Monday, August 26, 2013

Stop wanting and start doing

Based on the countless people who have said to me, "I wish I could do what you're doing", I've decided to be a little brazen about my feelings on the whole idea. I can't say this for sure about any culture but my own, but I really do believe that in America, we are still so far from figuring out what life is all about. Our biggest expectations of ourselves and others is to get an education, find a high paying job, get married, have kids, and hopefully be able to afford a decent retirement one day; and all in that exact order. Why? Because that's just what we're supposed to do. Why are we all okay with it? I have no idea. And anything that challenges that norm is not always easily accepted by society, and that's something I refuse to accept. Some of you may say, "But that's life, and that's just how things are", and to you I would argue, "Only if you let it".

Why is it okay that we strive for an education only to land our dream job and not simply for the education itself? Why do we work so hard basically to pay bills and if we're lucky, maybe have one semi decent vacation per year? Why do we value being overworked and trying to become rich when in reality we never have the time to spend our money on any worthwhile life experiences anyway? Furthermore, our jobs become our identity and the people and relationships in our lives suffer, because somehow we've become too busy to remember that the key to a happy life is having time and people to enjoy it with.

Of course, most of us need to work to survive, but I don't believe that work should consume our lives in the way that so many of have allowed. I'm not saying in any way that living life that way is wrong, but I also don't think it should be mindlessly accepted either. I know plenty of people that are following that path and are happier than ever in their situation, but I also know plenty who are doing the same and are blatantly depressed. So what am I saying exactly? If you're not happy with your life playing out that way, simply don't let it. It really is that easy. In my opinion, our ass backwards societal standards are something worth challenging. If like me, your only desire is to travel and take care of kids, then DO IT. There are a millions of opportunities around the world waiting for you. Your life is yours and only you can change it. It's a choice, and everything else is just an excuse. It really just depends on how bad you want it. Of course your dreams may be vastly different than mine, and that's great, but GO FOR THEM anyway. You don't wan't to regret it later, and I'd hate to see any of you settling for a mediocre life simply because our society's boring standards lead us to believe that you can only live life one way.

I must say that being an au pair is one of the most amazing experiences I've had in my life thus far. The perks of being an au pair are essentially the same as being a nanny, except arguably a bit better. Perks of being a nanny include: working in a relaxed and comfortable environment (yoga pants and leggings welcomed), falling in love with the kids you're working with, making a good living, and having all of the benefits of being a stay at home mom, without the lifetime commitment. Additional perks of an au pair include: living expense free in a house and area you will likely never be able to afford, no bills whatsoever, free vacations (or holidays in Aussie talk) with the family, spending money solely for the purpose of shopping and traveling, and best of all, the opportunity to be immersed in a culture you've always wanted to experience. And if by chance you end up in a really cool place like me, you get a fun and exciting family to live with, short work weeks, awesome weather, and the ocean just minutes away from your house. Not the worst situation I've ever been in :).

The reality is that you really can do anything you set your mind to, given that you're a sane, healthy, and semi well-adjusted individual, of course. And whatever will give you the happiness that you're lacking would be worth going for, wouldn't it? Follow whatever dream you may have and don't be afraid to be a little disobedient if that's what it takes to get there.

"The world needs more dreamers, and the world needs more doers. But above all the world needs more dreamers who do".

Friday, August 23, 2013

Making the big move!

August 20th:

Well, today was an extremely hard day and the biggest test to my faith in this whole situation yet. It was my final goodbye, and of course it was the hardest of them all. Saying goodbye to the two people I love more than anything else in the world was heart wrenching. I apologize to the people who watched me with tears streaming down my face during security checks. Sorry I still have no clue how to keep it together after 25 years of life.

I walked away trying to remind myself of all the reasons I decided to do this in the first place, but really I was thinking, "What am I doing? Am I strong enough for this? I'm now officially alone". I sat down at my seat still in tears trying not to think about what I had just committed myself to and was then overwhelmed by the support and love shown by everyone via texts, phone calls and social media. And then I realized, that even from over 10,000 miles away, I still have hundreds of people back home I can always count on. I am literally in tears reading all of your sweet messages and well wishes and feel completely at peace with my decision to do this.

