When I was young, in my 20s, I thought I had my whole life before me. I did, of course. I find that is still true, even at the age of 50. (I must seem endlessly fixated on this number. I’m really not; it just makes a nice reference point for life evaluation.) I hope to have a healthy number of years left. And I recognize that I have immense flexibility now that I didn’t have in the past.
Some of this freedom comes from the stage I’ve reached. Kids are grown and self-supporting (Yay!); there is enough money for discretionary choices; I am able to pursue freedom without concern that a move will impact career. Work, although a good and rewarding part of my life, is just that: a part.
I’m busy, as I fill my days with relationships, employed work, de-cluttering, blogging, daily to-do list, etc., etc., etc., constructing a path for “next.” As in, “what’s next?” One of the epiphanies I had a few years ago (been working on some of this for a while!) is that it seems great to open up the map, to think you can choose to live anywhere you want. But without job or family informing the choice, it is actually overwhelming and intimidating. So with this next step, as we prepare to move from Ketchikan, there is a different strategy. Rather than look for a next place to anchor right away, I hope to explore a variety of settings, to try on some dreams before making a long-term choice.
We attempted to do this once before. We looked at some small towns in the northwest that were charming and had location appeal. But we were sidetracked with a decision before we made a selection…we allowed ourselves to be chosen, without making an intentional choice ourselves.
So, learn from past mistakes. This time, I think the filter should be less about place, more about experience. I want us to define what we are looking for now, and hope we can put location, opportunity, and resources together to explore dreams. There are a lot of beautiful places in the world, but beauty isn’t the only thing to consider. I’m looking for a package deal: possibilities for fulfillment, adventure, serendipity. And if the view is amazing, that will be a bonus. A phrase sometimes used to describe this type of search is “bucket list:” a list of things to do or see before you die. That’s the wrong motivation for me. Here’s the thing: I don’t have a bucket list. I have a life list. This isn’t about checking off things to do, it is about finding life, as it is ever-changing and evolving.
A line from one of my favorite movies of all time, The Sound of Music, expresses this thought. There’s a scene in the movie when the Reverend Mother tells Maria, “You have to live the life you were born to live.” You have to look for your life. And first, you have to know what you are looking for. Sounds easy, but unless you are one of the rare people who knew at a single-digit age what you wanted to do with your life, not as simple as it sounds. And I find that what I look for has changed over the years. I don’t need a great school system these days. I don’t need a big house. I still need love. I still want joy. But the sources are less the concrete things in my life, more the intangibles. If I seem slow to realize this, I’m not. I’ve known this for a long time. But I am reaching a point of re-creating, with intention, with purpose, with direction. I wasn’t able to do it at once, but I am able to at last.