This quote from Allison Vesterfelt’s friend and companion on her 50 state road trip in her book Packing Light, really helps me understand the difficulties we have in our life. “I think sometimes when things get hard, too many of us assume we’re moving in the wrong direction … Like if we’re doing life right, it’s supposed to be easy.” The quote helps me see that my ideas of success are often out of touch with reality. Reaching a level of success financially or in a career will not mean that things are suddenly easy for me. I will still feel insecurities about how hard I must work or about not having everything I may want and desire. At the same time, becoming successful does not mean that other parts of my life will fall into place and become easy. Financial success does not translate into a happy home life, and a successful relationship also may not reach a point where everything feels easy. By remembering Vesterfelt’s quote, I am able to accept the challenges that come with success, and I am better able to judge my journey when I hit rough patches. Rather than running away from challenges to look for success and “easy” someplace else, this quote helps me see the value in persevering and growing from the difficulties.
Ever since I reached the halfway point in my college career, when I began to feel pressure to decide what I wanted to do to earn a living after graduation. Many times along my journey, I have been overwhelmed with the fear of not choosing to do the right thing. I want to put myself in a position where I can live comfortably, enjoy my work, and have time to do thing I am interested in, such as running, hiking, writing, producing the Blue Pulse Podcast and spending time with friends and family. In order to get to this point, I feel like I have had to practice a lot of self awareness to help me understand what exactly I desire, why I desire what I do, and whether or not those things should be a priority in my life. Adjusting what I considered a comfortable lifestyle and enough money to reach that lifestyle has been difficult, but striving for greater self awareness has helped me realize what expectations for a comfortable lifestyle are unrealistic. In the same way, improving my self awareness has helped me see how much of a roll my own ego plays into my desires to be active and healthy, and my desire to have a good career/title.
For me, self awareness has helped me understand and recognize the barriers to my own happiness, but has not completely solved my internal questions, anxieties, and doubts. However, a quote from Allison Vesterfelt in her book Packing Light, has helped me begin to reach a better place. “Here’s permission to live your life, not dictated by fear of what might happen.” This quote was recently echoed to me in a podcast by Brett Henley. In episode 6 of the Mindful Creator Podcast he sat down with Berni Xiang who spoke about giving ourselves permission to be the person we want to be now.
I can take Vesterfelt’s quote and combine it with Xiang’s idea to create a new mindset for myself. Instead of allowing my self-doubt and fears for the future to take over and shape the decisions I make, I can give myself the freedom to be the person I am now, and also the person I want to be in the future. By sitting down and telling myself that I do not have to live my daily life worrying about what I may have in the future, I can combine permission with self awareness to see that no one is holding me back from applying my talents and abilities. This means that starting right now, I can be the person I want to be in the future.
In Packing Light, Allison Vesterfelt speaks very honestly about feelings towards her friend in the middle of their 50 state road trip. At a point where the trip was beginning to feel long and beginning to wear on the two companions, Vesterfelt writes, “I watched her, and I wanted to be like her. But I hated her for being someone I couldn’t be. And I hated myself for not being who I wanted to be. Such is the paradox of jealousy.”
I love this quote and the ideas that Vesterfelt digs into with this quote. There have been so many times in my life where I have felt overcome with the emotions that accompany jealousy, but I have never been able to sort through and honestly articulate those feelings to myself.
Recently while listening to a podcast called The Mindful Creator, hosted by Brett Henley, a guest on his show named Berni Xiong spoke about giving oneself permission to be the person they want to be. This idea is powerful, and I think an excellent way to overcome the jealousy one feels when they see somebody who has become something they are not. I have this feeling often when I see people who have gotten a job that I did not get, or who studied something in college I did not think to study, or who simply seem to be living a life that I would like. By taking Berni’s advice, I can look inside at who I am, what I desire that another person seems to have, and why I desire that thing. I can sort through it all and analyze what prevents me from attaining that thing, personality trait, or lifestyle, and eventually decide that there is no gatekeeper, and that I can attain what I want. Berni’s advice is to recognize that you are the first person holding you back from what you want, and that you can simply allow yourself to believe that you already have permission to be what you want.
Later on in her novel Allison finds this same conclusion with help from her friend. She opens up and allows herself to tell people that she is a write, her big desire, and new opportunities seem to find her. Recognizing what you want in the life of another person can be a poisonous thing when it drives you into jealousy, however, if you are strong enough and self aware enough to recognize those feelings and understand those desires, you can make a positive change. It requires that you be honest with yourself, and then recognize what you can do to reach your goals, because sometimes the only thing that holds us back is that we have not given ourselves permission to be something different.
During her 50 state road trip, Vesterfelt reflected on the life she was living before the 6 month voyage, the life she had to give up, and the life she hoped for following the trip. As she continued along and had time to think about who she was becoming, and what she wanted from her life, she wrote, “what I really wanted all along, which was to live a life that meant something and lasted longer than me.” In this quote I think that Vesterfelt sums up a fear that I have dealt with since my first day of college. I have never wanted to have a job where I felt stuck or as if my only contributions went towards making the company and myself more money.
