When I was most recently working as an attorney at a private law firm, my dad had to have heart surgery. He’s perfect and healthy now, but at the time, his surgery was a stressful thing and I knew my mom – who alone would have been shuttling back and forth to the hospital to be with him – would never have asked me to take off work to come, but would have appreciated it. So I did, I took two days off work to drive the three hours to my hometown to be there for the day of my dad’s surgery and the day after.
I worked at a firm that was great – wonderful, in fact – about time off. I never had to worry that I would be bombarded with emails or phone calls when I was taking time off, unless it was a true emergency, which it almost never was. I knew I could have taken a long time off for my dad, if I wanted to. The problem was that it was also a small firm. Along with knowing how great my firm was to me, I also knew that it was harder to get along with one attorney in a two-attorney law firm out.
So, after the two days off, instead of taking another few days like I would have wanted, I went back to work. I didn’t ask my firm for the extra time off, so they weren’t given the opportunity to be supportive (which they certainly would have been) – I just felt better going back and handling my responsibilities.
It was also one of the moments I think I started to decide that a “traditional” 9-5 job wasn’t for me. Despite how great the working environment could be, there were always constraints on me that kept me from doing the things that I wanted to do all the time – whether it was my occasional desire to do absolutely nothing or my desire to be with my family.
I’m currently on my first week in Nicaragua and I’ve had, well, a fairly awful time of it so far. Not because the town – San Juan Del Sur – isn’t great and beautiful, but because I got sick within a few hours of arriving here and spent three days either sleeping or throwing up (more on that in another post later!). It’s also close to Christmas. My original “plan” – if a series of loose thoughts can be called such a thing – was to leave Nicaragua for Guatemala in a week, then head to Belize. But since I got sick (and since I don’t seem to be getting better) I’ve been considering going back to the States for a few weeks to hang out on my parents’ couch, heal, eat really delicious home-cooked Indian food, and then head back out traveling.
The problem is that I kept seeing this break to travel home on Christmas as a failure instead of, well, a break. I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself with everything I do, but I’ve realized over time that it’s really me putting pressure on myself, no one else. Once I set a “goal” in my head, even if it’s a loose, unimportant goal that effects no one and nothing else, I’ll do everything I can to complete it – including cry, stay up all night, get stressed out, lose my hair, or get sick.
Why do I do that? I don’t know. Some self-imposed idea that unless I stick to the things I plan, I’m flighty and flaky and have nothing solid in my personality. As I get older though, I’m starting to realize that’s bullshit. Especially because I’m the type of person that chooses a life where I get to work for myself now and travel all the time – it makes no sense that I would try to stick to rigid plans I made for no good reason.
Part of designing The LITMO Life for myself wasn’t just to mindlessly travel from place to place because I had nothing better to do. It was to have the freedom to travel – but also the freedom to do whatever else I might want. The LITMO Life isn’t about traveling – it’s about, as I always say, designing your own blissful life and making yourself happy so you can then make others happy and in turn, make the world a better place.
At the moment, my Facebook statuses are all about my being sick and fairly miserable. I’m pretty sure I’m not making anyone happy – and I’m certainly struggling myself.
Insert something about “putting on your own oxygen mask” here.
In any case, it’s hot in Nicaragua and I’m pretty tired of eating crackers and Gatorade, so I’m going to suck it up and head back to the States for a bit to be a lazy, non-productive member of society on my parents’ couch while I edit contracts and write trademark applications and snuggle my puppy who I miss so much. Then, I’ll hit the road again, after I’ve decided I want to go back to spending money instead of saving it (I LOL’d).