Friday, July 20, 2012

A Long-Overdue Update on Life

I've started writing many blog posts on Answering Oliver over the last month, but I'm never able to finish them. They trail off into dead ends, perhaps because I find them particularly uninspiring, or because they are inauthentic.

I'm too far behind to begin catching up with one post that focuses on one neat topic. My life doesn't look like that right now. I've got things to spill, and they won't come in any sort of convenient package.

Let's start with this: I'm extremely, incredibly, unbelievably happy right now.

I've got practically no sense of certainty in my life, and yet I am happy. This never would have been the case prior to my trip, during which I learned to embrace the unknown and roll with the punches.

The old me would have been bursting with anxiety over having no job, no permanent home and seemingly no sense of direction. Now I'm just suspended in an odd state of calm, acknowledging that I don't know all the answers, but everything will be OK.

Maybe that all has to do with knowing that I'm in the right place, in the physical sense.

At the beginning of July, I spent a week in Portland, Oregon, to attend the second-annual World Domination Summit. The conference itself only lasted two days of my visit; the rest of the time, I ate Voodoo Doughnuts and danced and caroused and built houses with several friends I made at last year's event.

Chris Guillebeau addressing the 1,000 attendees of WDS 2012. (c) Armosa Studios.

Voodoo's bacon-maple doughnut: Looks disgusting, tastes amazing.

Kristin Glenn, Nicky Hajal and me dancing the night away (Nicky especially).
My hostel dorm-mates and I spent a day volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. From left back: Nate Damm, James Clark, Anthony Secco, me, Dave Ursillo, Shannon O'Donnell, Jodi Ettenberg, Jacob Sokol, Nicky Hajal, Dave Dean, Steve Kamb, Nathan Agin.

But despite all the fun I had, I got very homesick about halfway through the week. I was surrounded by awesome people, Portland had perfect summer weather and I had tons of free time to do whatever I wanted, but it didn't matter — I missed Seattle, I missed Aaron, I missed my family. I missed home.

That's how I know for sure that I'm in the right place, and long-term solo travel definitely isn't right for me. I barely lasted a week away from Seattle this time!

And then I came home to this.

And I felt compelled to write the story of my history with Aaron. For those readers who began following along with my travels this year, Aaron didn't just appear out of nowhere when I came home in May; he appeared out of nowhere exactly two years ago, looking like a homeless man and making fun of my alma mater, the (clearly superior) rival to his. It's a long story. : )

On Sunday, Aaron and I are off to Hawaii for a week of tropical adventures. We've got lots of fun stuff planned, including hiking, snorkeling, cycling and ATV riding. Aaron is also going to photograph his co-worker's Kauai wedding, and I decided to try my hand at being the second photographer.

When he first asked me to help shoot the wedding, I said something like, "No, no, no, nooooo. That's way too much pressure. I have no experience shooting weddings!"

Which, of course, translated to: "I'm not good enough."

That's stupid. I am good enough. I'm going to try. And maybe, just maybe, I'll surprise myself and take some good shots.

When was the last time you told yourself you weren't good enough? Rethink that.

It's hard to put yourself out there, to try and quite possibly fail. I'm in the process of doing that right now with... let's call them... schmob schminterviews. OK, I'll say it: Job interviews.

I don't desperately need a job right now, but I would like one. I figured out during my travels that I prefer having a traditional job over working for myself because I like physically going to an office, being around people and having fairly regular hours. I also thought about what my last job was lacking, and what I really want in my next job:

  • To be constantly challenged.
  • To be creative.
  • To believe in what I'm doing.
  • To have room to grow.

I've decided to look at jobs now rather than wait until my bank account is urgently low and I feel like I need to take any job I can get. I've long made it a priority to ensure that I never feel trapped or forced into anything. Right now, I have the luxury of being able to selectively apply for jobs that I think I'll find challenging and fulfilling. I hope it works out!

I should note here that I wasn't going to write anything about job hunting until I actually landed a job — who wants to look like a failure? — but failure is just a part of the story. Writing only about success reeks of that lack of authenticity I spoke of earlier.

That said, let's talk about a little success. Remember when I sprained my ankle in Thailand? I spent about two and a half weeks on crutches, a few more weeks in a brace and a month in physical therapy.

I went from this...

About to leave Thailand! At the Koh Samui airport on May 8. this...

Taking a break from limping around in my brace. In my mom's backyard on May 26. this!

Running like a boss! At Green Lake on July 4.

OK, so I'm not completely recovered yet. I have to do short intervals of running and walking, since my bad ankle can't handle the impact of constant running quite yet, and I still have bouts of soreness and swelling. Right now, for example, the ankle is pissed off because I wore heels to a job interview yesterday. My bad!

Recovering has seemed like a long, tedious process, but I'm just so thankful to be able to walk normally again. Mobility is such a precious gift, and it's important for so many things I hold dear, like running, traveling and feeling independent. I'll always remember what it felt like to have it taken away and appreciate it a lot more.

Let's see... happiness, Portland, Aaron, Hawaii, job interviews, recovery... I think I've covered a lot in this long-overdue life update!

I suppose I'll end with something I learned at the World Domination Summit. Before I wrote this post, I was thinking about how happy I am right now, and sort of basking in that glow of things just feeling right.

And then... I felt a tiny twinge of dread. Things can't be this good for long. What's about to go wrong?

Brené Brown spoke at WDS about vulnerability. She said that most of us are afraid to be vulnerable because our instinct is to close ourselves off, to shield ourselves from rejection, embarrassment and pain. In doing so, though, we also stifle our ability to fully experience joy.

Even though I'm happy now, my gut tells me to prepare myself for something bad to happen. Some may call that pessimism; others, practicality. All I know is that it cuts short my joy, and Brown says that sucks. I do, too.

I'll choose instead to be vulnerable, to open myself up to all possibilities and to hold on to my happiness.


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