How to Pack When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was Nellie Bly, Reporter by Nina Brown Baker. It told the true story of Elizabeth Cochrane, a pioneering female journalist who wrote under the pseudonym Nellie Bly. In 1889, she presented the idea to her editors to take a trip around the world, attempting to make Jules Vernes’ Around the World in Eighty Days a reality.

She took with her a sturdy dress made especially for constant wear, a coat, some underwear, a bag of toiletries and required currency. 72 days later, after transportation debacles, storms on the high seas and the purchase of a monkey named McGinty, she completed her journey and was celebrated throughout the nation. She had packed light, but with the idea that she would be traveling in all conditions of weather, on all manner of transportation, and that she would encounter unforeseen circumstances.

I am beginning a journey of my own. Today I decided to leave my job of almost 12 years, submitting a letter of resignation. My end date is a few months out to ensure a smooth transition. It was a difficult decision to make. I like my employers and for a long time, I really liked my job.

I have often described myself in terms of what I have been paid to do: soldier, library manager, program coordinator, administrative assistant, business manager – always excited when I had the next new business card in hand. I have worked all of my adult life, sometimes juggling multiple jobs, doing what I needed to do to support myself. I never saw beyond the next promotion, the next pay raise, or the next new project I would undertake.

I took on other titles along the way: wife, mom, caregiver, volunteer. I stopped thinking beyond the next meal, the next house chore, the next scheduled lesson. My juggling act of work and family started to falter. Balls were dropped. I felt trapped, angry and a tad rebellious.

I started writing again after a long hiatus. I started blogging. I got a tattoo. I began to unravel and it felt like everything was falling away. I let go of perfectionism and being the “good” anything. I stopped telling people I was a business manager. I stopped telling people stories about my kid. I stopped knowing what I was doing.

I know now. I want to pursue a writing career. I don’t know if I have the talent or the discipline to embrace the dream of my five-year-old self. I have fortunate circumstances that allow me to find out. Initially, I was embarrassed that I have a choice, because I was always the poor kid who never stopped wanting. Good fortune doesn’t really register. But it has occurred to me that I should be more ashamed that I would waste such an opportunity.

Without my family and their support, I may have continued to hold on tightly to habitual security. I would have struggled to overcome my apathetic malaise, reapplied my efforts to being a good employee and a “good” everything else, until the next dip in the roller coaster.

I think it’s finally too late, though. I’ve gone off the rails. I hear echoes of the future and like sirens on the rocks, they only call me forward. I have packed lightly for the journey, with faith in myself, trust that everything will be okay, and a little bit of middle aged moxie. I hope I get to where I’m going – before I run out of clean underwear.

31 Comments on “How to Pack When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

  1. There must be something in the air today … my best friend and I were just discussing our desire to pack it all in and run away for awhile! But alas, we have too many obligations (and not enough dineros) to facilitate that at the moment … but I will live vicariously through you for now. Someday soon enough my ship will come in and I too will set sail for some distant shore. Until then, have a marvellous adventure on behalf of those of us who remain landlocked for a little while longer!

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    • Thanks so much for your kind words! Sometimes I feel like I’m wringing my hands when I should be leaping for joy, but it’s a big change and not particularly comfortable. I feel like a little kid about to go on stage for a spelling bee, clenching my fists and squeezing my eyes closed, muttering “don’t mess up, don’t mess up” to myself. I’ll do my best, though!

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  2. Just recently, in April, I accepted a new professional challenge with much the same trepidation and expectant joy that you have. I can tell you honestly that I am much more comfortable today than I was then (or even yesterday), but the fear of the unknown (for people like us are probably best at being “happy” when we know every step that will follow) does cause me to question my decisions sometimes. Be courageous. Be true to yourself. Be willing to be truly happy. Good luck to you, and keep us posted! 🙂

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    • I think you’re right about being one of those people who likes to “know every step”. I always have a plan, so to me this is like a road trip without a navigation system (in the old days we called it a map, but now my car talks to me). Thanks for the encouragement – it’s nice to know I’m not the only who’s “gone off the rails”!

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  3. Exciting and scary! I wish you the very best of luck, mi Amiga!!

