Posted: 11/03/16 | November 3rd, 2016
“The days are long but the years are short.”
I’m not sure where I first heard that phrase but, over the past year, I’ve come to believe it. This time last year I was boarding a flight to Southeast Asia.
Spurred by a friend’s death, I decided to stop putting off a final “big, multi-month” trip and just do it.
Just a few weeks into my trip, I meet a girl. We spent the next few days traveling together — then quickly we became inseparable, changing travel plans to meet up with each other.
I feel in love.
Eventually, she told me she felt the same way and we spent New Year’s together. She moved to Australia for a working holiday visa and I went to South America but after doing the whole “are we or aren’t we?” thing, I flew to Australia to be with her.
She was the first girl I ever met that, when I pictured a life with kids and the white picket fence, I didn’t immediately want to run away. I actually liked — and welcomed — the idea.
But, in the end, it didn’t work. She was just beginning her travels and wasn’t ready to settle down. I wanted the opposite. We were in different stages of life and, in June, shut the door to getting back together completely.
The split was really rough for me — and much of me is still not over it. (Part of me also finds great irony in the situation, since my last serious relationship ended because back then, I was the one who didn’t want the family and she did!)
Moreover, earlier in the year, under the stress of our relationship, too much travel, and too much work, I cracked and developed anxiety and panic attacks.
I had this constant fear that I was never doing enough. Never having had panic attacks before, the first time I really suffered from one I called a doctor because I thought I was having a heart attack. Anyone who has never felt this won’t be able to relate to the feeling a weight dragging you down and that no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to untie it and break free.
It’s a crippling experience.
There were other things too: the book I vowed to finish by the summer that still sits half done on my laptop, the added weight I developed from poor eating, the friendship I had to end because nothing was ever good enough for that person, and the fact I had moved to Austin but in reality spent little time there.
For every step forward I took this year, I always seemed to take two steps back. Goals were half-finished or put off. Something else always came up.
Yet, when I think about it, these hardships were blessings in disguise.
They helped me realize I’m finally in a place where I want to settle down with someone. I realized I am no superman, so I hired more staff and created a better work/life balance where I actually shut off the computer. With my pants no longer fitting me (and without the money or desire to buy a whole new wardrobe), I finally signed up for the gym and paid for a trainer to force me to develop a healthy lifestyle. I’ve purchased cookbooks and enrolled in a cooking class.
And I hired an editor to help me finish my book, Ten Years a Nomad.
Ten years ago, I quit my job to travel. I lived overseas. I got a job.
I made my life better.
This year I lost sight of the one thing that made me who I am: the staunch belief that we each have the power to make our lives better.
We often get lost in the sea of life. As the waves crash down upon us, we don’t realize that we have the power to navigate out of the storm. It took my boat capsizing for me to realize that, while I was so busy bailing water, I missed the path to clearer skies.
Churchill once said that Americans could always be trusted to do the right thing once they had exhausted all the other options.
I think that’s the same for life in general.
No one forced me to work all the time. No one forced me to eat bad food. No one put it in my head that there’s no point in even running if I couldn’t build a workout regimen. The path of least resistance is the path I chose — and most people choose — because it is easy.
Working out is hard. Eating right is hard. Cutting back expenses is hard. Maintaining a proper work/life balance is hard. Getting over a relationship is really hard.
The “disasters” of life often turn out to be secret blessings. They push us into new areas and help us define — and survive — life. It is the challenges in life that make us who we are, not the easy parts.
Looking back, there are things I wish had worked out differently, but everything that went wrong helped me focus my life in a more positive direction. I hit the point where I realized I needed to change. It sucked at the time, but in the end, it was for the best.
Without all the mishaps, I probably would have kept going — close to the edge but not over it — like the frog who never realizes the pan is getting hot enough to kill him before it’s too late.
But, instead, all it did was make me realize what I want from life right now.
So, for that, I’m eternally grateful for the last best worst year of my life.
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