*Post originally written 1/11/2014*
So here I am, six months out from swapping my life as a NYC consultant for one of a wandering nomad. The final countdown has begun, and while there are only 20 some-odd weeks left before my departure, I strangely do not feel nervous, scared, or sad. Instead I have an overwhelming sense of peace which I have not experienced in quite some time.
The simple act of planning my trip has filled me with excitement for what lies ahead and an appreciation for what lies right in front of me.
Last Saturday I spent the evening exploring the city with a few close friends. The pretense for our night out was an improve show at a local comedy club called The PIT. While the show was great, we didn’t have the foresight to plan anything for after, so instead spent the evening walking, talking, eating and drinking around Flatiron. We had nothing to do, no place to be, and no expectations for the evening other than to spend time with one another. There wasn’t any point to the evening, but I loved it.
The following day I noticed one of my compatriots, Shayne, posted an entry on his blog, InsideStoop, about that evening. It seems I wasn’t the only one impacted by our late night wanderings. In his post he revealed how happy he was living in the city and how comfortable he is with who he's becoming. Whether Shayne came to this realization that evening or earlier on I will likely never know, but his post inspired me to document the impacts that travel has already had on my life – even before I step foot on a plane.
Our favorite part of that evening was the 2am conversation over waffles, hot chocolate, coffee, and pie at a local diner with Sweta. Like most people in their 20’s, the three of us talked about where we were going with our lives, where we would end up, and questioned every life decision we ever made.
‘What am I doing with my life?’ ‘Am I making the right career move?’ ‘I don’t know what I want to do?’ 'WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!?'
I’ve had hypothetical discussions like this before, but rarely – if ever – do they yield any real insight. The whole exercise only serves to acknowledge and reaffirm the fact that nobody has any idea what the hell they're doing. Those who think they know just haven’t realized (or refuse to acknowledge) that they’re in the same boat, but it all comes around eventually.
I will never know why that particular night was so special to me, as opposed to the countless other dinners I've had with friends, but I realized two things that night. The first was that I wasn’t fearful of what I was doing with my life – and I wasn’t concerned of the “damage” I might do to my career by traveling long term. I’m doing what I have wanted to do all along and I will no doubt develop a particular skill set along the way. While I don’t know where I’ll end up, I do know that I will be able to leverage whatever knowledge I acquire to do something I enjoy. The late Steve Job summarized this feeling quite eloquently:
“…you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
This fear that 20-year-olds have of missing out or not fully optimizing their choices in life is not a “condition” they need to dread –it should be celebrated. This “big-life-decision” (for lack of a better term) is what your parents worked so hard for. They spent years removing obstacles, supporting you, educating you, and instilling values they believed would help you live independently so that you may be free to choose your own direction in life.
It saddens me to think that so many young people view this great gift as a detriment, but as we talked, all I could think about what how lucking I am to have the chance. All the stars seem to have aligned perfectly and I get to pick what I want to do in life. It would be a shame to squander such an opportunity by not taking a chance to do something I love… because whether I become wildly successful in my travels or fail miserably, I will have learned something about myself - and be forever wiser as a result of it.
As they say, the only things you regret in life are the risks you didn’t take.
My second realization of the evening was how much I really loved just being at that diner with two good friends. I had nowhere else to be but right in that chair. As we talked, it became clear that this stage of our lives is only temporary, and this fear of an unknown future –from a 20-year-old’s perspective – will pass in time. The knowledge that I will soon be leaving my NYC life feels almost like a death. One day I'm here with my friends enjoying coffee and pie, and the next I will be gone. Internalizing the fact that these late night NYC diner runs would soon end allowed me to appreciate the experience for what it was: the here and now.
Although I’m voluntarily leaving to travel the world, over the next few years my friends will make their own decisions in life that will likely take them to new and exciting places outside of NYC. This group of friends is bound to change regardless of whether I stay or go. For better or worse, our group, our “Ethnic Food Fridays” (EFF), our brunches, and our random nights out will eventually come to an end, but I am not sad that they will end, I’m happy that I was able to be a part of them and I’m excited to see where we all end up in 20 years.
I distinctly remember sitting back in my chair, looking around the table at Sweta and Shayne, and just smiling. There wasn’t anything special about that evening, yet it truly felt as if everything was right where it should be. Knowing that the moment would pass allowed me to appreciate the small, seemingly irrelevant parts of that night.
Ironically enough, I almost didn’t go out because I was so focused on planning my trip and working on the blog. It took an hour of convincing, but I (fortunately) succumbed to peer pressure thanks to Sweta. I suppose there is a third lesson that came out of that evening – don’t focus on the future so much that you overlook what’s right in front of you. I’ll have to keep working on it, but for the time being I could not be happier or more excited, because as Shayne pointed out in his post …
“…we’re writing the best part of our story.”