After my last post, a really kind ‘internet friend’ wrote to tell me that reading it made him sad. He reminded me that my dream is solid and beautiful, and encouraged me to do whatever I needed to do to keep going forward.
This is the response I sent him, edited for public consumption. I thought I’d share it with all of you. Because I know that you don’t have to be in the middle of an Epic Journey to struggle with loneliness, or with the frustration of plans not turning out as you’d hoped. So whenever I find what works for me, I like to share it with you!
So here’s what I wrote to my very perceptive friend:
This is really kind, thank you!
Writing that blog post was cathartic for me. A lot of friends tried to make me feel better by saying “Come home for a while, the world will still be there.” Which is sweet, and well-intentioned — but they’re totally wrong. Coming home means spending thousands (or tens of thousands?) of dollars furnishing an apartment with everything from dining table and couch down to shower mats, trash cans, and pillowcases. Plus I’d have to buy a whole new wardrobe. And a car. And I’d have to find a job. It’ll take me 6 months —or longer — to establish a ‘normal’ life. Once I’ve rebuilt my life, I will probably not sell everything all over again and hit the road a second time!
What’s true, I realized, is the opposite. Home will always be there. A normal life will always be waiting for me somewhere. This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that took years of planning and preparation. I didn’t know when I left how long I’d want to travel, and it’s already been more than a year. But I’m not done yet!
So, I got my second wind. I started looking up other volunteer projects in [relatively] safer parts of Africa. I made up a tentative schedule and started applying for opportunities. And now I’m excited about the possibilities and looking forward to the future again! There’s nothing like taking charge of your future to help you deal with a present that’s less than perfect.
There are a few things I have to change, now that I’m alone all the time. The first one is I should not be renting whole apartments for myself for a month at a time. I should be engaging in volunteer work, or renting a room in an boarding house, or staying in hostels. I need other people to interact with. An apartment of my own should be an occasional retreat from humanity, not a regular way of life. It’s not like home, where you can call up a friend when you get tired of being alone. Unfortunately, I’m booked into apartments until the end of August, but hopefully a nice long visit with my son will leave me in a better place.
I also need to remember that there are always downtimes in life. Even when I was at home, I had days where I felt lonely, or frustrated, or bored. I have friends with ‘real jobs’ and normal lives who go through periods of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. It’s all part of the growth cycle — if we were built to be content with what we have, we wouldn’t grow as human beings.
Wow. Sorry to give you such a long response… I’m sort of thinking out loud (and I may have just written my followup blog post!). But I wanted to let you know I’m all right. And I’m really touched that you wrote to me. 😀
Once I started looking at new travel arrangements for Africa, I got excited again. That’s been true all my life: making plans for the future is the ‘fix’ for me when I’m down. I’ve gotten through so many horrible jobs, periods of great poverty, times of emotional hell, because I knew I was working toward something else. It’s why I’ve spent a good part of my adult life enrolled in college classes, or filling a binder with plans for businesses I was going to start.
Typically, there’s a period of mourning when I lose a dream. A time when I don’t feel ready to start a new plan and can’t face the uphill battle again. But once I’m able to push through that cloudy feeling…look out world!
And that’s my advice to you. If you’re not happy where you are, think about where you might be happier. You don’t have to have the One Definitive Answer — any answer will do, pick one. Most of don’t have any idea what our One True Goal In Life may be, so choose anything at all that would make you happier than what you have now. Make a plan and start implementing it TODAY. Usually the first step of a plan is the easiest. Typically the first step involves ordering a book to research your idea, or making a phone call, or sending an e-mail, or finding out how to sign up for a class.
Whatever it is, just do it. Put the ball in motion!