work out — the one part of my day I spent doing things I did want to do. I lived for the weekends. But I really didn’t feel like I was living at all.
One day in the office, I was mindlessly scrolling my Facebook feed when one of those trending quizzes kept popping up. It showed a blank world map and you were supposed to click all the countries you had visited and it would tell you what percent of the world you’d seen. I clearly remember thinking to myself that my map would look pretty cool, I had studied abroad after all!
I clicked my map. America and Canada were easy first picks. Then came my first journey out of the country to Greece and Turkey while I was in high school. Next came some vacation spots I’d visited with my family and finally the countries I’d visited while abroad: England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany and France. I clicked submit.
I got 6%.
My little map looked pathetic. With 94% of the world still filled in with white the red little countries looking like accidental dots on a drawing. I ran through the list of countries again thinking maybe I had missed one. But, no, they were all there. I surprised myself by how panicky I suddenly found myself feeling.
It was just that in that moment I realized how easy it would be to stay at my job, with my steady paycheck, get an apartment, pay bills, maybe get a better job someday and get deeper and deeper on this path that just wasn’t for me. I realized that it I didn’t break out of the comfort zone of what was easy my life may never change.
Money is a huge factor as to why more people don’t travel. And I can imagine that it would be hard when you’re making enough money to feel like you can “afford” to travel you probably don’t want to quit the job that’s making you such a comfy paycheck. I mean, that’s a massive risk. If you’ve saved and saved them you probably already have an apartment that you’re going to have to give up. It just gets more complicated. I just felt like the longer I stayed the deeper and deeper I would get down this path and the harder it would be to take the time to see more than a measly 6% of the world. Not to mention, the more you have, the more you have to lose, right?
I quit my job that same week.
A few weeks later I had some interviews for temp jobs. I still didn’t have a plan as to what I was going to do or where I was going to travel I was just happy to have broken the cycle that has put me on what I saw as a path that, for me, wasn’t going to go anywhere.
I was at the nail salon (thinking that if I had nice nails I might look more hire-able for some of these temp jobs I was applying to) sitting next to this gruff looking older man who was getting a pedicure. He had on jeans and a baseball cap and I forget what he was saying but I sort of just knew I wanted to talk to him. Turns out he was getting a pedicure because he’d just spent a bunch of weeks horseback riding and mountain climbing out west and his feet were in a word, “trashed.” “Wow'” I said, “that’s incredible. Do you get to get out there much?” To which launched one of those amazing conversations I have ever had with a stranger.
This guy was fucking awesome.
He had his pilots license, his captains license and he has pretty much done it all. He said that he got divorced when his three daughters were young. He worked his butt off and retired when they all grew up and never looked back. He had adventure after adventure to tell me about. It was just the most serendipitous conversation for me to have at that moment in my life and I so wish I knew his name just to tell him that I’m doing it! I’m going out! To live my life. Thanks for the nudge.
It takes courage to do something different than what everyone else is doing but I never had a second of doubt about quitting my full time job. I knew it was the right thing for me.
I now balence three part-time jobs and make my own schedule. I work nearly 7 days a week and usually much more than 40 hours/week. That said, I have never been happier because every second spent working, every dollar earned is going toward my lifelong dream of seeing the world. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I do know that I want to be constantly growing, learning, exploring and creating–outside of the confines of an office.
In the end you have to thank your obstacles because without them we would never grow. It’s all part of the journey.