My emotions have been borderline unstable the last few days, and if I could legally diagnose myself as crazy, I would. I am terrified, sad, anxious, happy, excited and hopeful, all at the same time. If that's not a recipe for an emotional breakdown I don't know what is.

But now, as I sit here waiting to board my 15 plus hour flight to Melbourne, I am getting so so SO excited. I could cry at the thought of what an amazing experience I am about to have. What am I worried about? Everything will absolutely be fine, and I'm going to have a life not many people have at 25, or ever for that matter. Pushing back a "normal life" for this adventure was potentially the best decision I've ever made. Plus, I'm already surrounded by people with accents, so that's refreshing :). If you know me at all, and my obsession with accents, you probably have no problem believing that I've already fallen in love 3 times since Chicago. I think I will be just fine.

August 24th:

Of course I am feeling infinitely better from just a few days ago. I'm happy, calm and still too excited to sleep! First let me start by saying you don't know exhaustion until you've traveled for 35 hours straight and then need to adjust to a 13 hour time difference. Woof. Luckily though, I'm young and my body bounces back from borderline toxic situations pretty easily. Fly time, which was a total of 25 hours, was much better than expected, and everything else went well, all things considered. I landed in Perth to be greeted by Ben and the girls. I instantly felt better. Finally, someone I recognized, even if in reality they were still strangers too. Even better yet was the drive home where I was surrounded by palm trees and beautiful modern houses everywhere. It reminded me a lot of what you would see in rich California. So far, in my two days here, I have drank lots of wine, eaten delicious meals, swam in the ocean, drank amazing Australian beer (arguably better than my beloved fat tire), been extremely loved by Lola and Emilie, and spent a considerable time with their current french au pair Juliette, who is so incredibly marvelous. Needless to say, it's been an amazing few days and I feel completely at ease being here. I unfortunately have no pictures to post as of yet, but promise to be better about bringing my camera or phone with me on any adventures in the next few days. This weekends tasks include: going out for a big family breakfast, go shopping, learn to drive on the opposite side of the road, and try vegemite. Stay tuned :)!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Hitchhiker

I don't often allow people to radically affect my feelings, my attitude, or my thoughts on life and how to live it, but here we go again, a stranger doing absolutely nothing and re-awakening all of those things. It's been days now since I passed the hitchhiker who bowed his head after I, and so many others, silently drove by pretending not to notice his presence. My crippling fear from watching too many crime shows was my only deterrent, of course. Looking back, I wish more than anything that I would have stopped. As I peered through my rearview mirror, I watched the sadness in his face as he lowered his head and kept walking unsuccessfully. A part of me wishes I could just let it go, move on and erase the whole scenario from my mind. The other part of me is hoping I never forget the feeling I had knowing that I didn't help someone who was probably truly in need.

It's a sad reality that the majority of us are constantly living in fear of the unknown, which undoubtedly leads to less risk taking and more of us doing absolutely nothing as we watch people, experiences and life pass us by. We're so intimidated by doing the right thing, helping people out, and being up front and honest in how we feel, simply because we fear the outcome. We're too busy being selfish and content in our own lives, that we often forget to see the struggles in others.

I may be naive in saying this, but I have to believe that the majority of people have good intentions. After all, what do you have if you have little faith in the people who surround your daily life? So... I've made a pact to myself to be less judgmental, to take more risks, and to always be honest in how I feel. Most of all, I've promised myself to believe that in the end, most people are inherently good. Had I not had a few encounters with "meaningless" people in seemingly "meaningless" situations, I can assure you that my life would be very different than it is right now. Sometimes you have to do close to nothing to dramatically make an impact on someone's life, and that makes all the little unknowingly helpful things you do worth it, right? So, I strongly urge you to skip your overpriced latte and give your money to the needy person on the street. What's the worst outcome? They use your 5 dollars to buy beer? Who cares. At least they know how to have fun. And at least you're not fueling your self-inflicted caffeine overdose to help profit another majorly corrupt company who eagerly charges 5 plus dollars for a mediocre addictive beverage. Best case scenario? You just bought a person who hasn't eaten in days a nice hearty sandwich.  Additionally, I urge you to:

