Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why I quit my job to bumble around the United States and Canada in a car... among other things

Albuquerque, NM
On June 3rd, 2010, I quit my job; my secure job, where I was doing great, and that I loved to death, that afforded me a nice apartment in a gorgeous neighborhood, meals out, a great retirement plan, a nice insurance package and enough extra cash to travel during the summers.  Handing in that notice of resignation set things in motion that could not have been stopped unless I decided to scramble to find another cushy job to sustain my cushy lifestyle.

So why didn’t I do that? Why did I chose to quit, and then proceed to pack up and leave my apartment, sell unnecessary belongings, and take off across the country to help on farms and ranches where I’d receive room and board in exchange for my work and learning.

I got a lot of feedback, namely the “you’re-really-gonna-waste-all-your-savings-going-on-a-long-vacation-for-an-undefined-period-of-time-oh-and-what-about-insurance?”

I’m not on vacation. Well, ok sometimes I am, like now, on the train from visiting my most favorite Abby in the world on my way to New York City to visit the most amazing Amy ever.  But the work will start again once I head off to New Mexico to learn how to gentle wild mustangs for adoption. I am quite excited!

I think I am doing this because I had to. Because I knew if I didn’t, I would probably spend the next 40 years of my life in the same job, in the same city, escaping during summers to tour the world, but with far too much cushioning and stability to go back to at home to really learn what I want to learn from it.
In my past, every job I’ve ever applied to, I’ve gotten it. If I ever needed something done, I could just hire someone to do it. I decided to leave that behind because I need to learn about living; things about life that you can’t learn in front of teenagers in a classroom, with a nice pension in the bank, and a soft bed to come home to every day. I need to learn how to scramble for things, to pick myself up no matter how hard it gets, to fix my car, and how to go “oh shit, I really don’t have *any* money, now what?” and fix that situation by the skin of my own teeth. And I need to learn about horses. Because, really you haven’t become old until your dreams have become regrets. And I have never dreamed so much about horses or felt so at peace when I am around them.

I do sometimes feel a tremendous pressure from within myself, to make something big of this. I often find myself battling with my own mind over whether it is worth the time and the money to do what I am doing; traveling around and basically volunteering for room and board, while stopping to earn just enough cash to keep me half afloat when I need it. Sometimes I ask myself “what if you take these few years on the road, and you don’t end up having learned what you wanted, and end up back where you started. Well, I suppose if that happens, at least I will have tried. Looking back at what I’ve learned in the past 6 months already, it’s already worth it. Money can always be earned. You have to just believe that you can do whatever is before you, for as Nietzsche said ‘He who has a why can endure any how’

Sometimes the process is just as or more important than the final result. In the end, who cares whether I met my pre-determined goals. Regardless, I have learned much from the process of simply doing what makes me come alive.

There is a quote that I found recently, from Howard Thurman I believe (who is he… that’s something to look up for sure), that I think expresses what I mean to say perfectly. It goes like this:

Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Horses, the traveling that goes with it, having to constantly work hard for what I want and build things up from scratch *are* what make me come alive, and I heartily believe that if I am alive, everything right will eventually follow. I just need to be awake to realize it’s there, and I am starting to think in a few of the cases I just might be awake enough to grab them by the horns and ride off parallel to the sunset (riding into the sunset really just blinds you, trust me, I’ve tried it).

All truly wise thoughts have been thought already, thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take firm root in our personal experience.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I have heard quotes about living your life to the fullest, every day being a gift, living in the moment, just doing it…on and on and on. But none of them have really stuck and become part of me until I have lived those moments when I said to myself  “Alyssa, this is scary, can you really do it?” and my legs answered for me by getting up and just doing it. I’m writing this, so that means I didn’t die or lose any significant part of myself, and so, I, myself learned that I *can* indeed just do it, by trusting myself. No number of repetitions of any quote could have taught me that. I feel smarter, I feel wiser, I feel more ready for what I will meet in the world with these lessons that *I* have experienced firsthand.

It has also been an exercise in letting go. Letting go of what I had, letting go of what I know, letting go of fears of going into the unknown, letting go of old insecurities, letting go of needs I thought I had but didn’t really, letting go of excuses that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. 

The first thing to let go of was dependable income, and with it, the idea that having a dependable income is what kept me floating. Yet, I learned if I focus on what is around me and experience it fully, right now, it is far more enriching than having a padded bank account. 
Indeed it is quite easy to have fun with very little money, and things I used to buy, well I think I can do without them (still not sure about cool footwear though… that’s always going to be a staple in my life I think).

The next thing to go along with the income and job was my apartment, the first place where I had actually made a home for myself. At which point, I started to think that the place of my true home is inside myself, and have been cultivating that idea ever since. There is even a word for it from the Buddhist religion: Tathata, which I understand as the state of suchness; accepting things as they are and not how your emotions dictate them to be. And with this tool, I am learning to able to be at home in my heart. 

And lastly, I gave up my job, and the fun and  meaningfulness that I felt every day working with my students and the smiles they gave me and the lessons I gave them. I miss them on a daily basis, but from leaving, I have begun to accept there is a time for things to begin and a time for things to end, and that it’s best not to be greedy and want more. 

I gave up a lot of things to do this, but what I have gained seems far more priceless to me in the long run.   My own growing sense of independence and care for myself has lead me to be much less needy towards others, for if I can find self assurance and support within my own heart, I won’t look need to cling to friends and family.

This is all an ongoing process of course.  I do also have to say that much of what I’ve written here is also a bit idealistic, since there have been, are and will be plenty of times when I am frozen stiff and it takes all my courage to just get out of bed in the morning, and I definitely have a lot of freak out days when I wonder if I’ll just run out of money and  the will to do anything about it and end up in a ditch somewhere.
I’m doing this because I needed to learn how to take risks. And I’m doing that.

Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working. (The definition of work however, may not be what you think it is).
                           - P. Picasso

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