I am not sure how to take Vesterfelt’s quote and actualize it into a majestic journey or new opportunities that will open the doors for me to also find a life that is rich in meaning and will make an impact that goes beyond the years that I have on this planet. Vesterfelt overcame these troubles by giving herself permission to be the person she wanted to be, and to tell people who she was (even though in her mind she was not yet the person she wanted to be). This parallel’s the advice in the last episode of the Mindful Creator podcast that I listened to. In episode 6 Brett Henley and his guest talked about allowing yourself to be the person you want to be without waiting for others to give you permission to be that thing. I think that is a great first step to finding meaning in your life, but it needs more direction. The podcast continued to say that once you have given yourself permission to be who you want, you have to show up. To them showing up is the part where you put in the effort, and practice your craft to develop the skills you need to be the person who lives a life of meaning.
I find all of these ideas very inspirational, but the ideas alone do not help overcome the fear of acting or putting in hard work for something that may not provide the rewards you are searching for. I think that with this fear, one must buy in completely to the idea of practice and showing up, but only if one can be honest with themselves and recognize what they truly desire, and the reason/motivation behind their goals and desires.
Self awareness is one of my favorite topics to read and learn about in blogs, books, and podcasts. Reflecting on our emotions and actions can help us better understand why we do the things we do, and it helps us make positive change. In the book Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt, the author writes, “ask yourself who you’re becoming,” as she is reflecting on herself and some of her personal changes during her 50 state road trip. I think that this question is a powerful question to ask yourself. It requires that you have in mind some identity that you want to embody, and then it requires that you take steps to make sure you are headed towards the identity you want.
While I think it is a powerful first step, I believe that some inner digging is needed before one should start asking themselves who they are becoming and if it is the person or identity they want to become. If you don’t know why you want the identity of the person you want to become, you risk becoming something that will feel unsatisfying and be a mask for your insecurities (for example I want to be a runner to stay healthy versus I want to become a runner to win lots of shiny prizes and be admired).
Along your journey it is important to ask if all of your small daily habits and activities are building you into the person you want to be. If you want to be healthy, then take on daily habits to build that identity. If you want to be creative then find small avenues to pursue the creativity that you admire in others. However, along this journey, when you pause to reflect on who you are becoming, dive a little deeper to understand why you want to be that thing, and make sure your reasons are pure, and that you still enjoy and want that identity.
I love this quote by Allison Vesterfelt in her book Packing Light because it aligns so well with many of my own thoughts about the future. I have a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities, but it is impossible for me to predict what the future will be like for me. When I do start to look to the future I become anxious because I create this future where I am living a certain life style and a job that I am always happy with. No matter what, envisioning my future makes me nervous because it sets these expectations form my future, and I am not sure that the future I actually arrive at will look the way I imagine. That brings me to the quote from Vesterfelt, “Don’t try to imagine it, just know it will come.”
When I look at people around me and remind myself that I can work hard, am good at reaching out and meeting people, and can build connections, my confidence grows and I begin to feel like I can reach any goal l want. It is in this space where I know that I will reach a level of success that I desire. I am confident enough to believe that I will be able to achieve a lifestyle that I enjoy, and will be able to live a “happy” life.
However, at times simply having this confidence is not enough. As soon as I have those feelings of confidence, my future visions rush in bringing with them unreasonable expectations and fear. My visions of the future lock me in to a specific set of outcomes, and make me feel limited and like a failure if I do not reach those outcomes. What Vesterfelt’s quote has taught me is that I can have confidence and look forwards to the future without having to micromanage each piece to reach certain outcomes. I can simply enjoy the space where I am confident that my future will bring good things if I continue to be myself. Rather than focusing on a future where I am happy because of things that I have or job titles I have reached, I can focus on the skills I am developing now, and the small steps that I can take each day that I know will help build the life I want in the future. After that the next step is just getting out of my own way, and allowing the opportunities to come without trying to force my life in a specific direction.
A constant tension in my life is summed up by Allison Vesterfelt in her book Packing Light, “As scared as I was of chaos and the unknown, I was equally scared of the mundane and predictable.” Since about half way through college, I have had serious fears when looking into my future. One of the principal fears is the fear of boredom. I do not want to live a life with a routine that does not excite me. I have always been afraid of being stuck in front of the television each night watching sitcoms or sports. I am afraid of doing the same thing every day. Afraid of not exploring the world, and missing the chance to truly live. At the same time that I find myself wrapped up in fears of not having a life that I enjoyed, I want nothing more than to be comfortable in a predictable world with a nice house, a nice job, a nice salary, and no stress.
In college I was not sure what I needed to do to find a way to live a life that fell in them middle of my two fears. As a sophomore I was active with coaching cross country and some basketball, and I was getting great grades in school, but I was not a complete person, and I was not sure what direction I wanted my life to move in. I began to question my desires, and worry about the importance of material things, especially if I did not have real relationships and fun people to share my imagined success with. I eventually began to take more chances and I got involved with clubs and organizations. I started as a member of the Spanish Club and eventually grew to start my own podcast where I interviewed student leaders to highlight the cool things that students at the University of Nevada did beyond the classroom. This taught me about how important it was to take chances and put yourself in situations that are new and scary. All of the guests of my podcast found a way to go beyond the comfortable success they wanted in college to do things that were difficult, not always clear, and so often rich with relationships and new connections.
As I have moved forwards in life, graduating from college and entering the world of the 40 hour work week, I am still working on understanding how to live a life that balances the chaos of the unknown with the mundane and familiar. I have turned to podcasts to help me explore new areas, and have put myself in positions that will provide me with opportunities to explore. The real lesson that I have learned is that it is ok to allow myself to build a safe place and a home that can be predictable, so that when I do begin to branch out and explore, there is a safe place I can return to, allowing the world to slow down around me.