Shocking: The Real Purpose of Your Life
As a person who’s taken almost a year off of the traditional path, sometimes I beat myself up for what I’ve done, especially as I grapple with all the re-entry issues I’m about to face in t-minus 11 days: finding work, finding a place to live, figuring out where I belong, how to re-enter the culture I love without feeling overwhelmed by (and a little guilty for) all the options we in America have, how to leave behind the other culture I love without losing all the lessons I’ve learned here … oh man, the list goes on and on. And please don’t even get me started on the issue of re-establishing health insurance in America, after learning that international insurance is NOT considered creditable coverage in the U.S., thereby creating what appears to be an uninsured gap for nine months and thus puts me on a six-month waiting period for any real coverage — all while having the pleasure of paying for this “coverage” (Deep breaths.)
Was I stupid to move to Paris? Irresponsible? Impetuous? Perhaps, though I planned the important, grown-up things as much as I could (lodging, health care, budget) with the precision of a brain surgeon and then shut my eyes, crossed my fingers, and let life (and Paris) work its magic.
But today, as I sit here wondering how I’ll deal with all those issues above, I still maintain that every second of every day of the past nine months of my life has been worth every bit of it. I’ve learned humility, I’ve conquered so many fears, I’ve battled loneliness and shyness and come out on the other side with stronger friendships to my old friends and amazing new friends from all over the world. I’ve become pretty good at a foreign language. I’m halfway finished with the first draft of a book. I know Paris in nine months almost as well as I know San Francisco after twelve years. I’ve learned and loved a new culture, and I’ve fallen back in love – deeply so – with my own. I’m getting closer and closer to understanding and articulating the concept of home and what that means to me, and I’ve created the very excellent problem of feeling at home in two beautiful cities, and feeling the power of home all over the world thanks to friends and family. I think (I hope) I’ve made my mom proud. And every single day — even the bad ones (yes, bad days do happen in Paris) — I feel like the luckiest person on the planet. That’s a pretty good way to feel every day, and I know now (I guess I always knew) that you don’t need to live in Paris to feel that way. I think you just need to live your life in a way that you love, that you feel good about … whatever that means for you.
And the real kicker to this sabbatical? I’m ready to work again. Not just ready, but I’m excited about it. It won’t look like the way I did it before probably (I don’t think I can take sitting in an office with two measly weeks of vacation) but I’m okay with that. I’m ready to be creative again somehow. I don’t know what that means yet, but I know that it won’t involve an Excel spreadsheet.
I guess what I’m saying is this: if you’ve ever dreamed of taking a few months off, please do it. Please. I know it feels almost impossible to orchestrate, but start thinking about it today and your brain will eventually find a way to do it. I promise.
All that’s the lens I viewed this inspiring little video through. It’s a fresh, creative take on that overused but oh-so-true saying of life is about the journey, not the ending (or something like that.) And, it’s produced by the makers of South Park, accompanied by the delightful voiceover of Alan Watts, so you know it’s good..
So enjoy — this video, and whatever else you’re doing out there today, right now, without looking ahead to what’s next if you can. (Feels like that needs a Jack Handey-esque follow-up – go for it!) xoxo
PS: If you’re interested in learning more about expat life, expatsblog.com has all kinds of great info and interviews, including one with me. (Yikes!) Check it out if you want.
Great post! I’d love too take a sabbatical. I’d be interested in hearing how you planned the money part.
RB you’re journey has just begun…I see a transcontinental lifestyle in your future!
Oh Peis, we’ll see. In the meantime, in about a month: me, you, fromage, and yoga. Wait, are you still Bikraming with baby due so soon? We gotta celebrate! With non-raw cheese for now. Can’t wait to see you! xoxo
Great post. I picked up and moved to Seattle for a year. In the back of my mind, I think I always thought of it as a temporary adventure rather than “really” moving. And it was! I am so glad I did it. The journey was far more fun and enlightening that just taking a vacation – even to a more exotic place – and seeing the sights. Shaking up life makes it much more interesting.
You’re so right – I’ve loved being a local, even if only for a little while. I feel like I know all the secrets. Definitely makes things more interesting and keeps your brain active- kind of like the crossword puzzle effect times a million!