“And in the mind of a woman for whom no place is home the thought of an end to all flight is unbearable.”
~The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
My younger sister is pregnant with her first child and like every mama-to-be, has all the first time wonders, concerns, questions, fears. She doesn’t know what she is supposed to feel like, because she’s never felt anything like this before. She doesn’t know what’s normal or abnormal, what feels right or wrong because right now, everything is abnormal and different. She’s never been pregnant before, this is all totally new. Sure, she can read all the books, fill herself with knowledge and facts, prepare the best she can. And other women can tell her all about their own personal experiences, what was normal/abnormal for them, what worked, what didn’t, but even that only can help so much because much like most things in life, everybody’s normal is different. Women all over the world experience pregnancy, but each pregnancy is a unique experience to the woman.
Only if she experiences a second pregnancy, can she have any real clue what to expect from her body. And even those second ones can be filled with loads of surprises.
As I sit here in the little mountain town of Jackson Hole, sipping coffee, waiting for my adventure buddies while staring dreamily at the Tetons, I sort of feel like a woman on her second pregnancy: I’ve been here before. Not Jackson Hole “here,” but “here” in my life journey. I haven’t taken two consecutive days of vacation in the past 16 months of employment, and I’m hearing the bells indicating Round II: Let the Adventure Begin, only this time, I am ready.
When I quit my job on February 28, 2014 to seek adventure and travel the world, I did so riddled with anxiety. I had a panic attack, maybe a few. I was inconsolable, even by people who had embarked on similar journeys successfully before. I clung on to my stability, my steady income, my comforts of home, afraid to let go, terrified of the unknown, yet determined to get there.
To fully experience the leap, you have to take the leap. So I leapt. Or perhaps more accurately, I was walking along, super timidly in the black of night, sort of toeing along something big, looking for solid ground, and the next step I took, I tripped and fell over a cliff. But as I was falling, I found my wings and discovered you don’t need the ground much, not when you can fly.
And then I soared.
And now, another February 28th has come and gone, and I find myself unemployed by choice once again. Only this time, I became so with confidence and excitement. I welcomed the unknown, the roads not yet taken, the uncertainty of my life path for the next ten or so months. I’ve come to an understanding that this is my life now. This is what works for me, this is how I want to do it. A life of adventure sprinkled with reality. Periods of stability and steadiness, a way to fund my daydreams, followed by long spells of adventure, exploring all of the unknown, collecting experiences that take up no space, add no weight to my backpack of life. These memories provide the fuel and motivation to get through those periods of life back on land.
This time, as I leapt into the unknown, I did so with eyes wide-open, grinning ear to ear, enjoying the free fall without reservation. Because I know (though probably not quite what Bette Midler had in mind) those memories, those collected experiences quite literally are, the wind beneath my wings.