I suppose, strictly, a sense of desperation propels us to do a lot of things we'd normally feel too comfortable in our current circumstances to do. I find this to be true of almost all the major decisions I've ever made -- mostly about moving somewhere or deciding what to study in college -- or where to go to college. Or where to work.
We want to do things -- we want to build a house or travel to Spain or take up basket weaving... but we've just got so much other normal, everyday-life stuff going on that it gets pushed further and further down the road, and sometimes we never reach those places since we're too busy thinking that we're too busy to get there.
When I was a teenager, I travelled with my dad a lot around the Great Lakes states, and occasionally further -- down to Oklahoma, the west coast -- to help him with art fairs that he used to do regularly in the summer. As a full-time painter, summers were big business for him then. Times have changed a bit and art festivals aren't what they once were, but those formative years of summer travel for me put an indelible mark on me, and how I perceived the world. I may not have jetted off to Europe or Asia as a kid, but I got to road trip around the U.S. and that was pretty awesome.
What it did was give me a sense of space, a sense of distance, and a sense of where I was and what else the world had to offer. Because if San Francisco could be so exciting, then ultimately one could expect New York City, Paris, Moscow, Athens, Tokyo, or Sydney to excite the same sense of wonder and amazement.
Ultimately, what happened, was when I graduated from high school, I applied to one college, and one college only, wayyyyy over on the northern coast of California, practically the western-most tip of the contiguous states. I thought a change of scenery and geography might be the key to erasing my boredom and taking the world by storm. Alas, I lasted one semester. It was far from boring, but for numerous reasons, financial not being the least of them, I was back home in Wisconsin. Aaaand miserable.
So I struck out aaallll the way to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, which is merely an hour+ drive from home. There, I lived on campus for about a year, then studied abroad in London. And that trip changed my life. It changed the way I perceived not only Europe, and the world, but my home itself. And when I returned to Wisconsin, I was saddened to have left such an exciting city, but glad to have a newfound sense of home, and a new understanding of myself and what I was capable of.
I finished up school in Madison, WI with an art history degree, but was embittered with institutionalized education before I even had my degree in hand -- that a bachelors degree in art history was pretty much a pass to nowhere without a concrete career idea or a plan for further schooling -- which I just didn't have. I just wasn't sure. I liked art history, but did I want to invest tens of thousands dollars more in order to, what, be a professor? a curator? a gallery owner? I just didn't -- and still don't -- have the answer to that. I was afraid of getting stuck on one path, and becoming obligated to continue on that path because I had invested such-and-such an amount of money on education. I'm no stranger to the pains of student loans.
So I moved back home. And then lost my job, which at the time was at Starbucks during their company-wide closure of some 600+ shops. There again, I found myself in dire straits, living at my parents' house, a college graduate, without a job... wondering how I'd support myself. Would I move? Could I even afford to move? Where could I work? What could I do? What did I want to do? That has always been a giant decision point -- I'd prefer to make a little less money and do something I actually enjoy vs. the alternative.
Lo! I happened to find out that a used bookstore was opening up in the area and happened to be hiring, and I leapt on that boat so fast, I hardly saw it happen myself. And there I am, at the bookstore. Not necessarily my career of choice, and definitely not a place I ever envisioned working -- but who ever knows these things? It was sheer desperation that led me to it, and in the end, only good things came of it. Turned out that I loved it, and loved the people, and it worked for me.
...for a while. Because my nature is such that after a couple years I get bored. And I get tired. It might be too early to call myself a spinster, but I'm 26 and I live alone in a tiny town in Wisconsin with my cat. And though I've got creative outlets and good friends, I've become too comfortable. Read: stagnant. It's become clear to me that this summer -- or this year at least -- has become the year to make a change. A change that is again my choice, and although I'm not totally certain what it will be, it will occur. And simply making the decision to make a decision has the optimistic, adventurous side of me flaring right up. More than anything, perhaps I think that as the years pass, that side of me starts to quell, and that is the most frightening thing I can imagine.
In the next few months, we'll see what comes about. They don't call this a quarter-life crisis for nothing!