Be brave. I received a signed copy of Todd Henry's new book "Louder Than Words" in the mail a few weeks ago. Inside the cover, on the inscription page he wrote a simple message: "Jennifer, Be brave!". If any statement sums up where I am in life, this is it. And, as I thought about it, I don't have to "be brave", because I am brave.
I began to think about all the ways in which I am brave. Quitting my job with a guaranteed salary to strike out into the unknown. Driving for Lyft and Uber, never knowing what rides may come my way. Traveling to Ireland for a month in the worst weather season. Pursuing my dreams and refusing to give up, no matter how tenuous they seem at times.
Sometimes these things don't even make sense to me. With no home to speak of, letting go of every thing that ever defined me, I think I might be crazy. But, when I think about it, I know I'm not. I'm living a life a lot of people wish they had the guts to pursue. And I'm not just saying that, people have told me this.
Our culture is set up for measurement based on status, not bravery. What we do, how much money we make, what's in our 401k, what neighborhood do we live in, what car do we drive....on and on and on it goes. When people ask me what I do now I tell them "as little as possible". And I'm not joking. But that's it. Letting go of "things". Letting go of a career to define me, to pay for all these "things". Going against the mainstream of culture? I think that's pretty brave.
I don't want to wait until I "retire" to live the life of my dreams. And what I dreamed about for a long time was a life with no schedule, so I could come and go as I want. Now I have that. In the last year I have traveled more miles and been to more places that in my prior 10 years. There are lots of reasons why, but the biggest one might be letting go of the attachment to perceived security.
Sure, I have moments of gut-wrenching panic. There are times when I'm not sure I can cover expenses. Last year I made a ton of money, but guess what...that did not make me any happier. And, the summer was a blur. I cannot remember days or even months I was working so much. I did that to get me to this place, a place where I could pick and choose when I worked and for how long. Lyft and Uber are perfect for that.
Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? No. I don't intend to drive long-term and never did. I set up my life to have very low expenses, in order for me to be mobile and travel light. All of my possessions fit in a 12x12 room and a 70 sq. foot storage unit. And I am considering getting rid of even more things.
My constant thought is "how can I travel more?". "How can I make money writing" and have writing sustain me full-time? These things take time to figure out, and I am grateful I have that time. I don't want to be tied down with owning a home, or much of anything else. Been there, done that. And it was good for the time. But you won't see me owning anything unless it's a trailer I can pay cash for or a cottage in Ireland. I'm trading things for experiences. That is how I travel more.
I am happier than I have ever been. And I have the freedom and flexibility to be able to help people without checking my schedule. To be able to go on a road trip and move my brother from Oakland to Montana without getting time off and checking in with someone. Yea, it's crazy. But you know what's more crazy? To work and work and work for some time in the future when you may or may not be able to do all the things you dream of. I do not intend to wait for "some day". I intend to live now.
I'm not doing it alone. I have an amazing and huge network of friends and family that support me. I am grateful for them daily, and many of them have stepped in and been able to assist me in ways I would not have foreseen. This life is not meant to be lived alone and experiences, for the most part, are much better when shared with others. I am learning daily to trust in the provision of something far greater than me. Giving up my own self-reliance is a scary thing. But as I do it, and trust in the Great Creator, my needs continue to be met.
So here's to being brave. In the immortal words of LeeAnn Womack, "may we never fear those mountains in the distance, never settle for the path of least resistance." This life I have chosen for myself is very often full of Resistance, but it doesn't matter. Resistance is what fosters growth and takes you to places you otherwise would never have seen. We weren't meant to live a soft, easy life. There is no growth in that. I climbed a mountain once in Montana. It was the hardest physical thing I have ever done. But, once I got to the summit, I understood why people do it. The view is indescribable and changes your perception of the world forever.