I finally decided on a quote for my blog. In the beginning it seemed like an easy thing, it’s just a quote. It just needs to be something about travel, I figured I could Google something, no problem. But the more I looked, the harder it was to choose and the more pressure I felt to find the right quote for this blog. It actually took a week to decide on one and I wanted to talk a little bit about the journey to why I chose it. you know, other than the fact that everything you need to know about life you can find in Harry Potter.
To understand this journey, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am 37, I am single, I have no kids (well, not biological ones, only the fur baby), I have a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA, a successful career, have spent most of my life (yes life, not just adult life) overweight and have sustained many injures in my efforts to attain the weight and body I was told by society I should have. Yes, that is a loaded sentence. I’m not going into a lot of details of the past, just enough to understand how I got to where I am today.
The most valuable lesson you can learn in life is that most people’s lives have not turned out as they expected. When we are young we have a picture of how we think our lives will be. This picture is mostly formed by TV, movies (fairy tales), what we are told by society and the people we know, but it’s generally the same. Get a job, meet someone, get married, buy a house, have kids, in that order. At this point in my life I have learned that all of these things don’t happen for everyone and when it does, it’s seldom easy and doesn’t always make you happy. Of course in your teens and early 20’s in a small town you do not know that because it’s human nature to put on a happy face and make everyone believe your life is perfect becasue saying otherwise would make you ungrateful. For many of the lucky ones I knew who got these things in their early 20’s, life still did not turn out how they expected because these things did not bring them the happiness they expected.
I have a spent a large part of my life waiting for “when.” You know, I will do this, “when” that happens. Although the focus in a small town is on getting married and having kids, I knew I wanted to have a career and not be dependent on someone else to take care of me. So it was “I’ll worry about dating ‘when’ I finish college and get a job”. Then after college it was “I’ll go out and meet people and pursue hobbies ‘when’ I get better established and find a job I enjoy more.” From there the “whens” just added up. “I’ll start online dating ‘when’ I loose weight.” “I’ll pursue this hobby ‘when’ I loose weight.” “I’ll focus on exercise and loosing weight ‘when’ I get a better job/finish grad school.” “I’ll travel more when I make more money/have a better job/have someone to go with.” There was just always something I thought I had to do or be before I could enjoy life.
When I was around 30 I started to see that the “when” needed to be now and I needed to start enjoying life and stop waiting for the perfect circumstances. As I watched other people close to my age struggle with infertility, cheating spouses, substance abuse, major illnesses at a young age, children born with illness and disabilities or taking care of parents with illnesses I realized that very few people’s lives turn out the way they expect. While my life had not turned out like I expected, it had turned out pretty well and I should be making the most of it and not waiting for those milestones everyone expects, to do the things I enjoy. I knew many people who were stuck in the mindset of “when.” Usually the “whens” were conditional on dreams they were still holding on to. Like buying a house “when” they get married or traveling “when” you have a significant other to travel with. I was also perplexed when Pinterest came out at how so many people have “dream” boards to pin things they would like to have one day, places they would like to go or even clothes they want to loose enough weight to be able to wear, but were not living in real life or doing anything that would help them accomplish their dreams.
The first thing I vowed to stop saying was “when” I loose weight. Although I have had many periods of my life where I did loose weight and was a small size, the reality of staying that weight was not reasonable. I have accepted that I can either be thin or have a life, but not both. In order for me to be thin I have to spend at least 2 hours a day working out hard core, 6-7 days a week and constantly weighing, measuring and tracking my food. I know becasue I have gone to this extreme twice in my life and was able to get down to a size 8. However, the minute life happened and I could not maintain this level of exercise and food management, I gained it back. In my 20’s that level was manageable but after 30 it has been too hard on me physically to try to aim for that level of extreme exercise, not to mention not having the time. I have had many injuries over the course of the last 10 years that have occurred after periods of pushing myself too hard for too long. Beside not wanting to be in pain all the time, honestly I was not happy thin. There is this picture you are painted in magazines, on TV shows and by diet systems that loosing weight will magically make your life wonderful. Let me tell you that is not true. In fact for me, it made it worse. In order for me to do what I had to do to be thin I was miserable. I was tired and hungry all the time, I was always sick becasue I was malnourished and my immune system was weakened, I didn’t do well at school or work because of the over exhaustion and I had no life becasue I was too tired to do anything. When I did try to have a life I was grouchy and miserable to be around.
