Working for the Man Every Night & Day
I’ve been reading a lot lately about travel bloggers and “career break”-ers, people who have left life behind to travel the world. Some of them have actual paying jobs in the field, such as journalists who have written books about their experiences or freelance writers who had written for travel magazines or guides prior to their excursion, but others have literally just chucked the lot and bravely taken off with their savings for a few months or even years at a time. I respect them; I envy them; I am not them. Part of me thinks I could be – the part of me that moved to New York City after only one short visit, having fallen for the sheer magnitude of it all. Another part of me thinks I’m not but wishes I were – the part that is always thinking of running away and being free of everything, while knowing I also love having a home.
Maybe I could do it if I were either young enough to not consider the future (who needs to think about a retirement fund, just because Social Security could be gone by the time I’m 65?) or confident enough to feel that if I take off and use my savings, I will be perfectly capable of finding another job (the economy should be better by then anyway, right?), but I don’t know if I’m either anymore. I’ve read very convincing stories by very talented people all about how I’m just making excuses and being scared – which are both quite possibly true – but I’m OK with that, at least so far. I’m not as carefree as I was when I moved across the country after college to start life with no savings and no income. I’ve seen the jobs of so many friends evaporate since it hit the fan in 2008 for a lot of companies in NYC.
I think the thing that ultimately holds me in my Aeron chair is the fact that growing up in small town Texas, my family didn’t have money, and I know what it’s like to deal with an emergency without savings to rely on. When my mom was sick and we didn’t have health insurance, she waited far too long to go to the doctor and ended up finding out in the ER that she had late stage breast cancer. She had an emergency mastectomy that night, which my parents then had to pay off in installments over a long period of time. There were better times and leaner times for my family, often predicated on how my dad’s business was doing when he was self-employed, but I don’t think there was ever a time that my mother wasn’t stretching the dollars as far as she could while still trying to make sure we had good memories. It wasn’t like we ever went hungry, but money was always a CONCERN, as I assume it is for most families.
When I moved to NY, I waited tables and I lived on the “envelope system”. A series of envelopes held the month’s cash in a variety of budgetary categories, and once the appropriated funds were depleted, that category was done until the next month. I eventually wearied of food service, did some temp work and then got an office job, and I’ve worked hard and worked my way up a bit. I don’t make tons of money (part of the “1%” I am NOT), but I’m pleased to say that envelopes are now solely used for mailing. We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle, and we don’t have kids that require schooling and clothing and insuring. We spend money on travel, because we can and we like it; even so, we don’t fly first class (except for the time that a flight attendant tipped the service cart over onto my foot, which was quite painful but TOTALLY WORTH IT to get to fly back from China in Business Class) and we don’t feel the need to stay at five star resorts all the time, although I certainly wouldn’t complain about it as a treat once in a while! We are fortunate to be able to afford to go somewhere when we want to go, but I do still have to get the time off from work.
I admit that I don’t want to go back to living month-to-month, paycheck-to-paycheck. I like knowing that if Scott or I have a medical emergency, it’s going to be OK and we’re going to be able to get the care we need. I like being able to give my parents nice things for Christmas, things they wouldn’t probably buy for themselves, because they have definitely sacrificed for me over the years. And the tradeoff for that security is that I keep working, which is really not so bad for me; if I were MISERABLE every day, with mean people yelling at me or berating me, I might think differently, but that’s not the case. Maybe someday I will take a month of unpaid leave for a longer trek, or we may move away from NY and I’ll have some time before I find a new job, or I’ll just need to change jobs and give myself a bit of time off. Maybe someday I’ll figure out answers to all of my nagging questions about the future and I’ll stop wanting quite so much stability – or I’ll decide to say Fuck It and hope for the best. Or maybe someday I’ll be in the right place at the right time, having worked these many years in preparation, and I’ll get a break – the illusive holy grail of being an actual (lowly) paid professional writer, for which I would gladly run into the office tomorrow with my notice. Someday.
Until then, I’m happy to have the life and opportunities I have. Those days that I’m stuck late at the office, bleary-eyed from 10+ hours of creating spreadsheets in Excel, it may be impossible to keep wanderlust at bay; but when I’m out there traveling, I’m living in and loving each moment, not dreaming of an elusive someday. So what you’ll read from me is not the life of a traveling nomad but simply a regular girl who works the corporate grind most days, taking every opportunity to go to new places, see new things and learn as much as I can.