Friday, August 31, 2007

Why I decided to quit my job to travel and write and be fun. Part Two.

Adam and Hila: The people who changed everything.

Back in January, I was at a party, hanging out in the kitchen and talking to Hila and Adam. In the midst of our discussions about traveling to New Zealand (a very cool place to go) and the way skydiving feels (apparently, quite nice), Hila mentioned that she had decided to quit business school to pursue her dream of becoming a filmmaker. Her decision was made, she told me, after she took a life-changing test.

A test did all that? Really?

Then Adam piped in, saying that the test was life-changing for him as well. It
was something he often turned to when he felt stuck in life or was searching for inspiration.

I needed to take this test.

Things at work were going well for me. My hard work from the busy fall season was rewarded. Clients were happy, and I helped win important business for the magazine. I was praised in staff meetings and recently promoted. Best of all, my workload had returned to the pace of a normal person. While I was grateful for the extra money and recognition, I couldn’t help notice an emptiness inside of me. I felt no excitement in sharing my good news. When anyone would congratulate me, I would simply shrug my shoulders and pretend to be happy. It didn’t feel right.

A few months later the party, I got my hands on the test. I was hoping that just reading the questions would instantly reveal to me the direction I should take my life. It didn’t. And it wasn’t really a test. It actually resembled an exercise I did when I was a high school sophomore in my Honors Language Arts class. Mrs. Guzo, my teacher, was a touchy-feely, new-age type who encouraged us to read literature, meditate in class and write lists about our life goals. Still, I was desperate for an answer, so I decided to take the exercises seriously and give it a shot.

1. Write down subjects, people, and ideas that “turn you on.” List areas of interest old and new.
I jotted down nearly sixty items with ease—writing, running, cupcakes, cooking, movies, books, Gene Kelly…I have always had a lot of interests. I rushed to the next question.

2. Make a list as long as you can full of stuff you want to accomplish before you die. Don't shy away from things that feel unrealistic. Just let your imagination run wild.
I love setting goals for myself, so I thought this would be easy, too. But after writing down about 10 items, I couldn’t think of anymore. When doing the same exercise as a sophomore, I had filled up a page with answers. I had nothing here. My lack of ambition saddened me. I shut down the computer.
A few days later, I was back, struggling to add more things to the list. I was hoping that I would write down something that would surprise me, something that would leap off the page and say “This is it! This is what you want to do with your life!” Instead, the items on the list were the things that have always been on my list: “Go to Poland and learn the language.” “Travel a lot.” “Write a book.” I was so bored with these answers. I knew them already. I had heard them a hundred times before. Where was my epiphany? Disappointed, I shut down the computer again. I never made it to the last question.

But then something weird started to happen. I couldn’t stop thinking about my answers. I would walk to work, and I would think about traveling to Poland. I would sit at my computer and daydream that I was sitting in a foreign cafĂ©, writing my book. I would find myself browsing the travel section in Barnes & Noble and reading travel web sites online.

Thinking about going on a trip for an extended period of time, filling my days with the things I actually wanted to do—not the things I thought I was supposed to be doing—made me feel in a way I haven’t felt in a long time: excited, passionate, happy.

After a few weeks of feeling this buzz, it became clear: I wanted to travel and write. It had nothing to do with furthering my career or making myself more marketable. It had nothing to do with climbing the corporate ladder. It would not get me closer to the corner office. It was something I dreamed about for years but never took seriously. And it scared the crap out of me.

I knew that I had to do it.

P.S. For those of you who are wondering (and perhaps wanting to take the life-changing test yourself), the last question asks you to list your favorite goals—the ones that truly excite you—and then write down “first steps” a person would take in accomplishing those goals. This becomes your to-do list to start making your dreams come true.

Much thanks to Hila and Adam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So I'm reading this-- and Yvonne, you have exactly expressed my thoughts and why I was so happy and thrilled to leave it all behind to become a mom.
Girlie-- I'm right there with you!!!! I TOTALLY understand.