Next time you move, pack the toilet paper last.
I did it.
After weeks and weeks of dreading and debating when and where and how to do it, I finally told my bosses that I am leaving. Which is another word for quitting. Which sounds so… permanent.
I’ve really only ever worked at one place. My dream place. And I have a dream job at my dream place—making public television shows that are educational and really good and a lot of fun to work on. And I have worked there for almost eight years. It will be exactly eight years when I leave. That’s longer than I’ve done anything. That’s longer than people who can do multiplication have been alive.
So why am I going?
Because I dream of travel. Literally. I have a recurring dream that I am going on an amazing trip to multiple countries—never the same countries. And I always wake up feeling empty.
Not that I haven’t traveled already. I have. I’ve been to much (most?) of Europe, all of North America, three countries in South America and two countries in Africa. Which sounds very impressive if you don’t take into account that in reality I only spent a few hours in Brazil (I picked the flight with the longest layover possible, and went to considerable trouble of getting a visa so I could go out to dinner in Sao Paulo), maybe 10 hours in Uruguay, and approximately 10 minutes in Mexico (I walked across the border, got my passport stamped, and walked back). That’s the sort of thing you have to do when you only get 15 vacation days a year. And the more years went by, the more I was sure I didn’t want to die with only stories about trips I could have timed on a stop watch.
So I am chucking everything—dream job, dream condo, dream second job (people pay me to write stuff!)—and heading to Asia. I will be traveling for two months in Southeast Asia, then working for four in China, then traveling for another month. I plan to visit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, and Japan. After that, if money permits, I will do some Spanish immersion in Central America.
I know I should be nervous, but I’m too busy being excited.
My condo is beautiful. It’s my baby. I bought it when it was brand new. I was the first person to open the cabinets, hammer nails into the plaster, fill the tub with bubbles. I even got to pick out the light fixtures. (Which was not easy for someone plagued with indecision!)
I lovingly decorated every square inch of it. I still find interior designs I painstakingly sketched out with colored pencils during the months that I waited for the financing to finally come through. I painted a 15-foot-long, 10-foot-high wall yellow all by myself. (Which, in retrospect, was not the brightest thing to do, since if I had fallen I could have lain there for days without anyone noticing.) I covered another wall with bold black-and-white fabric. I spent hours in Home Goods (the happiest place on earth.) I evaluated dozens of white curtains before settling on the right ones. My mother and I drove my father’s pick-up all over eastern Massachusetts picking up furniture painstakingly selected from Craigslist.
But I have now cheerfully sold nearly every stick of furniture. Next up: the condo itself.
As Janis Joplin sang, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Which is another way of saying that if you don’t want to be tied down, you need to sell all your crap.
It’s not easy. Not even a little bit. Not even for someone who had fantasies of being able to fit all her worldly possessions into the bed of a pick-up truck. (Even without my furniture, I am closer to filling a Mack than a pick-up. I blame the shoes.)
But I am determined to keep selling, donating, and tossing stuff I don’t need. And every time I get rid of something, I really do feel freer.
I think Janis would be proud.