“When I awoke today, suddenly nothing happened. But in my dreams, I slew the dragon.” ~Colin Hay Waiting for my Real Life to Begin
Before leaving DC, I took a summer job at The Catering Company of Washington. It is a restaurant on Fridays and an events catering company most other days. On one particular night, after the restaurant had closed, the owner suggested we all stay for a drink.
The volume was turned up on the music as the sommelier mixed new drinks and poured wine well after midnight. Several of the employees, myself included, were singers and entertained the crew with a cappella versions of songs requested by others. One or two people had managed to leave before 1:00am. But soon after, dancing ensued and the outside doors were opened to the street. I wasn’t drinking, so I announced that I too would be leaving. Elizabeth, the owner, pulled me aside and asked, “Why would you leave?” My response was something along the lines of because I wasn’t drinking and it was late. She pressed further, “Are you having fun? Are you enjoying your time here?” Of course my answer was yes. She shared with me a story of her visit to Africa. Where she was so stuck on her way of thinking that she almost missed out on an opportunity to dance with tribal women with whom there was no other way to communicate. I realized I had no reason to not stay. I was creating an explanation in my head based on convention. Based on self-judgment. Based on fear. So I stayed and danced and sang well past 3:00am even as strangers passed on the street and the tiny restaurant bar/entry area turned into an after-hours night club.
I remembered Elizabeth’s words as I traveled abroad. In India, I said yes as much as possible. But I still did not go out in search of opportunities to engage. I’m realizing that I choose to be alone because my mind is more interesting than many things I could be doing. But the Lord commands us to serve others. Conventional wisdom tells us that when we serve others, we create wealth and happiness for ourselves. By doing, we become.
I keep saying I will not be like this when I get back to DC. I will learn a new language. I will do yoga and dance. I will go camping and hiking. But the truth is, I have not done any of these things because they have not been a priority. Making money has always been a priority. Finding a partner has always been a priority. Sleeping and being alone has always been a priority. But it’s as if I’m sitting around waiting for my real life to begin instead of creating a rich, fulfilling life.
Even as I travel around the world seeing new things and meeting new people, I wonder if I am truly living. People with whom I’ve stayed seemed surprised by how little sightseeing or getting out interest me. Perhaps I would have been better served to hole up in a cabin in the woods a la Thoreau. At least then no one questions your methods. I’ve seen the world, but all of the movement often leaves me tired and uninspired. I’ve met people, but some have distracted me rather than guided me. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot on my journey – reading, self acceptance, writing, putting myself outside my comfort zone.
But have I really created anything?
Have I really changed in any way?
What will be different when I return to the US?
Will I still be hustling to make money and pay back my credit card debt from traveling? Will l still be alone because I’ve decided to distance myself from my previous social group a bit? How have these experiences led to a more whole and fulfilling life at all?
BUT WAIT! I remember what makes me feel whole and fulfilled.
*Summer in Stamford, CT – I worked at a diner and read Heller.
*Spring in Arlington, VA – I ran and walked in the rose gardens near my house and I read and listened to Eckhart Tolle.
*Months in Kingstowne, VA – When separated from my ex-husband I lived with two amazing women and I went to yoga, read scriptures, and ran regularly.
Living differently was never the problem. It was always a matter of listening to what my heart truly needs. And we all know this for ourselves.
I need movement, activity, literature, poetry, nature, fresh air, and silence. I can find those almost anywhere – though probably not the fresh air and silence in India. So, almost anywhere. Ha!
But because we are so used to living a life for others, we feel as though we are always waiting for our real life to begin. But if I am learning one thing it is that choosing your happiness over the success dictated by others crafts a life worth living.
Ultimately, I’m not sure how to describe my journey to others who want a reason. Most days I’m not even sure how to describe my journey to myself. After all, I have no plan. But I do know I set out to create a life. I set out to define who I am. I set out to nurture habits which would construct behaviors consistent with my overall goal.
My goal of letting go and finding what brings me joy. Then, for the love of everything sacred in this world, real life is just doing that thing.
Life is now.
Now is what happens when you stop planning, thinking, and controlling and just be.
Come "be" with me.