If you read Playlist 11 (or any of my last three posts which were written from Ireland), you already know that travel has been a big part of my life since childhood, but especially in the last decade or so. Going to new places, eating new foods, seeing new sights; the allure of exploring uncharted territory is so exciting to me and something that I hope to continue to be able to do for the rest of my life.
I wasn't always like that!
That family resort I mentioned earlier? My parents, brother and I went there for 20 consecutive summers. We loved every second of it, even as adults, but as kids it was our home away from home. We were devastated when we had to leave each year and would count down the days until we could go back. It was tons of fun, we made lots of friends that we met back there every summer, and it became part of my family's routine.
It was comfortable.
People are often scared of the word “comfortable” as they feel it signifies stagnancy, and I can't say I totally disagree. I think part of our saving grace was that we went on other family trips, too: Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, Georgia. I was very fortunate to have gotten to visit tons of new places across the country while still maintaining that comfort of the family resort. The freedom that came from those trips and the spark of intrigue that came from seeing so many new places really carried over into my adult life.
As I continued to come out of my shell in my own personal bubble, I became more willing to expand my horizons both internally and externally. I have even realized the beauty of missing out on opportunities. Because, in one experience, choosing not to do something has resulted in something even greater.
In the summer of 2016, I learned about this new study abroad program that was taking Art Therapy students to Ireland. I was interested, but decided to pass on the chance. The trip overlapped with my birthday, and I had also been invited to go to Maine for the week. At the time, my priorities drove me to skip Ireland, go to Maine and celebrate my birthday at home with my friends.
I don't even think I can express in writing the magnitude that that decision has had on my life since.
Had I chosen to go to Ireland that August, I would have been with an entirely different group of people on the Emerald Isle. My educational experience would have been different. The friendships I made from it would have been different. And, I would never have met Ben. Every single part of the last 12 months would have been different
Every. Single. Part.
And although I do not have the omniscient power to say whether thing would have been better or worse, I know how how unbelievably happy I am with my life now and all of the people that are in it. I don't even want to think about life without my Ireland girls, and without Ben. Lucky for me, I don't have to.
Now you may be thinking "But...you passed up an opportunity. You didn't seize it. You said no to Ireland.”
Yes, that's true. But for me, the decision I made to skip the first study abroad was what I was feeling was the right choice in the moment. I was living in that moment, recognizing what I want and didn't want, and acting based on that.
“Living in the moment” and seizing opportunities doesn't always mean you have to be saying yes to something or going somewhere. It can also include acknowledging where you're at and choosing to say no, to stay where you are if it means you're doing what you want in that moment.
We all may interpret my mantras in a different way, some by actually quitting their job, moving to Asia and becoming a rice farmer. If that's where you see your path, then that's where you see your path. I'm not speaking definitively here. In fact, I don't really think I have any answers. I'm not sure there are any answers.
What I do know is how my choices have affected me in my own life, and how liberating it feels to begin to break free from what might be "expected" of me, or even what I might expect from myself. I consider myself to be a very logical person so I can honestly say that so far, my choices have been relatively small in the grand scheme of things. But look how much was effected by such small decisions:
I overcame my fears of performing.
I opened up to people and made friends because of it.
I found a career. A career!
I have learned to embrace traveling to new places, and am starting to understand that looking beyond what is in my reach isn't always a dangerous thing. Scary perhaps, but rewarding and fulfilling at the same time. I am transitioning from taking calculated risks that present themselves to me, to seeking out opportunities beyond what I may have ever imagined for myself. Not all of my choices have resulted in happiness and not all have been the wisest, but they have all helped me learn and grow nonetheless. And for that, I am truly blessed.
What decision has had a significant impact on who you’ve become?
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