  • Dedicate your day to making other people smile. It will do wonders for your heart and soul. 
  • Send someone a card. In the mail. Just because
  • Always say what you mean, and mean what you say. People are incredibly fragile whether they like to admit it or not.
  • Volunteer. You'll never regret it. 
  • Tell the people you love that you love them. Every. Single. Day. 
  • Never go to bed angry. Your mind and body deserve a peaceful sleep. And tomorrow you'll feel rested, happy and ready to conquer a new day. 
  • Do things that scare you often. You'll never learn and grow otherwise. 
  • Become smarter. Read, write, and think daily. 
  • Listen more. Talk less. 
  • Spend your money and experience things. You can't take it with you when you die. 
  • Be true to yourself and how you feel. You're not fooling anyone by pretending to be happy. 
  • And just pick up the hitchhiker.
Remember... this world is a better place because you're in it. Use your life to leave an everlasting mark on this earth. As always, peace and love <3. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's all about what you value

As I discuss my birthday travel plans with Amy, I'm left wondering first and foremost, can I afford all of this? And the harsh reality is... probably not. This is then followed by a quick smack by my own hand to my face as I say to myself, "Who cares, you will find a way to make it work. You always do!" My original plan was to have a whole lot of money to come home to next year and to build a life somewhere new, with all new things, people, and experiences. And let's be honest, a truly fresh start doesn't come cheap. I guess the new plan of having no plan at all is my only saving grace here in that I promised myself I wouldn't live too far into future anymore. So onto travel planning, which is the one and only exception to the 'no plan' rule.  So far it is sounding pretty pricey, but also like quite possibly the best few weeks of my life. Can't wait!!!
Note: by a whole lot of money, I mean whatever was left over after paying down $40,000 in car and student loan debt not too long ago. Not super close to millions ;). Thank goodness I'll be working during this whole process or I'd be really really screwed.

And again, I'm reminded of that horrible article I read after college on how to pay down your debt quickly, as I obviously wanted to avoid committing myself to drowning in debt for the next 10 plus years. The level of truth to this article was undeniable, but also unacceptable in my opinion.  The first two things to avoid after graduation? Buying a car and a trip to Europe. What had I just done? Bought a new car (not by choice) and booked my 5 week adventure with friends to Europe. I was devastated. I'd made a horrible mistake. Why couldn't I just be a normal person with normal person dreams? I'll be in debt forever at this rate. BUT look at me now. Only two years later with my debt free goal complete and an undeniably incredible experience under my belt. I see this situation as having a similar outcome... Broke as hell in a year, with experiences that hardly compare to any other I've ever experienced. WORTH IT.

I've talked minimally about this in other blog entries and never really expressed how truly life changing this whole experience has been without even having left the house yet. I have officially given away nearly everything I own and realized how truly liberating it can be to not be consumed by all of your meaningless things.  It's a sad reality for most of us Americans and one I really don't wish to be a part of for awhile. Sifting through the pile of clothes and shoes I have is enough to make me want to shake myself to death.  I have more than enough to clothe an entire (girly) army, and I feel extremely sad, unappreciative and spoiled (even if I bought everything I own myself). Do I (or does anybody) really need 30 plus pairs of shoes and countless outfits that I could never even dream of wearing in a one month time span? Absolutely not. I'm thinking about all of the kids and families in this world who have close to nothing, while I'm complaining because I can't find my stupid black sweater.  And I'm truly disgusted with myself and what a horribly materialistic girl I've apparently become.  Of course it's not a bad thing to buy what you want with money you've worked hard for, but I've always prided myself on not putting any sort of value on meaningless materialistic things, and I hope to get back to being that kind of girl someday. That was someone I could say I was proud to be.  The kind of girl who dreams of living disconnected from the consumer-driven crazies I so often despise. The kind of girl who is considered so easy going that people often wonder if she really even is a girl. The kind of girl who dreams of living in a small hut in nature to an extravagant, overpriced mansion in the suburbs. It looks like a suitcase of necessities, an undeniable desire to travel, and the chance to escape from American reality is just what the doctor ordered.

