Are You Breathing Just a Little and Calling it a Life?

by | Apr 6, 2014 | Reflections, Travel | 0 comments

“Listen—are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”
–Mary Oliver

If you live in any of the Western countries you will know all too well the typical route that a life is supposed to take. Graduate, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, start a family… not necessarily in that order. But what happens when the idea of all of these things that equal a “successful” life fills you with dread and makes you want to run in the opposite direction? What happens when a university degree is not going to give you what you always wanted? What if marriage just isn’t in the cards for you? What if buying a house seems like the most absurd and impractical thing you have ever heard? Above all, what do you do if you’re okay with feeling this way and wanting a different life but nobody else quite understands it?

Hoi An, Vietnam

The decision to reject everything that society has been telling you to strive for can be difficult. Scary. Nerve-wracking. Overwhelming. Exciting. Liberating. But all of these feelings regarding your decision are normal. In fact, they are necessary. The combination of fear and happiness is what works to drive you forward, to begin those steps in pursuing the life that you always wanted. One thing that I have learned from making decisions and following through with them despite discouraging remarks is that you should always stand by your decisions and feel proud of them. For myself, if I hadn’t got on that plane alone at 18, my favorite memories would not exist. Friendships I have all around the world would not exist. My sense of self and purpose would not exist. The person that I am today would not exist.

Baker Beach, San Francisco

There is not much that I am certain of. The only thing that I am one hundred percent sure of, without a doubt, is that I want to see the world, and that is enough for me. There is an inherent feeling of wanderlust that I have and it emerges after mere months of being in one place for too long. I have been living in a brand new city for eight months now, and by the sixth month mark I felt it again. That pull towards something greater, something farther, something more fulfilling. I began to feel claustrophobic in a big city once again, bored, lacking motivation to continue my current commitment of university.

It is these moments that reaffirm my belief that I am meant to see as much of this world as I possibly can. Long-term travel has had to be put on hold in order to get my degree (something that I do believe is relevant in my life and will get me to where I want to be) but I know without a doubt that as soon as I’ve accomplished this goal, there will be nothing stopping me from doing the one thing I know I want to do with my life.


I saw the quote at the top of this post today and realized that right now I am just going through the motions and waiting until my life can really start up again. I also realize that there are probably hundreds of other people in the world that this quote will resonate with. People working at an unfulfilling job that they resent, bored with the progress of their life, dreaming of being able to do everything that they truly want to do but have put on hold because of society’s expectations of what a successful life means.

If that is you, then maybe now is the moment to change things. Now might just be the time to put all of those trips and ideas that you secretly have already planned out, saved in the files on your computer or your mind, into motion. The unease that you feel bubbling up through the excitement is okay, of course it is. You are leaving a comfort zone that has been built around friends, family, and a job you are familiar with. The world is a huge place filled with both beautiful and terrifying things, and if your dream is to explore it, then you should stick by those dreams, honor the person that you are and all that you want, and finally begin living the life that you want, not the one society has been telling you to have.

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