Well Happy Wednesday to me! I’m extremely pleased with myself today for making it to my 50th post and for doing so without an end in sight. I actually first became interested in the idea of writing as a profession when I first moved to Amsterdam and started a blog about my life as an expat. This lasted for about five posts, after which my day job got the better of me and I lost all motivation and inspiration to write. When planning for this travel adventure, I knew I wanted to start a blog of sorts to capture the moments, but I was also afraid that I would get bored with writing or that I would have nothing to write. Luckily neither is the case and after almost 50,000 words worth of blog posts I think I may have been found my calling in life.
Letting Go of the Past
One of two reasons I think it took so long for me to find my calling was that during the majority of my formative 20’s, I was held back by some lingering adolescent insecurities that had been ingrained in my personality. Growing up I was something of a cross between a nerd and a tomboy complete with the coke bottle glasses and zero fashion sense. As such was the case, I derived my entire sense of self-worth from my achievements in school. Going to an Ivy League school and continuing on in a career where I would be successful in terms of making a lot of money were paramount to emotional well-being.
As the determined young girl that I was, I did all of that; I went to Wharton, the top undergraduate program in business, and continued on to the financial services career track. By this time, I had gotten past a lot of my low self-esteem issues that plagued my adolescence and was feeling mighty proud of myself. Slowly though, I started to realize that I did not enjoy doing what was necessary to continue being “successful” and furthermore, despised the office politics of this business. I refused to give up though because a) I was stubborn and b) I was so afraid of being thought of as a failure in the one area of my life that was propping up my existence. I was determined to somehow make it work.
The second reason I found it so hard to leave the lucrative field of financial services is that unfortunately I am a slave to my undergrad student loans. Supporting your fragile ego with an Ivy League education doesn’t come cheap and unless you were a silver spoon baby, you should expect to pay for that education with your first born, or in my case, my heart and soul. I read somewhere that the average student loan debt for undergrads was an exorbitant $20,000 and had a little chuckle to myself because I walked out of Franklin Field on graduation day with a whopping $113,000 due in student loans. My monthly payments were such that if I ever lost my job or tried to switch careers to something less lucrative, me, my credit history and my sense of self-worth would all be, in a word, fucked. Living modestly though and being extremely diligent with prepayments, I was able to whittle that balance down by about a third. Though at $75,000, leaving my financially secure job for the more soul-friendly field of travel was still a scary prospect.
My overwhelming unhappiness with my career path, however, eventually tipped the scales of action in favor of me devising an exit strategy. I think at this point as well, I had finally matured to a stage in my life where my decisions and self-worth were no longer affected by public opinion. After doing an ungodly amount of soul searching and hoarding cash for my planned getaway, I finally made the decision to pursue my dreams of writing and travel while soaking in a bathtub in the Intercontinental in Bucharest. And with the exception of a few drunken nights of karaoke, I haven’t regretted one thing since.
Looking Forward to the Future
I’ll probably never again enjoy the comforts of my previous lifestyle or any of the typical hallmarks of a successful person, but looking ahead, I think my freedom and self-defined happiness were well worth the sacrifice. I truly enjoy exploring the world, sharing my observations about it and trying to determine the fastest way to dry my underwear when there is no direct sunlight. And according to my current spending patterns and remaining budget (the finance part of me will never die), I have about 32 more months to make a living doing the things I truly enjoy. I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed with a healthy pipeline of ideas for writing and I feel more confident that I have the resourcefulness to create and implement some plan of sustainability for this life that I currently have. No doubt, my biggest challenge will be trying to make the life of an amateur writer and travel junkie meet the needs of my mountain of student loan debt, but what fun would the journey be without some obstacles?