Fulfillment

This blog entry is going somewhere. Hang with me, if you don’t mind.

Several years ago, when I was still just the parent of ONE kid, someone told me, “You need to find time to travel someday. You don’t want to die and never have stepped foot outside the U.S.”

I took issue with this for a few reasons. 1) I know people who have traveled the world but never been to the Grand Canyon, so give me some credit for my U.S. adventures, okay? Also 2) Why don’t I want to die never having stepped foot outside the U.S.?

I get this reaction a lot to my lack of travel experience. That somehow my life will be less if I don’t make it to all of these other places that the person I’m talking to has either been, or wants to go. But I just don’t see it. I mean, yeah, I do have hopes of going certain places someday, but if it never works out? I’m completely fine with that.

Why I Haven’t Prioritized Traveling

I became a Mom at 19. When would I have traveled? That’s my Go-To excuse. Then it leaves open the door that I’ll travel in the future and the person I’m talking to might back down. But also? It’s expensive. We don’t even budget for a family trip to the beach like a normal family, because that extra money in our budget goes to racing. We spent $1600 on race fees alone last year, not to mention training classes and gear and travel. Basically, right now, we see that extra money and would rather spread it out across a year of racing (to which we do some traveling in the form of long weekends or overnighters) than just on one beach trip. So, if we’re not even taking that week-long family vacation all of our friends take, how would we budget anything on a grander scale? Telling someone they should travel is like telling someone they should use a Coach bag, or wear Louboutins. I’m sure it’s great if you have the money, but it’s a little insulting to just assume people have that kind of money lying around.

But mostly? I’m a homebody who is a very high anxiety traveler. My most relaxing vacations ever involved 1) A hotel stay a neighboring town once with the kids and once alone with my husband 2) staying in a cabin on the mountain in Huntsville a few weeks ago. A close third would have been this year’s trip to Chattanooga for our anniversary. The second we have to travel long distances away from home, the relaxing element disappears. And I’m a high anxiety person, so intentionally taking a trip that I know is going to cause me stress? Is a tough pill to swallow. I usually do it if there’s family involved, or an event…but just traveling because we want to go to that place and enjoy it? I am not that kind of person. And the bigger the trip? The higher the anxiety level and the less likely I’ll enjoy even the tiniest bit of the trip.

It’s The Same With Deciding Not To Have Kids

Now we get to the point.

I’ve had several people agree with me on this issue when I’ve talked about it. Yeah! I don’t think my life is any less fulfilled because I haven’t traveled! That’s a person view and personal experience…it’s not the same for everyone!

But – GOD FORBID – anyone ever say they don’t want to have kids.

I don’t understand why I can get a rallying cry of, “ME TOO!” or even a supportive cry of, “I Understand!” If I explain why I don’t want to travel, but if anyone ever says they don’t want to have kids? It’s like the world shakes their head at them and thinks in unison, Their life is going to be so much less than mine.

I’ve seen this online and I’ve even heard it from other parents, this seemingly factual stance that Your Life Is Less If You Don’T Have Kids. And a lot of people with kids just nod their head in agreement like it’s just something all parents know, and feel awful that child-free adults don’t get.

Which is the same response I sometimes get when I tell people I don’t have a desire to travel.

Fullfillment is Individual

I don’t understand how we came to be a society who is convinced that what fulfills our lives, has to be the same thing that would fulfill another person’s life. I talked about this on Twitter yesterday and a friend also chimed in about Religion. YES! That’s another one. Like, somehow we see the big things in our life that make us feel complete: God, Family, Travel – and assume that the same things make everyone else feel complete. And if those people don’t have or do those things, we often assume they’ll change their minds:

You’ll want to have kids later, trust me.

You’ll feel differently about traveling when you’re older, trust me.

Or, we just shake our heads internally and feel bad for the person who is going to live their lives without ever knowing the joy that God/Family/Travel brings to our lives.

But you know what? THAT DOESN’T GUARANTEE JOY TO EVERYONE’S LIFE.

And I don’t understand why this is so hard to believe. We accept individuality in so many different ways, taste in music, clothing, lifestyle, food – but in those Big Things that make us feel Fulfilled…everyone likes to assume it’s the same on all fronts. My life is less without God or Travel, Your life is less without Kids, and HOLY SHIT…Think about that person who doesn’t have God/Family OR who doesn’t travel? They’re like…living in misery, right?

I would just like everyone to step back and see their lives, be happy they’ve found fulfillment, but not assume that everyone else who doesn’t have the same thing, isn’t fulfilled. I knew a girl once who HATED her job, HATED IT. But, she was still happy and content because it gave her money to do all of the things she loved and, as she used to say, “It’s only 40 hours a week…I have a lot more hours in my week than that.” She honestly didn’t sweat about hating her job, when I think that loving my job is what keeps the rest of my life in sync. BUT SHE AND I ARE DIFFERENT.

