• 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?