Make no mistake, this realization does not mean I am eating a gallon of ice cream for breakfast or spending every evening on the couch eating and entire pizza and drinking a case of beer. I know this the picture people have of people who say that loosing weight is not a priority for them. I actually eat better than most people I know, but not out of a desire to loose weight. I eat fruit, vegetables and lean meat regularly, try to cook things from whole ingredients as much as possible and seldom eat fast food, soda or fried foods. I just don’t weigh, measure and track everything I eat anymore. If I want cake or pizza or french fires I have them, but not every day and I don’t keep them in the house, which helps. I do this for a couple reasons. First, if I ate everything I wanted and everything in sight I would be 300 lbs and getting bigger. The realization for me is that eating healthy is necessary just to not gain weight. Also, I feel better when I eat better. I have more energy to be active, I can think better and when I make an effort to eat unprocessed, better foods I can tell a big difference in my health issues like acid re-flux and arthritis. I do love to be outside, sports and dance, build things and be creative, bike and other active hobbies and I find that what I eat makes a difference in how I feel doing them.
Although I do love sports and being active, I did not enjoy them when my sole reason was weight loss. The first change I made was to focus my exercise on doing things I enjoy and making my goals an achievement, not a weight. Although this has drastically changed my outlook on life and made me happier I had to get rid of some people in my life who would not accept that I could accept myself the way I was. In 2010 I tried and completed the MS150 from Houston to Austin. Although I was slow, I finished and it was a huge accomplishment for me becasue during training I had to focus on having energy to sustain me and not count calories and worry about loosing weight. When I finished though I had a so called friend tell me “well, it’s good that you completed it but I think you need to find something else. I don’t think biking is for you because you did not loose any weight doing it and you don’t need to be wasting your time on things that don’t help you loose weight.”
The choice to remove people from your life is not an easy one, but sometimes it is a necessary one. When it becomes clear that someone’s friendship is conditional on you becoming what they view as acceptable in society and are not concerned with your actually happiness and well being, it’s time for them to go. When I decided to do this with some people it was scary and quite frankly depressing. Scary because you wonder if you will be able to find new friends who accept you and also depressing because you know that those people you are distancing yourself from were not really your friends anyway because they could not accept you the way you are. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying as getting rid of people who say anything negative to you. A real friend can say things that you may not like to hear, but you know it is your best interest. There are too many people who use “your best interest” to belittle you and put you down for things that are out of your control or because they are not comfortable with them. A true friend should be willing to confront you over destructive behavior like heavy drinking or bad work habits that can have huge consequences. Berating someone over choosing to have dessert, telling them they should not go certain places or pursue hobbies until they loose weight, or that they should not waste their talking to someone because they are clearly too good for them to date, is not looking out for your best interest. Please recognize the difference. I have found many great friends who encourage me to do my best and keep me accountable to my goals, but they also recognize that my goals may not be the same as theirs. A real friend encourages you if you are on your journey and cheers for your accomplishments, but does not try to mandate the goals they think you should have for your life.
In 2014 I decided to take another big step alone and bought a house. This was not my first home purchase, I owned a condo before, but every time I talked about buying an actual house there was so much stigma associated with it. Apparently it’s ok for a single woman to buy a condo, that’s just financially smart but buying an actual, detached house says that you have accepted you will always be alone. This is not something I thought, it was something I was told. I have been an HGTV fan for years and love building things and decorating, but for years when I talked about buying a house I was told I shouldn’t do that single because then men will think I don’t need them. Of course this logic baffled me because I didn’t “need” a man and wasn’t looking for one to take care of me, so why should I wait for one to buy a house for me? I did not listen to this and bought a beautiful historic home with lots of character and charm that I still love coming home to every day. The house has also opened up many other options to me in life I would never had had in a condo like getting Bella and the teardrop camper.
