When Your Life Doesn’t Look Like It “Should”

I have 112 unpublished blog drafts. That means 112 times I started writing, got frustrated and stopped. Yet, I am still a blogger.

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure, lately. A friend and I were talking about how in college you’re asked 101 times,”What’s your five year plan?” But after college? Nah. Nobody asks me that anymore. Life a decade after college is something halfway between eye-rolls that I don’t have 2.5 children and people gasp-asking how I do everything I do (Hint: I don’t have 2.5 children).

My life is couture, I’ll admit. It’s custom cut to fit me.

And as I sit here drinking copious amounts of tea, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve made my life what it is—the decisions that brought me to where I am. Once upon a time I was offered the white picket fence life, but instead I chose to travel.

And here’s a little insight into why:

 

Because doing what you’re “supposed” to do, just to keep up with societally imposed schedules (based off of age/ gender etc.) does not guarantee you any more success or happiness than waiting to be personally ready.

 

Live your life on your time. When you’re ready to travel, travel. When you’re ready to get married, get married. When you’re ready to adopt a dog, adopt a dog. But please please don’t do these things to make your life look “right.”

My life right now is nothing like what I thought it would be. In fact, according to my child self, I’ve failed spectacularly (still not the lead singer of a band). But, you know what?

That’s okay.

My little under-developed freshman SPU self wouldn’t have even been able to imagine the wild adventures I’d go on. She wouldn’t have had a clue how many amazing people I’d meet, or how many bucket list items I’d check off. She wouldn’t know that I’d be able to build a life where I did what I loved…and got paid to do it.

Easy isn’t the answer.

Amidst the stress and crazy, I really really love my life, and I’m really f*cking happy (sorry, mom). I’m starting a new career at a beautifully brilliant company where I get to help women all over the world. I live in a beautiful 1928 vintage house, full of strong independent women, in one of the most beautiful cities. I get to geek out over things as much as I damn well please, and I write for a living. Let me repeat that so my child self can hear it back through the sound waves of time: “YOU GROW UP TO BE A PAID WRITER!”

Life doesn’t look like it “should,” but I’m okay with that. It’s not about predicting outcomes five years down the road. It’s about taking what life throws at you and creating beauty out of it. That’s what makes life this messy and magnificent thing.
Obviously there are times when things get absolutely frustrating. Curve balls get thrown. But being frustrated doesn’t mean you give up on building the life you want. It might mean you walk away from things for a bit, but it does not mean you stop.

 

I like to think about it this way: Growing up I always thought I was going to reach adulthood and be handed this telescope with which I could see my future. It would be clear, and entirely in focus. But, in fact, it’s so much more beautifully intricate than that.
My life is a kaleidoscope. There are shapes and colors and weird little speckle things that I haven’t even discovered, yet. Yes, my past plans for the future failed spectacularly, but they were replaced by experiences I literally could not have dreamed for myself. And that’s beautiful.

A group of friends used to say, “Yesterday’s ceiling is todays floor.” And I honestly believe that. The best is yet to come.

Now pardon me as I go buy tickets to a zombie ball. 

 

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Why You Should Stop Waiting To Be Happy

When I was in fourth grade I learned the meaning of my name.
My little introvert self was at sleep-away camp, which I distinctly remember hating because I was constantly surrounded by other girls. Well…I loved camp, I just hated the giggly-socialness of pre-teen girls 24/7.

One day, while I was in the camp snack shack, I found a little bookmark that I fell in love with. On the front there was this magnificent floral design (let me tell you how much I love floral designs) and my name, on the top there was a pink braided string, and on the back there was a bible verse. The verse was Proverbs 30:31 and the definition said this:

Emily: “Diligent one.” One who strives. One who is eager to succeed. 

I was pretty happy to find out I was given a strong name. To this day I’m a huge fan of name meanings and giving kids names with a legacy they can grow into. I guess my mom did a pretty good job because I felt like someone had just told me I was actually Wonder Woman. I bought the bookmark from the little shop and kept it in various books for probably close to a decade. Ever since, I’ve done my best to live up to it.

One slight problem. Constantly striving is great for the short-term, but how do you make this into a sustainable lifestyle? How do you keep pressing forward to the next big thing, without having a mental breakdown?

Simple: Find balance.

Not simple: I’m not naturally gifted with the ability to enjoy life.

I know, I know, that doesn’t seem to make sense. But, bear with me. See, I’m a fighter. And while that’s great (sometimes), it also means I’m hot-headed and impulsive and I’ll take a swing even when life is trying to help me. It’s a family curse: mistaking turmoil, for authenticity.

I come from a very hard working family, and it’s a lot to live up to. We were raised being constantly reminded of our family name. It meant something. It still does. Most importantly, we were constantly reminded so we would aspire beyond the limitations of past generations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a blog post about not working hard, because I do and I advocate for others to do so as well. BUT. Lately, I’ve been challenged to learn another lesson: How to be kind to myself. Maybe this sounds too full of fluff for you, and maybe you’re like “What does this even have to do with a travel blog!?” but I think it’s really important that you all understand that the girl behind the keyboard is a mess under construction, as much as she is a world traveller and general bad-ass (your words, not mine).

