Three years ago, I sat on the back of my car, parked off Route 66 in a two-stoplight town called Holbrook, Arizona. The breeze was just enough to warrant a hoodie but air conditioners hummed outside of the cement teepees that surrounded me. The stars were out in full bloom and tinted by the neon green sign that screamed "WIGWAM MOTEL". It was a special kind of calm and bliss I still dream about.
Sometimes it feels like it's only been the blink of an eye and I figure no wonder they say life is short. And still, the challenges of that time in my life seem oddly far away and still right next-door to my heart. Some have been solved, some have taken on new forms.
In writing to friends and family about the cross-country trip and the stay in the Wigwam Motel, I was struggling between my adoration for a simple time where blue-collar work meant some kind of Americana dream come true and the wild possibilities of pushing further into the Future, not knowing what would come of it. I had come out of college with a degree and no specific skills to one industry. Hauling junk out of people's homes was how I was able to afford the cross-country roadtrip myself.
But somewhere in my head, I was bouncing around the thought that I was just afraid to dream. I had settled to think this was it - an escape on the road. I wrote an email from the back of my car and said, "I have to convince myself still that there is nothing wrong with wanting more in this life."
It was a safety mechanism and I'm sure I'm not the only one doing this. We've heard the horror stories of great ambition crashing down on people's heads. We've heard second-half Buddhist ideas that what you have should been enough. We've recycled the wants of our parents to find and hold onto a good job, no matter what. We've heard the Princeton study that says making more than a decent income doesn't really influence your happiness. But then why do we still dream of more?
Life is only what you make of it. Nothing more, nothing less.
I made the mistake of thinking that life on the road was something separate, something outside of the norm. I thought it was a whole different story, a vacation from the responsibilities back home. And that's just not true. We're always on the road whether we know the name of it or not. It might not be as picturesque or even as mind-numbingly boring, but it is the road. You decide how you explore it.
Three years into the future, I could have never imagined myself as I am now from the back of my car. I'm not sure I would have been convinced that I'd be writing almost every week for three years. I couldn't have imagined working for a tech startup in Soho and renting my own studio apartment in Astoria. Going in and out of jiu-jitsu gyms would have been just as much a surprise as my lackluster dating life. It just wasn't on the map of my mind.
What I've only recently started to learn is that you can still have dreams while you appreciate the simple things. It's not heads or tails. If anything, you need both. You can be more than you think you are.
There is a great quote from Machiavelli that I have above my desk to always keep at the front of my mind: "All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it's impossible) but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer."
Making your life something more than you expect is the best way to appreciate the simple things. You don't need to burn your bridges and charge on with impatience, we just need to stop accepting the fact that life is just making a living. We have the opportunities to do so much more. Will Smith is one of the biggest movie stars of all time and he said it like this: "I don't want to be an icon, I want to be an idea - I want to represent an idea. I want to represent possibilities. I want to represent magic."
Travel down your road whichever it is. Tell your story. Just make sure you're doing everything you can because you can.