In the end, it's all about what you value. I urge you to take a serious look at all of your crap and consider how much of what you own, you really need. Life is all about what you make of it. Be sure to at least entertain the idea that experiences, fun, and travel might be way more beneficial to your life than having all sorts of unnecessary junk. In my experience, no possession makes me feel the way I do when I walk off the plane into the unknown. I've discovered that all I really need is about a suitcase worth of stuff and truthfully, that's about all I have left.  In fact, I'm so in the spirit of getting rid of belongings, that I'm even considering selling my car simply due to it's useless to me from thousands of miles away.  Furthermore, I can use the extra money to travel more and more and more, and that is far more valuable to me than my safety net of having a car to come home to. And let's face it, I'm still holding out for my dream car (white, beat up, and doorless Jeep wrangler) anyway.

I promise I'll slow down on the blogging soon. Probably when I'm employed and not living in Beaver Dam. Life's a little slower on this side of the track :). However, I'm enjoying every second at home with the two people I love more than anyone else on this earth (3 if you include the dog, when he's not a pain in the ass). Can't wait for two more weeks of home cooked meals, concerts and laying in the sun!

As always, peace and love friends!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Say what? I'm moving back to Beaver Dam?

The unthinkable has happened... I'm moving back in with my parents.  Crazier yet, I'm moving back to Beaver Dam. Okay, it's only for two weeks, but still. The next 19 days will be spent doing nothing but saying goodbye to family and friends, packing and sunbathing daily :). rough life, I know.

As you know, this week has been EXTREMELY difficult as far as goodbyes go. My identity is so wrapped up in my work that I can hardly even picture life not doing what I do now. Time to start picturing it though, as it all ends tomorrow :(. Life as I know it is officially changing. But change is GOOD, I hope.

The more I think about it, I am crazy. I really am crazy. It's great to step outside of your comfort zone. Believe me, I know that. This is an entirely different story though. I essentially gave up the city I know and love, two jobs and 5 kids that have forever changed my life, a boy that I loved, and 93% of my belongings to live with people I know very little about and have never formally met in real life. No, I'm not having second thoughts. I'm just tired of people telling me that they understand or that everything will be fine, when in all seriousness most of these people I'm referring to would never have the guts to go through with anything like this. Please just understand where I'm coming from and how hard it is, or at the very least, just let me be and don't say anything unless you truly have experienced a similar situation. No, you traveling with your friends for a month or two is NOTHING similar to this. why not? 1. you had friends. you had somebody with you. 2. you didn't leave your life behind and have no clue where to begin again when and if you return. 3. you still owned things. and far more than a suitcase or two worth of stuff. so just stop. it's not the same. not even close. the amount of life changes I've gone through in the last few weeks is more than 98% of the people I know could handle. Special thanks to those of you who do truly understand and who have been a constant support throughout my struggles in the past few weeks.

I've been granted permission to talk about one of the most randomly awesome encounters of the summer and another example of the irony that is my life.  It's not everyday that you find a random person at bar time, steal their pizza (and eat all of it) and get to talking. What did I notice immediately besides his handsomeness? His ACCENT. and you'll never guess what accent it was. You got it kids, Australian. SWOON. Of course he lives in the states and I'm moving there. Irony, at its finest. Anyway, turns out he has a pretty cool life. One I could only dream of, in fact. And thankfully he has been one of the only people to keep me truly grounded in this whole situation. Because he UNDERSTANDS. When I say, "I'm worried I'll miss out on things here", he reassures me that it will be other people missing out on things, and that I will be the one experiencing new, different, and arguably better things... things that will forever change me. The best part is, he would know. He's lived all over the world, moves every couple of years, and has "missed out" on plenty. And guess what? He doesn't regret any of it. And that gives me so much peace.

I've had a few of these random meeting of strangers in the last couple of years that have made me feel like people really come into your life when you need them. This might just be another example of one of those situations. Plus I got free pizza, a $100 robe, and an addiction to chive out of the whole ordeal. Special thanks to the yoga lady who so kindly accepted Aussie's money and to Aussie for giving me a new and ridiculously overpriced robe to bring to the homeland :)!

Time is dwindling and Australia is quickly approaching. I can't believe this is really going to be my life. Easiest job on earth for the next year? Beach life daily? Sunny and 75? Pool in my backyard? Free vacations? New Zealand adventures and fireworks in Sydney on my birthday with my best friend? You're right. I have nothing to worry about. Bring it on Australia. Bring it on.