I push myself really hard. And sometimes that’s great, because feeling like you’re moving forward is one of the best feelings in the world. But what if you’re moving forward in the wrong direction? Over the past six months I’ve had to make some really huge decisions and I’ve had to let some really important things in my life go. We’re talking foundation pillars being pulled out of the life I thought I was building. It was rough, and took a lot of tears and prayer to make the decisions.

But here’s the thing. As cliché as it might sound, letting go of those things has allowed my life to be filled with so much more substance. More laughter. More opportunities. More love. More books. More Art. More friendship. Just more.

I’ve always been the type of girl who likes to have a plan. But in the past six months I’ve been challenged to walk by faith, and faith alone. We’re talking, I had no back-up plan. Just the conviction of my heart and a million and a half prayers into my pillow at night. Something please work out. 

And it did. And I can honestly say I’m happier today than I’ve been for over two years. The future is looking bright, I’m regaining the use of my right arm (#crylaughsmile) and I have some absolutely awesome things to share with you guys in the near future.

We’re gonna be okay. Listen to that little voice that tells you what you really should be doing. Chase happiness, and most of all: be kind to yourself. I’ll be here to cheer you on.

Tea Talk 6: Hayden Wahlman | World Traveler

Hayden and I have known of each other practically our whole lives. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration…but our moms were both homeschool moms/friends and so we’ve been connected in the same homeschool circles since we were pretty young.

Hayden had the awesome opportunity to live in Germany, recently, and I’ve been following along on her adventures ever since our mutual friend suggested it! I love how so many of my homeschool friends have taken up their passports and traveled the world. It takes me back to that fact that homeschoolers are the best travelers. Meet Hayden!

1. What started your passion for traveling? 

I always wanted to travel, just like anyone. But I think it was joining the air force reserves that really got me motivated to see the world.

I had been at a minimum wage job for 3 years before joining the reserves and didn’t have many qualms about it. But once I signed the contract for the military I started getting anxious about being “stuck” in a contract. I took a trip to san francisco right before I left for bootcamp.

Once I was in the military my desire for traveling really caught on fire. I felt a little bit like a bird in a cage, which is something I never felt before I joined.

The day after my full-time training ended and I was going to just one weekend per month, I put a sleeping bag in my car and drove to the grand canyon. After that I planned my first eurotrip. I had 5 months to kill before school started and I had been waiting ever since I signed my contract to see the world. So I really felt like I needed to do it immediately.

It’s been 3 years since my first eurotrip and I haven’t been able to kick the habit of spontaneously traveling whenever I get the chance!


2. What’s one travel tip you think the world should know? 

Packing light has been said over and over again, so I’ll skip that one.

One big one that people might overlook is your choice of hostel. You should choose one that is social and has a pub crawl or tours throughout the day, and also one that is in the city center (the price difference should only be a few dollars per night, and well worth it).

I highly recommend going on the free tours they offer and the pub crawl the first night you get there. That way you meet the people and see the highlights of the city. After that, you can kinda make your own way. But skipping the day tours in order to figure out the city for yourself can sometimes leave you missing out on some gem of the city you never would have found on your own.


3. What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

Opening my widows. In Germany (and I’ve heard the rest of the….world..?) they open their windows daily, 365 days per year. I hated it at first, since I was there during the FREEZING winter. But once I got home I started leaving the windows a crack open in my bedroom and I swear it makes a huge difference. I actually hate being in a house with no window open now. I never thought I would get to that point.


4. What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about traveling? 

FOLLOW YOUR GUT! Seriously.

I have definitely done some things during my travels that a lot of people would consider dangerous, but I followed my gut and ended up having the best times of my life. I have also avoided situations that some people would deem perfectly safe, because my gut was just not having it.

Have an open mind and listen to your gut.

5. What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel? 

Not being organized. I have finally perfected backpack and am very comfortable with the items I choose to travel with and the placement of everything.

I lost my entire backpack while in Switzerland once because I had shoved so much stuff inside grocery bags and jumped off the train before realizing my backpack was not on my back! I blame having so many random bags to account for.

6. What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling? 

Talking to people! I am pretty shy, but getting lost in multiple cities around the world will definitely pry you out of your comfort zone and get you talking to whatever stranger is in sight!

7. What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?

I’d say train. The scenery is nice and they usually are really comfortable. I still travel by bus mostly, since it’s cheaper. But if there is a cheap train to somewhere I want to go, I’d take a train over everything.


8. What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self? 

To meet more people during my first Eurotrip. I was still pretty quiet my first time abroad.

9. What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit? 

I got a small taste of Turkey a few months ago and I’m aching to go back and see the rest of it…all of it!

10. Let’s talk about your most recent trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure? 

I got an internship at a company in Germany, it was arranged through my University. I minored in German because it seemed like the most logical language to learn for traveling Europe, which in turn got me this internship.

