Sean and I were sitting around the campfire on one of our first nights in Ithaca, NY and we found ourselves talking about our trip, our changing perspectives, and where we might go next (hint: we have no idea!)
For me, this trip has been more than just discovery. It's started to bring me some peace (amongst the chaos) and healing. Sean and I talk about what we might want to do next, how to change things that were broken when were living in SF. That conversation always comes down to this thing about "passion" and doing what you love.
Like I hinted at before, I'm not totally behind this "find your passion" movement. Growing up, I wasn't the kid getting the award for the highest grade in the class. I got great grades, but I was never REALLY good at one thing. At the risk of sounding like an egomaniac, I was a "jill" of all trades, but a master of none. I remember telling my mom that I wished I could just be really good at one thing, like science, and that way I would know what I should do for the rest of my life.
What I've learned when I spend all of this time thinking about myself, who I am, what experiences I value, and where I want to go... is that I like a lot of things. And then, sitting around that campfire, getting impassioned by conversation, red wine and my s'mores sugar high, I started to tell Sean about my 10th grade AP American History teacher.
I loved this guy. Besides the fact that he tolerated my occasional mid-class pass out as I adjusted to some anxiety medication, the guy was damn interesting. Growing up, I had two buckets of teachers -- the ones I felt sorry for, and the ones I found magnetic. Smokin' Bob was one of the magnetic ones (on my short list with Ms. W in the 4th grade, Mrs. K in 9th & 12th, among others). You'd have a conversation with him and he'd bust out with "Back when I lived on a monastery..." or "When I worked for NASA...". I remember thinking: that's it. That's what I want.: a life built from rich stories.
Somewhere along the way, though, I was fed (and gobbled up) a storyline about a "career path" and creating a "five year plan," and like a sheep, kept my head down and followed the herd. I forgot about those random things I love doing-- they got buried under deadlines, emails, "Big Meetings" and performance reviews.
Maybe Bob wasn't GREAT at one thing. But because he was good at a variety of things, he got to do a lot of really cool stuff. Here is where I have found something I have been looking for: acceptance. I'm judgmental, and my own worst critic. For years, I wanted to write. But I didn't do it. Was I lazy? That's what I told myself. But laziness was an excuse. I was AFRAID. I was afraid I would write something, put it out there, and people would laugh at me and think I was stupid, petty, or self-centered. So we go on this trip, I start this blog, and something funny happens: People encourage me. They send me notes of support.
Even at a tech company with great corporate culture, it is still just that: a corporate culture. Despite your free food and video games, people still need to think and act in such a way that they fit neatly into tiny boxes. Step outside the box, and you're going to have a much harder time feeling (or in some cases, being) successful. I may not get the chance to work for NASA, but living in 150 square feet of tin gets me kinda close. And guess what? I am actually feeling GREAT about that.