In my wedding vows, I told Josh we would ride to South America on his motorcycle. Little did I know, one year later, we would be doing just that.
In January of 2015, Josh and I were living in a two bedroom home in Seattle’s funky and salty West Seattle neighborhood. Josh was a salesperson in the lighting industry by day, and a dreamer and inventor by night. I was a recent discharge from an eating disorder treatment facility, facing the reality of unemployment without directi. While this is not a story about my recovery or Josh’s career dissatisfaction, it is a story that we cannot tell without transparency and complete honesty.
So, there we were, two misfits of our society in such different ways: Josh, yearning for a business he could call his own, but paralyzed by the stability of a well-paying job and approval of his peers; and me, desperately trying to reintegrate myself into a “functioning” career-world when I myself felt entirely dysfunctional.
In the winter after I left my eating disorder program, I decided to channel my dysfunctional energy into something functionally relatable: I applied to Eastern Washington University’s Masters program to become a counselor. As I have done with every career path, I dove in full force, committing myself to this newfound passion.
I have a history of changing career paths: I’ve been an actress, a teacher, a waitress, a photographer, and—for a short stint—a mental health counselor. Each time, I believed I’d found my calling. Each time I thought, “this is it. This is my passion in life.” When the passion wore off, (or more often, my mental health issues kicked in,) I had to take a step back and review my choice. Is this really who I want to be? Is this really what I want to do, forever?
In the winter of 2017, a year and a half into my graduate program and two years after Josh and I moved to Spokane from Seattle, I started having panic attacks at work. I was interning as a mental health counselor in one of Spokane’s largest community mental health organizations, and my clients suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. Most of my clients had comorbid diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. Many of them were suicidal and had previous attempts of suicide in their history. I slowly lost my ability to separate my life from my clients’ heartbreaking stories and pain. I started to believe that I was incapable and unqualified to serve their needs. It wasn’t that I believed their problems were too big or unsolvable, but that I was not strong enough or wise enough to solve them. This paralyzed me at work, and I started to break down.
Eventually, I withdrew from my masters program, and the whole life I had pictured for myself, once again, crumbled away. I started to take a hard look at myself. This was a pattern in my life. Finding something I believed I was destined for, throwing my entire identity into it, and then feeling less than capable to follow through on those desires. I started to ask myself, is it really me that’s the problem, and not these career choices? Am I, the one constant in this story, to blame?
I spent months doing some soul searching, and though I haven’t come to a final conclusion (I don’t believe such a thing exists), I have discovered a few important things: Number one, it’s ok to try something new and to fail. Number two, it’s not only ok, but valiant to fail and find the resilience to get back up and try something again. Number three, maybe it’s not me, and maybe it’s not the careers that are the problem. Maybe it’s that I’m not built to live in the type of society that praises careers and financial success. Maybe I’m designed to live in a different box, one that’s a different shape, temperature, and color.
I have always loved to travel. In times of uncertainty, fear, or even too much stability, I find myself yearning to get away. I used to think that maybe this was unhealthy escapism. Am I avoiding my real life by running away? Is this just avoidance, disguised by adventure and culture-enthusiasm? I later decided that, no—it’s not. Anything can be perceived as an escape from reality. It just depends on what your perspective of reality is. For most of Western culture, what’s real is the American Dream: a family, a house, a good job, money, safe retirement… the list goes on. So yes, if that was my reality, then perhaps going off to foreign countries for weeks at a time is escapism. But what if travel was my reality? What if exploration, working for trade, and creating my own method of sustainability was its own reality? What if I got to create my own culture, and find other people who’s lives and values shared that same reality?
Exploration, discovery, learning, language, geography, nature, and human connection across boundaries and borders: my reality. If that was my reality, then to me, wouldn’t the escape be hiding behind the security of a home and a steady job? I say this not because I judge how many Americans live their lives—I believe people should live whatever reality suits them. I say this, because for me, and for Josh, this life has felt like someone else’s reality. This life has felt like the escape from what we really want.
In August of 2017, just months before I left my masters program, Josh and I got married. In my vows, I promised that one day we would ride his motorcycle through South America—a dream Josh has had for years. In the wake of leaving my masters program, we were faced with a choice. We could go back to Seattle where our friends and family were, find jobs, and settle in. Or, we could take this opportunity to do something different. We chose the latter.
After eight plus months of saving, waiting, and keeping our plans relatively on the down-low, the time has come. We now spend our days selling most of our belongings, slowly telling loved ones our plans, and grinding through logistics meetings. We have absolutely no plan, other than a departure date, a mode of transportation, and a direction.
Let the adventure begin.
XO-Rachel (the other Havie)