    And I find that I don’t doubt at all that you will be successful!

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    • Thank you! Since I’ve been staring at the same paragraph in a story for the last hour, my bravado is faltering. The pressure has amped up a bit, with this declaration “I must write!”. Holy cow, what was I thinking? No going back now, though, I must slog on through!

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      • Don’t let that get to you. I’m sure all writers face those times when the text just resists every effort to make it right. I know I do! Sometimes I just mark it for fixing later and move on. Coming back to it with a clear head has often helped me make it better.

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  4. I love the way you frame your thoughts! 🙂 Congrats on your new beginning! And I believe, your desire to get what you want will open up doors to bring in everything else that you might need along the way.

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    • Thanks! I was gung-ho to get all my professional social media lined up this weekend. Now I’m lost in a morass of Google-Twitter-Facebook confusion. I’m technically proficient, but I think this stuff is going to make me lose what is left of my mind!

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      • hahaha…and it’s indeed the ‘left’ part of the brain that shall come to the rescue 😉 teehee, you know, the logical side, so to speak 😛 I’m sure you’ll crack it, one ‘network’ at a time.

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  5. wow, I so love this post. It’s profound and sincere! I think it’s good that you’ve taken the major steps. Now, you can move a long. I went through this last year and yes, I am lighter now. Here’s wishing you well. And remember you have a community of supporters in here! =>

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    • Thanks! I’m not sure if I would have made this leap without the awesome encouragement I’ve gotten while blogging. It’s pretty amazing.

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  6. I guess I was meant to read this post after reading the Administrative Notes. I feel like I want to grab your hand and see us as Thelma and Louise because I’m about to do almost the exact thing except for the writing; I may be pushing coffee across a counter just for the experience. And it’s a little sad, isn’t it, about being embarrassed to be in a position to be able to make the leap. We’ve worked long and hard, many times in situations that sucked the creative life out of us, leaving us on the ground like an empty milk carton. Don’t think you haven’t earned the reward of this choice — you have, every minute of every day. It will work, maybe in ways different than you anticipate.

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    • Good luck with your endeavors! Your leap sounds like it might provide great fodder for your blog. But please, let me drive the car. I’m pretty sure I would rather do jail time than drive off that cliff!

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  7. Good for you for doing what you need to and not letting life’s stigmas hold you back. You’d never be happy if you didn’t chase a dream and find out what else the world has to offer than the life you have been leading. Best of luck, have a great adventure!

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    • Thank you! Since I’m filled with loathing and self-doubt this morning, this is a nice reminder to keep plowing forward. Failures I can handle, but I don’t want regrets at the end of the road.

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  8. It’s noon, I’ve been in bed for about eighteen hours. I can feel fever creeping up my neck. In a lucid moment I reached for my iPad to see if the world had really ended or if I just dreamed it, and of course I found my way to WP searching for signs of life. This is a great post, not the fever talking, it takes courage to do what you are doing. I applaud you for getting off of the “good”-go-round. I kinda flung myself off, my skirt got hung on a piece of splintered ego and the thing drug me around a bit before coming to a complete stop. Support and a sense of humor….you’re gonna kick ass!

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    • Thanks for the fevered support! Geez, put down the iPad and go back to bed. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity and now I’m just trying to not let my attitude towards the last few months of work go to hell. Some days…..

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  9. I’m very slow to catch on. I’ve felt like I’ve known you, had you as friend, a fellow writer, someone who sees and feels and thinks and at least tries to figure things out though we never really know the answers do we?

    Yes, I confess this is the first time I’m visiting and I”m drawn to this post and I read it and I understand I think and I relate and there is so much I would like to say and ask and share and I think it will come out in time as it is supposed to. And in the meanwhile I say, I am glad i know you. Better today. Maybe even more so tomorrow.

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    • Gin, I’m honored you have visited – your writing is so lyrical and photos are just gorgeous! I can understand, after reading your latest post, why this particular post might appeal to you. It sounds like you have a wonderful, rare opportunity ahead of you that will allow you some new perspectives. I wish you all the best and look forward to reading more as you observe (as you do so well) the change in the landscape, externally and internally.

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