11. What has been the best/toughest part of your most recent trip? 

The toughest part was definitely making friends while trying to learn the language. I was not in the best state of mind when I moved to Germany and all I wanted was to talk to family and friends. But when you are meeting new people everyday, the only appropriate things to talk about are pretty small. A lot of my conversations revolved around the weather and politics, as my language skills were not advanced enough to speak of anything else.

As for the best part. I think learning how to LIVE in another country. Living and traveling to another country are very different things.

 

12. What’s one thing you’ve learned from your most recent trip? 

To be ready. I was NOT ready to leave for Germany, not by a longshot. Even with my constant desire to travel. I left very reluctantly.

In hindsight, I wish I would have spent the summer (I left for Germany in September) with more friends and got my life in the States more organized before I left.

13. What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself from your most recent trip? 

I learned how quickly I shut down when I’m overwhelmed. I never knew this about myself at all. I think when you are in your own country, speaking your own language, it is easier to work through problems. I always felt like I was pretty resilient and could tackle most problems.

But man, I think living in a foreign country has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how quickly I would give up on it. I think I cried daily while I was there, the smallest task could turn into such a chore. Everyone told me I would be homesick, which I scoffed at. But it was true, it was not the type of homesick you have as a child. It’s different. I can’t even explain it. But I really learned I need to go into my next move much more prepared.

If you are an American, keep in mind that there are a lot of people who have an opinion on America and American citizens (whether it be positive or negative). I had no idea how much Europeans knew about America and was not ready for all the questions they had for me concerning our politics and other things.

I highly recommend reading travel forums and learning about how the citizens of that specific country feel about americans. It’ll help you navigate some pretty common conversations you’ll be bound to have with the people you meet.

Pour One For The Homies: Confessions Of A “Good Kid”

I’ll admit it: Growing up, I was the goodie two shoes. I never really got in trouble, I didn’t experiment with illegal things or have dangerous friends. I got straight A’s and never missed a day of school.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess you could say I was a low-key, kind of “boring” kid. I was my high school class speaker, voted “most eligible bachelorette” in college (remind me why this was a thing, SPU?), and never touched alcohol until I was 21 (short-lived, since I stopped drinking at 22).

Why am I telling you this?

Well, the life of a traveler is definitely not a safe one. While on the road I’ve had some pretty scary, sketchy and downright dangerous stuff happen to me. But usually this blog only gets the fluff and smiles of the good days.

So, what turned this girl from yawn to yeeeeessssss? Here’s how it happened.

It all started back in 2013 when I met a boy. Yep. I know.
This boy was very very important to me, but ended up ripping my heart out and basically making me wish I was never alive…but that’s another story.

Anyway, after that experience I realized how much of my life had been about pleasing other people. This was also right about the time I had shaved hair, started getting tattoos and pierced my septum. Was I cool, yet?

But that wasn’t enough. I had wanted to travel to Ireland since I was a little kid. My grandpa is Irish, English and Scottish and I’d grown up associating a good story and a great (albeit corny) laugh with my Irish heritage.

I had basically all but planned the entire trip out in my mind. And I was ready to go. But remember that boy I mentioned earlier? Yeah, you guessed it—he talked me out of going. Not only talked me out, but flat out told me that if I did go he would break up with me. Nice guy, right?

So, naturally, the first thing I did after the *KABOOM* ending of that relationship was to buy a plane ticket. By myself. To Ireland and the UK.

Since that first trip I’ve learned a lot about myself, but one of the biggest things is how much fear held me back from doing a lot of things in my pre-23 year old life. To be clear, there were some benefits to that. I probably wouldn’t have graduated from college without the fear that my mom would kill me if I didn’t (Haha. It’s a joke, mom.).

But when it came down to it, what I wanted for my life, and who I wanted to be, was so dictated by the surrounding fear of not being accepted by those around me that I didn’t even realize I could make independent decisions to make myself happy. It sounds kind of sad, now, but I don’t think I ever considered the fact that I should/could pursue the things that made me happy—even if they didn’t make sense to other people.

To those of you who might be nodding your heads, this one’s for you:

I’ve learned so much more (and grown so much more) by failing royally. Like I mean big-time fails. I mean moving to another country and hating almost every minute of an experience most people dream about, F-A-I-L.

But you know, I smile when I think back on my failures because they’re a reflection of just how far I’ve pushed myself to grow.

What is fear holding you back from?

Maybe it’s travel related (if it is, call me) or maybe it’s just taking a risk to apply to that job, or move to a new place. Do it. Not because you’re going to have a 100% success rate, but because even if you fail you still gain so much. Believe me.

If your heart is pulling (or in my case, dragging) you a certain direction in life, follow it. And those people who threaten to leave or abandon or not support you? Get rid of them. I’m serious. Shake them off, and find your people and a community to support you. Even if it’s an online community or Facebook group or whatever, there are people out there who will support you. I will support you.

So be your crazy self. Take risks, and live your life as fully and completely you. Not because everyone else is taken, but because you are f*cking fabulous (sorry, mom), and why the hell would you want to be anyone else?