Family comes in many shapes and forms. It’s the tribe of people you were born into; parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, third-cousins-twice-removed. It’s also the person you met through an ex sitting around a table playing D&D who you clicked with so quickly it felt like you had always known one another.
These people in your life orbit around you like stars in a galaxy, forming your own personal universe. Sometimes the gravitational pull of life brings you close together, other times people skate on the outer edges (keeping in touch with your friend from high school through social media as your lives drift further apart).
And sometimes, heartbreakingly, a star in the universe that burns bright and hot suddenly goes dark. Everyone that’s connected to it feels the loss, whether they are near or far. It’s in these moments that you truly appreciate your network. You pull them tight, reaching out to them with love. With the loss of one, everyone’s universe gets a little dimmer, but draws a little closer, deepening bonds.
This past weekend one of the hartthrobs lost her brother to a senseless act of violence. He leaves behind a family that loved him, a girlfriend, and two little girls who spent father’s day in a hospital. Our little tramily hasn’t known each other for very long, but we rallied together to support her however we could. The night she got the news her brother was in a coma, we laughed, cried, watched Sex in the City, waited for news, and even borrowed her a puppy to get her through the night before she boarded a flight home the next morning.
And that night every single one of us thought “what if”. What if I got that phone call? What if it was my brother? What if I was stuck a half a world away while my family was dealing with tragedy? This is the terrifying side of Remote Year, laid bare in our first month of traveling together. As someone who has gotten these calls before (thankfully mine had happy endings), it hit particularly close to home.
You feel helpless, lost, your light dims a little. You draw on others’ gravity to keep you afloat until you can stand on your own two feet again.
You draw your universe close to your heart, breathe, and do what you can to move forward and make the best of it knowing your world has changed.
Its a question that I’ve heard a lot since I’ve started telling people about my acceptance into Remote Year, and it’s only amplified as I’ve gotten closer to my departure date (which, as of the time of this writing, is tomorrow morning).
Its a complicated question. On one hand, how could I not be excited? I’m about to embark on a year long adventure with 50 soon-to-be-not strangers visiting a new country every month (4 continents, 10 countries). I’ll be experiencing new cultures, experiences, and foods all around the world.
On the other hand, I’m terrified. I’m sad about not seeing my wonderful tribe of friends and family for months on end. I’m quite frankly, freaking out at getting everything packed, in place, and ready to go. I know I’m going to be missing weddings, birthdays, work achievements, and casual movie nights in. Its going to be hard to see my friends move on with their lives while I temporarily take a different direction with mine. I’m sure I’ll grow closer to some in new ways, and grow apart from others as our physical locations will no longer be shared.
This adventure will test every portion of who I am as a human, all of the connections I’ve made and the network I’ve built over the last few years of my professional and personal life.
So I take this giant leap forward while recognizing and honoring all of the wonderful people who have supported me through everything, and to whom I’ll be reaching out to /often/ in my travels, and I hope they all know they can reach out to me as well.
I’ve always struggled with the question “What/where/who do you want to be when you grow up?” Starting as a child and continuing well into my 20s, I’ve heard this question more times I can count. From teachers, family, mentors, friends. I’ve always managed to disappoint the asker with my non committal answers. I once even earned the highest marks possible on an essay in the 5th grade around the topic. I penned a very passionate paper on how I wanted to be an archeologist because Scooby-Doo made it seem glamorous and ended it with something along the lines of “but that’s probably not going to happen because I’m in the 5th grade and I’m going to change my mind a million times before then.
As it turns out, even at 27 I am still changing my mind. After settling into a gorgeous apartment of my own that I adored, I sat down one day and said to myself “Wouldn’t it be great if I put all of my stuff into a storage unit and become essentially homeless for a year? Yea, that’s what I’ll do.”
And now I’m sitting on a plane, far past the point of no return on a flight leading to an adventure that will likely fundamentally change who I am as a human being. At the same time, I am also thinking through all of the things that I might have become if this opportunity had never crossed my path.
(Full disclosure, I am several drinks in (who says no to free Bailey’s? Not this girl) and have just watched La La Land for the first time on this flight.)
Every step in life is a balancing act between what is gained and what might be lost. The future isn’t a destination. It’s not some emerald palace at the end of yellow brick road that’s just waiting for you to show up after taking some highly calculated ruby coated steps.
The future is simply a series of choices.
Do I go left or right? Forwards or back? Do I stay to explore what might be? Or do I find adventure somewhere out in this big wild world? Is the right path holding tight to what I have or is it letting go? Will I ever get back to who I was a week ago?
The answer to that last question, by the way, is no. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same person that I was a week ago, before saying incredibly difficult goodbyes to those I love the most and boarding a plane to lands unknown. So this post is a tribute to the girl that I might have been had my path taken a different route.
One of my favorite books is The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Inside, we find a homebody hobbit who has lived in one place his entire life, never bothering to venture much further than the fields surrounding his home. And yet he finds himself suddenly swept into an adventure almost across the known world with the most unlikely group of people.
If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to be following in the footsteps of a beloved hobbit, I would have looked at you like you were a dwarf on my doorstep looking for tea.
And yet, here we are.
While my adventure isn’t to the Misty Mountains, it is certainly going to be grand in its own right (11 cities, 10 countries, and 4 continents!) Heading out on this adventure means that for the first time I’m going to live somewhere other than the home I’ve known my whole life: Minneapolis, MN. And not only that, but I’m also not going to have a “home” to go back to!
For a long time I was conflicted by the thought of giving up seeing my friends, family, and becoming a “digital nomad”. But after giving it a significant amount of thought I realized that I was in the perfect position in my life to take this opportunity. I have a job that was gracious enough to let me work remotely, my apartment lease is up in April, and I have no pets/kids/spouses/significant others to tie to me permanently to one location.
I think in many cases, if I hadn’t decided to do this I would always be wondering what could have happened. What could have been. I decided I didn’t want to live my life always wondering what my life would have been like if I’d only done “X”.
So I decided that starting in June I’m going to step out my front door and see what the wild world has to offer. The beginning of a wonderful adventure.
Unlike Bilbo, however, first I have to pack up everything I own and get a bigger passport! One step at a time.