There must be something in the air. I talked with a few folks at the Palm Tree Ride on Sunday, and the whole “What am I going to do when I grow up?” came up. I guess it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one to be thinking about this. But it still doesn’t answer the question of what I want to do with the rest of my life.
Work has been dreadfully, drearily, direly slow the past couple months, slow in a way I haven’t seen in maybe ten years. There’s only so much of the “real work” that can be done in a shift. So I’ve been trying to occupy myself in other ways, namely by reading old blog posts. I’ve been doing this blog for nearly thirteen years, a lot of my past is up here. It’s been good, since it’s always helpful to see where you’ve come from if you’re wondering where you’ll be going.
I read a bunch of blog posts from 2012. This was the year following the big tour, when April and I landed back in Portland, back at her old apartment (with her old roommates), and wondering What We Were Going To Do With The Rest Of Our Lives. It wasn’t the easiest time, as both of us were unemployed and broke and not knowing what comes next. This was after such a great experience of being on the road for four months, though the ending of the Big Tour was a bit of a let-down. I had hoped that my life would be drastically altered for the better when we got home, and was disappointed that it wasn’t. Things were a bit stressful, to say the least.
But looking back from the critical distance of six years, I now know that things weren’t that bad. In fact, it was a pretty decent year, at least up until September or so. I just couldn’t see it at the time. I was so hung up on things like getting a job that I couldn’t enjoy the moment.
Now, I’m not trying to be revisionist nor nostalgic. I’m not saying that these were the best years of my life nor am I trying to live in the past. There’s no way that I want to relive 2012, nope.
But I do want to look at the past years and eras of my life to see what made me happy then. Because this will help me realize what will make me happy now and into the future. Looking back at 2012, I can see some trends towards happiness:
- While my touring and camping time in 2012 pales in comparison to the four months on the road in 2011, I still got a lot done. I did a bunch of overnights, and managed three tours varying in length from five days to over a week. None of these three tours were “mind blowing” in the way of the Big Tour, but I still got to see some lovely and remote destinations in the Cascades, Mt. Rainier to be specific.
- Because I had the time to do it, I got really involved with the local bike touring non-profit Cycle Wild. I led a bunch of trips in 2012, something I couldn’t do before or after. I like being able to volunteer! I also did a bunch of volunteering for the IPRC, my last year helping out this non-profit.
- I did quite a bit of comics and illustration work. I had the time to do all this, plus the lack of a job meant I was hustling. I managed to line up just enough creative work to get by. (Thankfully I was on food stamps and rent was minimal to nonexistent.) Because it was basically my only real source of income until I started working regularly again, I needed to keep the jobs rolling in. Plus, I started working on the comics that became New Old Stock, so I was on a creative streak!
So I was doing what I loved to do because I had the time and desire to, and managed to eke out an existence. Plus, I was my own boss. I could do the things I wanted to do. I didn’t have to ask permission to have fun. Compare that to now when I need to put in time off requests months in advance if I want to do something, and it’s still no guarantee I can get the time off.
Of course, at the time I didn’t see it that way. The lack of a regular job loomed over my head and I was constantly stressing about it. I really wanted to “do something with bikes” so I applied for a couple Portlandesque bike delivery jobs. I got neither. I filled in shifts at my old job at the hostel when I could. When a regular position opened up at the end of summer, I took it. Nevermind I had already worked there for five years before I quit for The Big Tour. Nevermind that there were other reasons for quitting the hostel besides The Big Tour. I needed the regular paycheck, so I buried all that stuff.
That’s when things started to go south between me and April. Rifts formed, we grew further apart, money issues became heightened. Plus, I couldn’t stand living in that apartment with her old roommates anymore. It was not my place, and I felt like an outsider. Within a year, we had split up.
But I still kept that job at the hostel. I still have that job at the hostel. February will mark twelve years there, minus the year or so I didn’t regularly work there. That’s a long time. It’s been steady work with okay pay and decent benefits. But it’s been unfulfilling for a long, long time. And I can’t keep on going on like this.
So what’s next? I don’t know exactly, but looking back at 2012, I realize that I was happy not just being my own boss, but being creative. I haven’t done much with illustration since then, a fact I lament occasionally here. I realize that being a freelancer is not always easy. I see how it can be a struggle to Do What You Love as a living, especially when it comes to bikes. (See this recent post from Path Less Pedaled for a good example.)
But goddammit, I have to at least give it a try. Because I don’t want to keep on working a job that’s unsatisfying to me just for a paycheck. I’ve seen what happens when you do that; I need to look no further than members of my family. I don’t want to die bitter and wonder What If…
What’s next? I don’t exactly know. But I have some ideas. The first thing I need to do is stay positive!
Excellent post and has inspired me to do more with my free time.
I am fortunate in being retired and relatively free of money worries but have become bogged down in routines. Overnights may well be the answer for me! Shades of S24O’s of years ago but lasting as long as I want :0)
I hope all goes well for you (but remember it won’t all happen tomorrow) and thanks for the inspiration.
Thanks! I do realize that there’s a long road ahead. But at least now I feel like I have a map!
Being in the unemployed looking for a job rut currently it is tough to think beyond having a steady paycheck again. in someways the thought of trimming my life to the bare minimum and starting over somewhere else (Spokane?) is freeing and on other days its frightening. I think 2018 is going to big one way another, I certainly don’t want to go back to 2012, that year sucked!
Oh, Spokane! I’ve thought about that city over the past few years as Portland gets more expensive. Seems to have “good bones” and is on the up, though I still don’t know if I can move there!
I have family there so that helps and Spokane has the wonderful Centennial bike trail – I did some rides with my Brother last June on it. Spokane is much flatter than either Seattle or Portland but I am used to the very mild Seattle weather i.e between 40 and 70 degrees about 95% of the time and Spokane is hotter and colder – my sister tells me about going months with Snow on the ground. It comes down to the fact that I could easily find an Apartment for half of what I pay in Seattle, the tricky part is finding a job but the area is growing so we’ll see.
Yeah, the weather in Spokane is a lot more variable, due to lack of ocean influence. I think for me, a move to a place like Spokane would be daunting since I have no family or friends out there. It gets harder when I get older to reestablish myself in a new place like that with nothing to grasp.
Shawn, I love that you’re making a plan to better your life. I’ve heard your discontent for a while and I know from experience that it’s difficult to make a leap, but once it’s done life improves immensely! Sure, it will be scary, but life is short and all that…
Thanks! I think it’s a bit easier to make a “leap” now since I am in a better place. Seems like a good time to do these things is either when you are in a bad place or good place. For too many years, I was in the middle, things not horrible but not great either, so I didn’t have the drive. It’s easier to make big decisions when the chips are down and you have nothing to lose, or on the flip side, feel good about life and things.
Good read here. Especially the comments. You’re so right about making decisions when things are really bad or really good. As you’ve heard from me before it was a daunting task to pic up and move 3,000 miles, a secure job and a vested pension status to come out here. However I cannot complain all that much about the move or the decision.
It’s easy to say and hard to do, but you have to do what makes you happy. Then a job doesn’t always feel like a job. Government Finance might not sound all that exciting but I am good at it and there is a certain sense of accomplishment having some influence in how taxpayer money is spent and be a good steward of public funds (I know it sounds dorky when I type it out).
Lastly when you have the support of somebody else in your life both emotionally and perhaps even financially it makes to big scary daring leaps a bit easier to try.
Yes! Especially when you have that emotional support from someone else. 🙂