Journaling Does Wonders

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Thoreau)


Over the weekend, I did a bit of soul searching after reading a book on taking a sabbatical ("Unplugged:  How to Disconnect from the Rat Race, Have an Existential Crisis, and Find Meaning and Fulfillment").  The book really got me thinking about what I really want out of my sabbatical—and what I want out of my life.  


The most important thing that the book has done is that it has gotten me to start writing in my journal again (the author really pushes journal writing).  I used to write in my journal all the time, but over time (especially after I started this blog) my journal writing decreased.  I am trying to change that.


I've always believed that life is about love and learning lessons.  And I feel that the people and experiences that come into our lives – no matter how briefly – serve the purpose of providing you with new insight and giving you a chance to love (yourself and/or others).  If you are lucky and mindful, you'll always get both. 


In writing in my journal during the past few days I've come to several realizations – thoughts that have always been with me but that I ignored or discounted.  Here are just a few:


1)     I want to raise my children in Europe.  Most of my friends have heard me say that I want to raise my children in a household where Spanish, French, and English are spoken.  I always joke that I'll have to work two jobs to afford an educated, multilingual nanny.  But in reality, I always thought that it would be best to a) marry someone who spoke at least two of those languages; b) learn those languages myself; and c) raise my children abroad—even if for just the first 5 or 10 years.  Oddly enough, I used to talk about this  with Floyd, but over the years, I somehow "forgot" about how important those things are to me.  What that means for my career, for my love life, for everything that I've tried to build in DC, I don't know…  It is odd that I'm now talking about settling down, getting married and having children in the next 5 years—after spending most of 2008 and 2009 writing off men and babies (residual bitterness post-Floyd?). Thank you journal and thank you random French guy from Craigslist.
2)     Working on the Hill is a pit stop in my journey.  I was blinded by the excitement and the newness of political life on the Hill for about 2 years.  But now feel that this is not my true calling. It is not the sort of lifestyle I want and I don't know if it is the best way for me to be effective at "changing the world" (see #3).  For sure, it has been an once-in-a-lifetime experience.  And thankfully, it has reminded me of my love of language, of writing, and of communications.  I don't know if that means I belong with a nonprofit consumer education group, with a PR consulting firm, or perhaps, writing books (children's books!) or articles on environmental topics.

3)     The other thing that has resurfaced is the fact that I still don't know if I am meant to effect change top-down or bottom-up.  This has been my worry ever since I was in high school. I sense that my heart will always be in environmental education and helping children, so maybe it's time to explore my college dream of opening an afterschool program focused on cultural exchange and environmental education (another dream that I somehow "forgot" until recently!  That's why keeping a journal and rereading old entries is so valuable.)


The list could go on.  The bottom-line is that I've realized that the anxiety I've felt ever since I decided to take a career break is grounded in a more basic worry that I am not spending my short time on Earth "wisely."  I no longer want to live on autopilot, just floating through life.  I must seek to discover and then, consciously work toward my own personal sense of fulfillment, happiness, and peace—now. 


So, I'm going to spend the next year or two exploring what is important to me; avoiding the noise, the negativity, and the doubt (from myself and from others).  Of course, there will be distractions, setbacks, and detours, but I am optimistic that if work hard, stay focused, and sacrifice as needed, I will be able to create the life of my dreams.


Organica said...

Hey Hippo. I was just wondering - have you thought at all about resurrecting your Peace Corps dream? Two years in a french-speaking part of Africa would make you fluent for sure, paving the way for a move to France later. My friend L. did PC in Senegal and is now fluent in French.

Hippo Q. said...

That is a good point, Organica. PC has remained on my mind ever since I first applied 3 years ago. The issue with trying to improve my French as a PCV is that you cannot pick the specific country you go to (and even then, the African city/village may have a local dialect that is more important to learn).

So I'm focusing on specific professional programs in France and Europe first. If they don't pan out, I'll reevaluate my options, including reapplying to PC. But, in reality, my backup plan is to enroll in a language program and use my "bucket-list fund” to support myself in France. I have been relatively frugal during the past few years for a reason.