The Adult Checklist Rebel (now what?)

I haven’t written in a while.

Though I love it, traveling full-time can be harder than one might expect. It can be even harder when you are traveling with your spouse. (That is a whole new level of required communication.) But for some reason, it has gotten harder on me personally, and I have quietly enjoyed being at home in Denver for a few weeks. To be clear, it was my choice to come along on the tour. I looked at all of the benefits: being with my spouse, seeing the country, indulging in my passion for exploration. But what I didn’t realize was that traveling had always been the escape from my daily life. Now that it is in my life full-time, it is starting to mean something different to me.

I spent the majority of my twenties working 60 hour weeks at non-profit arts organizations, loving most minutes of most days. During this time, the majority of my travels were related to conferences, sometimes three or four times a year. A focus was always seeing the city, but a more pressing requirement was grabbing a drink or a cup of coffee with whom I needed to network. By 30 I had transitioned into the classroom, with the thought that it might be a slower pace. (That was a very silly thought…) 60 hour weeks became 80 hour weeks. Travel became a distant dream, and local hiking and nature became my refuge. Like most teachers, when spring break or summer vacation came, I ran for the hills or the airport or both. I would breathe a sigh, order a drink, and relax, even if it was just for a short time. Travel was my escape, my relief, my reward.

I soon realized, though, that I was moving too fast. I began to long for boiling my life down to simplicities. As I geared down, I watched so many of my friends gear up and embrace a fast quest to conquer what I coined as “The Adult Checklist.” It is as follows: obtain degree, get job, get married, buy house, have children, get job promotion, buy a bigger house. Some persons defined adulthood, and themselves, by these benchmarks, forgetting to check in with their hearts to see if they were even happy. Instead, they derived happiness from their accomplishments. Some would even say, “I’ve achieved all of the things I wanted to. I’m so happy!” But when I would ask them about their marriage, their kids, their home (this is different from the physical house), many of their tones would change. That part of life had been forgotten. As I watched them move forward in their quest, I became increasingly fond of going in the opposite direction. I was getting a divorce, coming to terms with the fact that I did not want to have children, and that I wanted to pursue a life of exploration. This awakening gave me freedom, but it also broke from the Adult Checklist norm. Some took a step back, as if I had shunned adulthood, their prescribed lives. But then they saw the light in my eyes and that my smile had come back. They began to understand that I was finally being honest about what I wanted from my life, freeing myself from societal pressures and timelines. I understood that owning stuff, or those benchmarks, none of it makes you an adult. Being a mature, honest, responsible, caring human is what makes you an adult. And everyone has their own timeline. It was nice to finally understand those concepts and adjust my approach to life, making me a much happier person. Additionally, I stopped worrying about the things that I could not change or have any control over. I found the acceptance of that reality to be relaxing and refreshing. I choose to exist daily, not in pursuit of power or notoriety, simply embracing life’s happy accidents and memorable moments. I don’t try to force anything anymore, nor do I enter a situation or a conversation with an agenda. Once I discovered this outlook, my step became lighter and my smile got even bigger.

I prepared financially, quit my teaching job, and hit the road to find a new life. It came together quickly for me in Denver. All of the happiness seemed to rush to me at once, like a flood gate had released. I often thought it was because I was finally being true to myself. When the opportunity to tour with my husband came, I was ecstatic. Travel! Exploration! The ultimate road trip! Maggie Dog the Adventurer can come, too! No agenda, constant absorption of culture. Perfect! But eventually the kicker settled in… in my beautifully achieved quest for new experiences, I now find myself quite lonely… My friends aren’t in these cities. My spouse is working. After a few months of wandering around by myself, I longed to share these moments with others. Additionally, this is the longest I have ever gone without steady employment, and I feel a little lost, a rebel without a cause. The few time management skills I did possess have gone completely to the wayside. The lack of deadlines lets me drift through the days. This may sound luxurious, and I will admit that it was at first. But now I just feel hazy and unfocused, like a drifter. To describe myself as such is shocking to me… I have been goal-oriented and successful in the workplace since I was sixteen. But now… well, now what? What am I looking for anymore? Nothing, really… I seem to have found everything… And that’s weird to say, too. What do you do once you have found and are living your dream? I crossed the finish line… now what? What does this goal-oriented (but recovered workaholic), adult checklist rebel, happily married traveler now do with her days? And ultimately, what is my new search? What is the new purpose of my travels? …or even scarier, what are my new aspirations?

And with that question, I head to bed, with plans to load the car tomorrow for the next round. Four weeks in San Fran, six weeks in LA, and four weeks in DC, with many detours and scenic byways to be taken in between. I plan to write and post more often, and maybe that will help me focus. I think that yoga on the beach is in my future, as well as hiking in Muir Woods and other gorgeous places. Maybe the answers to my questions could hang in those trees or in Pacific sunsets. Or in books. Or in something yet to be discovered.


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