The daily prompt seems to have been written just for me this time: What is a life well lived to you?
This is a topic I am passionate about. My whole life, I have been taking a hard look at what defines a successful, well-lived life. I’m still pretty young and I still have a lot of life left to live and discover, but I’ll tell you what I’ve learned so far:
A life well lived is a life where you pursued your dreams and your passions, no matter what that might mean to you.
From a very young age, my ideas about this subject might have been a little different from the norm. I grew up in a comfortable, middle class neighborhood in a cute little cookie cutter suburb of Los Angeles. We had a nice house, new clothes, nice cars, and plenty of food on the table. My childhood was actually pretty good. I made some great, life-long friends on my little cul-de-sac. We used to play outside until our parents came out and made us come back in. Summers were spent running through the sprinklers, having picnics, riding bikes…you know, the makings of a normal, happy childhood.
I loved my life and I wouldn’t give up those times for anything in the world, but even then I could see the cost of the lifestyle I was living. I would watch my parents get up really early to endure long commutes and long working hours at jobs they didn’t seem to particularly like all that much. They would come home late at night, after it was already dark, feeling tired and just a bit grumpy. I knew I didn’t want an adult life that followed a path such as that.
Interestingly, all the adults in my life used to tell me the secret to a good life: Go to college. This will allow you to get a good job where you will make good money, thus ensuring a good, stable life for yourself.
I was immediately skeptical. I saw what a traditional college education got you: long hours, long commutes, working in some lame office….bleh.
I also seem to have born with a hopeless case of wanderlust. I would grow tired of my little LA suburb. I would always try to convince the adults in my life to drive around so I could explore other parts of town. I fell in love with the city…with the beach…with the mountains. When I got my driver’s license, there was no stopping me. I was off to explore as many corners of Southern California as I could within the time limits of needing to be at home that night. I pushed the limits. Palm Springs…San Diego…Malibu….I went there. I was so fascinated with everything out there and all the places there were to explore. I became addicted to discovering new places.
I had traveled with my parents before, but during college I really started traveling on my own, and I have never looked back.
Of course, my decision to go to art school despite having been perfectly capable of gaining acceptance into a ‘normal’ university was also a rebellion against the conventional lifestyle. I wanted to become an artist. I wanted to discover the world around and to see it in new ways.
After college, student loans got the best of me and I found myself getting sucked into that lifestyle I had been working so hard to avoid all my life and I very grudgingly accepted my first office job. My experiences working in offices, sometimes quite corporate, sometimes more loose and free (like…thankfully, my current social media-designer position) have only solidified for me my desire for freedom and travel.
Where before I was unsure of exactly how to achieve my dreams, now…I have a plan.
Step 1: Pay off student loans AGGRESSIVELY. Work hard. Take freelance jobs for even more work. Pay as much into student loans as possible. Don’t spend frivolously. Of course, save up for a trip each year (to stay sane)…but otherwise, be thrifty. Pay off debt. This is #1
Step 2: Become self-employed. Get yoga teacher certification. Continue doing freelance graphic design online. Maybe some more online work too. Keep doing art. Create a position for yourself that can be done anywhere.
Step 3: Travel the world. Never look back. With my non-location-specific job, I’ll be able to go anywhere, work the hours of my choosing, and taste that sweet freedom I’ve been pursuing.
That’s my dream and my plan. Yours may be different. Maybe you want a cute little house to make your own and a family. Maybe you want to excel at something. Maybe you want to just sip cocktails on some beach somewhere.
Whatever your dream is, you can achieve it. Take a look at your life today and see what your situation is. Come up with a plan of solid steps that will actually move you towards your life goals. It’s great to daydream…and trust me…I’m always daydreaming, but I also have a plan in place to make those dreams a reality. You can too.
Now get out there and start living a life you will look back on when you are old and have no regrets!