So I have this friend. Who, being staid and risk-averse and most things Good Indian Girl, went from degree to higher degree, job to better job to business to management position, through life and across continents, not missing a beat. Sometimes, she worked two jobs at once. At others, she ran two businesses and found time to volunteer and consult. This was the way it was meant to be, and she plodded on safely, her life busy and full.
All was well until, one day, something began to tug at her. Take another path, It whispered, poking her side until she noticed. But being who she was, she ignored the Voice and went right back to doing what she did. The Voice waited, then reappeared. How about we think differently for a bit, it asked, standing next to her and making her jump. You again, she said, and eyed it suspiciously. What if, what if, what if, it began chanting, bouncing up and down like a 6-year-old on one too many sugar pops. Go ‘way, she grunted and turned her back, you’re irrational and I don’t succumb to mere feeling.
So the Voice, now visibly chubbier, took up a post at a corner and picketed silently. Each time she’d stride past, her hands and mind full of Things To Do Next, it would grin cheerfully and raise a placard. Coward, it said once. Quit your job and assess your options, it ventured another time. My friend battled each suggestion with admirable logic. Took her adversary by the horns and pumped a powerful dose of reality into its veins. I’ve never been one of those flighty people, she said with pride, and her life’s work bore testament to her claim.
But she wasn’t prepared for what came next. The Voice was joined by a comrade. Then, another one. Then one more, until solitary sentences burgeoned into a choral cacophony, beseeching her to peep out of her walled courtyard and listen. My friend turned to her spouse. He was her sounding board and her voice of reason. He would validate her beliefs. Do it, he said, quicker than a heartbeat. This is your time. And with that, her resolve began to falter. If I leap, will the net appear, she worried, flipping the idea in her head over and over, like a cerebral version of the mushroom turnovers you find at Trader Joe’s. What is my path, she wondered another time, and agonized over being indecisive. It will come to you, said her confident spouse, and she wondered if she should believe him.
And so it went on, in shuffling, halting steps, until she bit the bullet and turned in her notice. The gasps at work could be heard echoing across the Palo Alto foothills, and she berated herself for being the Fool Without a Plan. Less than a year ago, she had been lucky enough to snap up a job in barely any time, in an economy that still showed signs of struggle. Yet here she was, tossing away sense and stability. Enough already, she told herself. It’s done, so suck it up and look ahead. And, in her usual optimism, she began to open her heart, ferret around for possible desires, and put together a Plan.
First, there would be travel. To places old and new. A visit Home, some exploration of new lands, and the soaking up of experiences would kick-start her journey. Several weeks later, she would return to the homestead, poorer but wiser, and consider next steps. Some volunteering, perhaps. A little writing, maybe. The Plan allowed for loose, fluid boundaries, and she would go where a path appeared. And if all the ambiguity ended up driving her batty, she would shoot the Voices with her secret weapon and skip straight back onto the narrow again. And that reassured her considerably.
How did you guess this was not about my friend? You, gentle reader, never fail to impress me. Wish me luck and safe travels, won’t you, as I embark upon a trajectory of unknowns, still somewhat questioning my mental equilibrium and newfound “taking time off to travel” American-ness. I board a flight tomorrow. The first of various modes of transport that will have me in 3 continents and 5 countries just this month. I take with me a quivering heart, a buzzing brain and a sore back that will miss the darling bed the Boy and I adore. And no, he will not be with me (that’s alright, I’m not panicking or anything, that lump in my throat is just phlegm). This journey is mine alone. If he joins me later, I will graze my knees on the ground with gratitude, but for now, I’ll have to reacquaint myself with OJ and hope she is satisfactory company. Will you come along for the ride?