(She also traveled a lot, so you know, she did have that going for her.)

The next time you want to scoff at someone who doesn’t want to have kids, or doesn’t want to travel, or who doesn’t have religion…please remember that fulfillment is individual. Do not feel sorry for them, or try to convince them that their life is less without the things that bring you contentment. It’s insulting, patronizing, and alienating. Maybe try to open your heart to the idea that this person in front of you feels content, and just be happy for them. Instead of feeling sorry deep down that they don’t get it, let’s sincerely be glad that they have found fulfillment in their own way. Because there are people who are lost and hurting in this world that need our help and our pity, let’s give our friends and family who have just found peace in different ways a break.

Let’s just be happy that other people have found things that make them happy, even if they’re different from our happy things.

(That is the clumsiest wanna-be bumper sticker EVER.)

If you need me, I’ll be feeling fulfilled with my home and my family and my active lifestyle. Please enjoy your beaches or your jetsetting or your faith. And lets meet for lunch sometimes, because we can all agree that NO ONE can live a fulfilled life without burritos, right?

8 Comments

  • Monica

    These are very good points. I have always wanted to travel, but we just can’t afford it. And I am a very high anxiety traveler like you. It takes a couple of days before I can relax and start enjoying myself and then it’s time to come home. We finally went on a big vacation last fall to FL and it cost so much that I am not sure it was worth it. Plus our son walked around complaining about being tired the whole time. I’m hoping someday the good memories will outweigh the stress and negative junk and he will remember that awesome time Mom and Dad took him to Hogwarts!
    When you guys went to that cabin in Huntsville I thought it looked like so much fun. Minus the running part for me, of course.

  • Han

    This could be a long comment……

    Growing up we usually went on holiday in our caravan (the mobile type rather than the trailer type hehe), we went all over the UK, as we got older my parents sold the caravan and instead we’d stay in holiday cottages. I think the first time we went abroad I was about 16, even though all my friends would often go on holiday abroad. At the time I think I would get annoyed about it but actually I’m kind of glad that my parents would do “educational” holidays where we’d go to museums and castles and things like that instead of spending a week sat on the beach.

    I’m now 28 and the main holidays we take are within the UK again as my foster son doesn’t hold a passport at the moment. As much as I’d love to travel abroad I actually really enjoy showing Our Sidekick the places in the UK that I visited growing up (or with Chris before he came to live with us).

    My grandparents have never been abroad – I don’t even think that my Grandma holds a passport even just for proof of ID. It’s your choice what you do, if racing and travelling for those races is your thing then you do that – every family does things differently. Both Nikki and Wes seem to enjoy joining in the kid’s races so why not encourage them to pursue that?

    I’ve wanted to be a Mum for as long as I can remember, as a kid playing Mums and Dads, I was always a Mum and even if I had a job I was still a Mum – I tried to explain this to Chris because I don’t think he always got his head round it. The idea of not being a Mum makes me intensely sad, to the point of broken hearted.

    I have friends who can’t conceive for whatever reason – do I think they have less of a life because I am pregnant and a foster mum? Nope I just think that they have different experiences to me, something they’ve experienced might help me down the line, just like something that I’ve experienced might help them. My husband’s auntie didn’t have children – I don’t know whether it was a conscious decision or whether live just sort of happened that way but I think her nieces and nephews have taken the role of her kids in her life (if that makes sense!). Every time we go to see her she welcomes us with open arms – even Our Sidekick and I who aren’t really in the bracket of nieces or nephews – we went to visit her on my birthday this year and I was happy just to see her and hang out for the day. But she went out of her way to get me a present (she said she doesn’t normally but as we were there on my actual birthday she felt that she would) and she made a birthday cake too – again wouldn’t normally but we were there.

    I think some people in their twenties/thirties decide that they don’t want kids and are absolutely adamant that they really don’t want kids then when they kid to their forties and conceiving might be harder then decide that they do want kids.

    Running miles and miles is something that I’d like to achieve but at the moment I would hate it, either my asthma would make me keel over or I’d feel sick – not to mention the whole being 34 weeks pregnant does kind of add a challenge to it right now! I’d never be able to run a marathon – it’s just something I wouldn’t enjoy. But I have a friend called Jenny who loves running, when I’ve been able to, I’ve been and stood on the finish line and cheered her on as loud as I possibly can to give her support because that is something that I can do. My Sister in law to be is about to do a 10k race in a couple of weeks – there’s no way I can do the normal 5k walking one that I do but I’m going to stand on the start line and waddle my way round and be back at the finish line to cheer her on – because I know that in the past she’s finished her race, met up with my brother and waited on the finish line for my Mum and I to finish the walking race – we finish over half an hour later than her and I imagine by that point she wants to go grab a shower but she waits for us and cheers us on anyway.

