Not in My Wildest Dreams
Two years ago today, a moving van sat outside of our apartment in Brooklyn, New York, and all that remained of our belongings were rapidly filling the truck. It was a moment filled with exhilaration, anxiety and confusion. Had we kept the right things? What would I wear tomorrow? Had we left out bedding to sleep that night? Where were we headed? What were we doing?!
We had made decisions about how to live our lives in pretty conventional terms up until the moment a few weeks prior, when we had decided we would get on a plane, go to the other side of the world and give it a go camping around Australia for a few months. At the time, we figured we would give it three months and see how it went. Three months was based on the idea that if we did anything less than three months, it would be cheaper to rent a camping set-up rather than buy and then sell our set-up. We had made the investment, so we figured we should find a way to do it for three months. I add this detail because I think it’s reflective a pragmatic and externally focused, relatively random piece of data that we were going to use to determine the fate of our family. We used to make decisions that way often. How would the decision we were entertaining affect our job opportunities, school choices, retirement accounts, etc.
Now we were doing something that sounded fun, adventurous and a bit crazy. Somehow a few late nights watching camper trailer videos bounce down dirt tracks on YouTube had stirred something deep inside me and this time I wasn’t ignoring it. My loving husband said, “let’s do it.” I am tempted to write that he jumped onboard because he loved camping, which is true, but more accurately he grabbed hold of the idea because he loves me and he was tired of the cycle.
Our current state wasn’t working, but for the life of us, we couldn’t get excited about the next move enough to seize it. We struggled to settle on a suburb in New Jersey that might suit us, and somehow living in a camper in Australia seemed the perfect solution. Unlike all the other options we entertained, this move was not a means to an end, but rather a radical break from the mindset of thinking we controlled the future.
I literally could never have imagined how the past two years would have unfolded. As I write this, I feel tempted to use a phrase like “never in my wildest dreams” because that is how people seem to write about journeys like ours, but it doesn’t fit for me.
This journey has not been about living out a specific long held dream. Rather, it has been about intentionally living in the present and trying to fully experience it. The beauty, the joy, the fear, the loneliness, the connection, the missing, the accomplishment, the happiness, the uncertainty, the learning and the laughter. I am so grateful I had no clear understanding what was ahead. I wouldn’t have packed those boxes if I had known where we were headed for the next two years. I would have been far too frightened.
Life plans are an illusion anyhow. We think we know where we are going, but in fact, life happens in between and if we end up where we thought we would, it is merely by chance. On the most important days of my life, both the wonderful ones and the deeply painful ones, I rarely knew that morning what lay ahead. Living our life in this manner is about accepting this reality, connecting with what is working in the present and being open to the paths ahead.
The ‘me of two years ago’ still squirms at some of these notions. I would have read this piece and thought, “well good for them… couldn’t work for us, but isn’t it nice for them.” And if I allowed myself the space, I would picture these people as flighty, quite a bit out there and vaguely irresponsible. … But the ‘me of today’ knows with certainty that choosing to live our lives based on what works for us now and being open to new opportunities is far more satisfying to my soul than living a life totally focused on the future and my hopes for it while ignoring my quality of life in the present.