Preconceived notions and different paths

I’ve noticed in my travels, both here in Bali and across South and Central America, that roosters don’t only crow in the morning the way I was led to believe growing up.  They do crow in the morning, but then they continue to do it all day and night.

I noticed this yesterday while showering outside to some music.  A rooster crowed at the perfect moment in the song I was listening to.   A rooster crow could really mix nicely into some of the music I like.  If I was a DJ I would definitely get on this.  It could go big.

I was listening to the above song when the rooster came in.  I was mid-shower-thought, which are the most powerful thoughts.  I’ve been having a lot of them lately.  My shower-thoughts were reflecting on my day on the water, where I looked around and realized that I am totally and completely petrified of becoming a boring suburbanite.

I started thinking about how my early life led me to believe that college, marriage, kids, and the suburbs were part and parcel of making your way successfully in life.  In some ways, it’s been pounded into me to the point that I didn’t even realize it was based on a myth – like the myth that rooster’s crow in the morning. But looking out at the line up yesterday on the water, I saw such an array of visions of happiness.  So much beauty was there, and in such myriad forms.

The preconceived notions we live with can be so constraining.  I find that I constantly feel annoyed by them, sometimes without even realizing the root of my frustration.    When I travel, I inevitably gain new perspective, but sometimes you have to go out of your way to find that.  And more and more, I realize I’d like to find out what other important knowledge the world is keeping secreted away in hard-to-reach pockets.  And more and more, I realize that my desire for this seems stronger than my desire for all the aforementioned things that I once thought defined a successful life.

As I sat on the water looking around at the crowd gathered in the line-up, I was overwhelmed by all the beauty there.  I started talking to a 12-year old.  His family was Australian but they’d moved to Bali full-time and the kid knew the surf like the back of his hand.  He was pretty rad. I looked over and saw a woman a bit older than me with some amazing tattoos and a skimpy bikini riding waves like she does it every day.  I saw my guides, who put in full days on the water, and I just thought to myself, “I don’t ever want to give this way of life up.”

Long ago, someone asked me what I wanted most in the world, and after some thought I told him I wanted to experience everything.

Yeah, I know it’s not the most solid goal, but I can’t help it.  When I think about what I want, it’s not to become a teacher, and it’s not to make millions of dollars, and it’s not to become famous.  I want a rich life.  I want an enviable array of experiences.  I want to bike across Africa.  I want to do aid work in a foreign country, I want to enrich the people around me.  I want all of that. And, you know what else? The more I age, the more I want that.

I feel sort of weird about it.  I turn 30 this year, and all around me in Australia and at home bellies are popping and babies are emerging onto the earth.  They’re beautiful little beings and I increasingly find joy in their smiling faces.  I’ve had the thought that my clock has begun ticking.  But, then I think about who gets to surf while there is a two-year old to watch.  That’s when I cross my legs and start plotting my next adventure.

It’s not that I don’t want kids or a family or a husband.  I do, and I always have.  In fact, growing up I was convinced that by age 24 I’d be married and hoped to have at least 4 kids. I also assumed I would move back to Milwaukee and I’d become a lawyer or an advocate, and live my life doing something I loved.

In taking a year off, attending Macalester, and spending time traveling after college,  I glimpsed another way of living life, and realized the parameters I’d set up for myself were false.  I could make my way through life differently.  I didn’t have to return to Milwaukee, send my kids to the right schools, buy a house in the right neighborhood, and drive a large car full of sporting gear.

I guess I have become increasingly aware that I don’t know if I want to settle down in one place for too long.  I am with someone I love, who loves to do the things I do.  He wants to see the world, travel, do things differently, and that singular vision is such a uniting force for us.  I don’t get the feeling that my craving for seeing new things is subsiding.  In fact, it’s probably growing.  Can I have my kids while working in Namibia?  That sounds nice.

Marriage, kids, and a settled life actually makes me squirm.  It seems like a slippery slope of rings, weddings, and then just a hop, skip and a jump to a gas-guzzling SUV and soccer practice.  This isn’t bad stuff at all.  It’s a dream for so many people.  It’s a worthwhile dream too.  And, for me someday it may be the right fit.  That day isn’t today, though.

I love the idea of two people whose intellects, goals, and priorities align making their way through life together. It’s a beautiful way to be in the world and I respect it completely.

Even more so, though, I love the idea of people making their way in life carrying love in their hearts, whether it’s for family, friends and loved ones lost or far away, or just love for the beautiful world that lays itself before each of us daily.  Whether alone or surrounded by friends, these people seem the richest to me, and I aspire to be one.  I am enamored with the notion that love for the world and the souls contained in it, is something that once ignited never really dies out, and whose embers are carried within each of us in a small protected part of our soul and nurtured through good and bad by our faith and appreciation for the positives of each day.  I think it’s a beautiful way to live and as I’ve learned to cultivate gratitude in my own life, I have felt richer by the day.

But this way of living indulges in its own privileges that I would be remiss not to acknowledge.  This type of love for the world is rooted in an intellectual appreciation of the world’s offering, I think. It’s not rooted in a place of comfort or stability in the material world.  It is a privilege to be comfortable enough in one’s life to be able to forgo material things and the day to day sustenance of one’s relationships with those around them.  And though for me this type of love has always held the greatest appeal because it is based in a place of constant engagement, discovery, and faith; it’s probably not everyone’s ideal.  In its quest to eschew accumulation of things, in favor of accumulation of experiences and knowledge, this attitude can be a bit demanding. The lifestyle, while rich, also demands the faith and devotion of others or it crumbles under the weight of itself spread thin over distance and time.  Though my support structures in life may be spread out, the structure they’ve created for me feels strong.  I have been so blessed to have people in my life who sustain me while I am far away, while I have been difficult to be around, while I have explored so many versions of myself and grown.   I know it sounds corny, but it’s these people, and some may not even realize their roles, who sustain me, keep a fire of love for the world and it’s beauty alive in me, and  allow me to feel safety exploring who I am and how I travel through the world around me.

I don’t know what else I have to say on this subject, my thoughts on it are in constant evolution and flux.  Travel always awakens my reflective side.  I will probably share more on this as my reactions to my recent trip and all that led up to it settle in my mind.  What I do know is that the redhead sitting next to me drinking a Bintang gets it for now.   And though we’re not sure what the next steps after Australia may be, we do know that both of us share the goal to avoid following the crowd.  That’s the kind of commitment I can get on board with.

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