    Do what’s right for your family, encourage Nikki and Wes to run their little legs off in the kid’s races, encourage Nikki to read and read like a book worm, cheer on Mr Zoot when he does his triathlons and things like that, do what works for you because what works for my family isn’t the same.

  • Courtney

    “But you know what? THAT DOESN’T GUARANTEE JOY TO EVERYONE’S LIFE.

    And I don’t understand why this is so hard to believe. We accept individuality in so many different ways, taste in music, clothing, lifestyle, food – but in those Big Things that make us feel Fulfilled…everyone likes to assume it’s the same on all fronts. My life is less without God or Travel, Your life is less without Kids, and HOLY SHIT…Think about that person who doesn’t have God/Family OR who doesn’t travel? They’re like…living in misery, right?”

    I actually have a theory about the difference here:
    When I was a kid I would get downright ANGRY if someone close to me didn’t agree that a certain song or artist was THE BEST OF ALL TIME AND EVERYONE’S TOTAL FAVORITE. Music was (is) MY LIFE. It was so important to me, and some kinds of music were just so. obviously. (to me) better than others.

    On the other hand (i’m going to use the religion/God example), Catholicism was really important to my family. We were raised to be Catholic. To love God. To go to church and participate and take part in the sacraments. And even though all of the people I spent time with weren’t Catholic, MOST of them were Christian, and my parents did a great job of teaching Christians are Christians, even if we all did it a little differently. I didn’t have to learn at a young age that people had different opinions or feelings about God because there was no one there to push back on me about it.

    And therein is the difference. The music, food, clothing examples you provided are all things we had to figure out pretty much as soon as we started to form our own opinions. The things that people have a harder time accepting about other people are the things that are ingrained as “normal” or “necessary” because of the communities they immerse themselves in and the way they grew up. Do I wish more people would made an effort to see things from different perspectives? Oh heck yes. But sometimes when you respond to people who make comments like that, it helps to think about where they’re coming from as well. They may not even realize there’s another way.

  • Corrie

    Thank you! You have said this so well! The farthest I have been is to Canada, and that was when I had two kids. We have four now and there is really no way to justify an extravagant trip like that for just my husband and I. Let alone six of us. I get so anxious and cranky in hotels, I’m out of my element, things are in place. I’m not a great traveller. I think that it is awesome that you have made the decision to prioritize racing that is where you want to spend your extra money. It’s good for you and it is setting a great example for your kids. I am quite vocal in telling my kids that our extra money goes to their hockey, skating, etc. It’s true. You want a cruise? Then we would need to give that all up! And I don’t wish to give up my gym membership, even if I got to eat all week on a cruise!
    I just wish a lot of people would quit focusing on what they can acquire and focus on the awesome in their life. It would make me feel better about my life and quit making me feel less adequate. I know I have a great life. I have a house, a car and good kids. That’s all I need. I just need to focus on that. I keep telling myself that, but I let neighbors, pintrest and Instagram let me feel like I’m failing when I am not!
    Thanks for this post. I just need to focus, you are awesome!

  • Tracy

    Bless you. I was with you from the beginning of this post, because I too prefer being at home and am a high-anxiety traveler. But then you really got an amen with the kids thing. Try being a childfree person who doesn’t really like to travel…so many conversation stoppers, so little time! Do you have any kids…no; do you have any trips coming up…no.

  • Melissa

    Wow. You’re speaking my language. I’ll be 55 Sunday, am child free by choice and have never had the first regret. When we got married I was 27 and my husband was 33 so we knew if we were going to have kids we shouldn’t wait too long. Simply put, the desire never came and I wouldn’t change a thing because I like my life just like it is. We’re not big on traveling either but when we do, we enjoy it. After work today we went to Straightr to Ale. Pie in the Sky was there wih free pizza so it was craft beer and pizza date night for us. I think I’m already celebrating my birthday!

  • Mary

    I am a double whammy – I don’t really care to travel, and I don’t want to have kids! I like going back to places that are important to me…Disney World, Maine, and Colorado. I would like to see a handful of places here in the US…the Pacific Northwest, the Outer Banks, Utah, and Wyoming. And I would like to go back to Texas and see some of the Deep South and the Low Country. And I might never do all of that. And that would be perfectly okay.