The Question Every Traveler, Millennial, and Retiree Is Asking

I spent last weekend on the Jersey Shore with three wonderful people, a final trip before my European excursion. Each day was filled with good food, naps on the beach and pure relaxation. On Saturday evening, I left my clothes on the sand and waded into the ocean alone. I ventured deep into the blackness until the warm salty water covered my arms and neck. Up above, starlight shone through holes cut in the construction paper sky and covered the world in a soft glow. I looked east—I’ll be crossing you soon, dear Atlantic Ocean— and out over the incoming tide. Here, in this liquid wonderland, the future felt limitless.

Many of my peers are struggling to make sense of their seemingly limitless future, a time  I affectionately call the Two Year Itch.  It’s been two years since college graduation and the collective plunge into the outside world. The newlywed phase of increased freedom and responsibility has been replaced with a less positive feeling. These young talented minds, taught to speak in tweets and think like CEOs, are currently  treading water wondering why the perfect job, career path or soul mate hasn’t floated by. Many are quitting/changing their jobs, moving to new cities or pursuing medical, law or graduate school. Some are married, more are in relationships and most are divided as to whether “being single” is the best or worst part of their young adult lives. I watch my friends and former classmates lift their heads above the water and gaze back toward shore, internally questioning their initial sense of direction and motivation. Under the dark blue sky, we ask ourselves the same question.

Where should I go from here?Map

This is not a question unique to the Millennial generation in 2014. This is a question for all of us: for every passionate activist, retired employee, single parent and widowed spouse. This question spurs doubt in our choices and fear of the unknown. We question our decisions or refuse to make them at all. Cracking the binding of a blank passport, we have no plane ticket, no itinerary and no planned destination. Time is of the essence and we have everywhere and nowhere to go.

Let’s take one step back and focus on the why. Why are we going? Where do we hope the going is going to get us? Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union, defines the “what” as meaningful independence:

“the ability to pursue your passions and your dreams, secure in the knowledge that

you’re connected to people, groups, and institutions that have your back.”

To me, this goal rings true. I must identify my passions and dreams so I may pursue them. I must surround myself with the people who can make these ideas happen in a supportive environment. The ocean is vast and the stars are bright.

Katelyn’s Five (of many) Goals and Dreams:

  • Backpack through Europe.
  • Live in New York City.
  • Carve writing into my daily routine.
  • Visit Hawaii. 
  • Work at a company with motivated and inspirational people.

Now make your list. Are the jobs, people and activities in your life working toward meaningful independence? If not, it might be time to make a change. Until then, just keep swimming.

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One Year

Where were you a year ago?

August 26th, 2012 was a Sunday. I was awake, reminiscing on my most recent weekend as a newly graduated, slightly lonely resident of Western Mass. My third week of work was about to begin and I sat in bed recapping my weekend to my journal before setting off into a new Monday. I had experienced my first solo outing in an unfamiliar town. I had traveled with co-workers to the Red Fire Farm’s Tomato Festival and baked my first homemade quiche. On August 26, 2012 I wondered how long I would be in Northampton and what I would be doing a year from now. One year ago to the day on this rainy Monday evening.

Journal entry: “Curried tuna fish for dinner and walked to the Brewery. It was nice outside but a little boring, lonely almost. Not because I felt pity for myself but simply because I wanted someone to talk to.”

photo (12)Fast forward to 2013. I went back to Red Fire Farm’s Tomato Festival and ran into a couple of familiar faces. I drank a beer at the Brewery with co-workers last week and welcomed the new round of EcoFellows into our company. And just yesterday, I laid in bed and wondered where I would be one year from now. In 2014. Another 365 days of unknown possibilities.

The earth rotates, the sun burns and we find ourselves looking at a calendar full of memories cast behind a forgotten closet door. Don’t forget to open that door, dust off the taped boxes and shrunken sweaters. You might be surprised to find by how far you’ve come.