As far as dating, I decided to stop wasting my time. I know when I say that it upsets people and they think I am bitter or cynical, so let me explain. A better way to say it is that I have stopped actively pursuing a relationship. I am completely open to dating and if I find someone in the course of my life, great, but I will not be wasting any more of my time trying to force something to happen. During the times I did loose weight and felt confident enough for online dating and speed dating I discovered that the choices were not so great. I spent large amounts of time reading online profiles, exchanging messages and going out with people who quite frankly were not worthy of my time. Most of the time spent online exchanging messages was just a waste because around 90% just fell off the face of the earth before I ever met them. In retrospect this was a blessing becasue the ones I met were not great either. There very few I could have a good conversation with, many were extremely shallow and superficial and wanted to tell me what I needed to do to “fix” myself and the few that were pretty decent ended up having major issues with my career and the fact that I was more successful than them.
Before you try to tell me I have to give it time, let me assure, I did. There were two periods of time where I spent a solid 6 months making the effort to meet people, go out as much as possible and even going on second dates with people I knew would not work because so people told me I was not giving it a chance. Each of these periods ended the same way, with me regretting all the things I could have done instead of wasting my time on all of that. When I turned 35 I made a very important decision for my life. I would not waste any more of my money or time on online dating and diet systems because I already spent a large majority of my adult life on both with nothing to show for either. So, if in the course of living my best life, I meet someone, that will be great, but I am not putting my life on hold till it happens. I am not bitter or cynical and am genuinely happy for my friends who are in happy relationships and have kids. But I am also happy and secure in my life and do not feel the need to pursue something that may not be right for me just so I do not feel left out or to fit in with other people.
Although I have always pretty independent and thanks to Sex and The City have been fine going out to eat and to the movies alone since I was in my 20’s, traveling alone was still something I was hesitant about. I had traveled for work to conferences and meetings, but there were usually other people I knew there and was never really “alone.” I had gone to Puerto Rico in my 20’s alone, but I was staying in a B&B run my the family of a friend so it still wasn’t truly alone. There were a lot of years I did not travel because I was waiting on other people to save the money to go or have the vacation time or just make the commitment. So for years I spent my vacation time at home or doing things close to home. Yes, a big part of it was the constant pity I would get from people when I talked about taking a trip alone. Traveling alone is seen as “sad” and as I mentioned before I spent a lot of years trying to be what society said I should be. This changed a lot with my job. As I started traveling more for work I discovered that you are never really alone anywhere. There are always things to do and people to talk to and it was actually great. You can go where you want, do what you want, eat when you want, get up when you want.
Since embarking on travel alone I have seen some great places. I have done a lot travel in the US and quite a bit of international travel through work where I have gone out alone and explored. I have become all about making the most of every trip, even if I am exhausted at the end. Some people I work with do not share this philosophy and I know I stress them out going out in foreign countries alone but doing so has offered me some amazing experience such as seeing the Taj Mahal this past year. Between it and the Grand Canyon trip I have checked off visiting 2 of the Seven Wonders of the world in one year. As I talked about in a previous place I have found that some of the best places to see are not on an Interstate or close to hotels so the T@G camper is just the next step in this travel adventure in the US.
Did I ever think I would be making plans to travel across the country alone? No. However, it is an experience that I know I would probably never have had, had my life turned out the way I expected. So as I looked through quotes for this blog and reflected on all the things that have happened to get me to having this blog, I though this quote was appropriate for the journey I am on. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” I would also encourage other people whose lives have not turned out the way they expected to stop sitting around waiting, dreaming of the future and wishing for things you may never have. Go out and do what you enjoy and make the most of the life you have. As they say, at the end of your life you regret the things you did not do, more than the things you did.