Wanted: Travel Companion

Dear friends;

I found out Wednesday that I’m leaving home tomorrow for a job as I look to fill these next 5-6 months until Boston. I had expected to leave, but I had always thought I would have had more notice, more time to process this new transition: college graduate, moving out of my parent’s home, and starting a “real” job. So naturally, I’ve spent a significant amount of time over the past few days contemplating my life—past, present, and anticipated future.

This isn’t a new thought for me, but I realized just how alone I truly am, but that’s a natural consequence of the path I’ve chosen.

Let me be clear, by ‘alone’ I am not referring to the I-have-no-friends-and-no-one-loves-or-truly-understands-me type of loneliness. I have been blessed with an overwhelming number of friends; so much so, that I doubt there is many places across America (like Alaska. I mean, does anyone REALLY live there? I’m doubtful) that I could venture and not know some one in the surrounding area.

No, this isn’t some “oh poor me” loneliness; I am referencing a different type of loneliness—the sort that accompanies a restless wanderer.

When I left Michigan for undergraduate studies in Arkansas, I was the only one of my closest friends who left. To date, that remains true. These friends, the ones I’ve managed to maintain contact with, are still scattered across West Michigan. I know, whenever I come home, they will be there. I can rely on them to be there, and I imagine the majority of them will still be around those parts several years from now.

These friends have established networks, friends, and family in the area. Life for them isn’t perfect, but there is a certain level of comfort in the familiar places and faces.

The majority of students at Harding University are not from the area, and most of them leave upon graduation or shortly after. If I return to that place many years from now, I imagine the number of familiar faces will be few, if any.

However, unlike many of my friends in Michigan, the majority of my friends from Harding have a different common characteristic. Following the stereotype of that university (and most similar universities), many students leave there seriously dating someone, engaged, or married. I refer to this for this simple reason: while many of these friends are experiencing new transitions in their lives, moving to new places, starting graduate schools and jobs, many of them have the common comfort of another person.

What both groups of relationships share in common is a level of consistency and predictability, whether it be a single person or a location. The one thing I lack, the hardest consequence of my chosen path, is that predictability. For the majority of my friends, I imagine, to some extent, they know what their lives will hold five years from now and I venture that they would be correct in most cases. So-in-so will be married to this person. He will be living in this area. She will be working that job, likely with a promotion.

I have no idea where I will be five years from now. This thought, this simple idea, continues to either invigorate or terrify, depending on the day. That’s exactly the kind of life I have chosen.

There will always be days, like these past few days (and the days leading up to most major transitions), which are filled with anxiety, doubt, and mournful nostalgia. And, if I’m being brutally honest, there is little more in life that terrifies me more than change, which is all the more reason I embrace such change.

Most people my age have some general understanding of what they want from life, the person they want to be. We all have different, but equally worthy dreams. On days like these, I find myself jealous of those friends whom are settling down. But the truth is, that’s not me.

I have dreams of traveling the world, effecting change in social policy, and writing more than a few published works. None of these dreams, in how I plan to chase them, allow room for slowing down, stopping, or settling. On a specifically personal level, the moment I become comfortable, is the moment I know I’m no longer pushing myself to grow, to achieve. And I’m too often comfortable.

Many years ago, I came across this quote, which has been a silent banner for my resolve:

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” -Henry David Thoreau

I realized there are few guarantees upon this twisted path I walk; I cannot guarantee comfort, predictability, wealth, consistency, or much of anything except that things will never be easy and every day will be an adventure. And that’s enough for me.

Dear friends, I am not sure when we will meet again, but I hope our roads meet occasionally. If you’re ever looking for an adventure, feel free to come visit, wherever I may be.

I could always use a travel companion.

-Doug

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