This is not a travelogue. Not yet, anyway. Hopefully it never will be. I have a site for that. I have an outlet for the things my wife and I see and do abroad. If I’m talking about sightseeing in the stories following this one, I’ve lost my way. The other site, Culture Curious promises to be a busy, rewarding little hobby in the coming years, but I doubt it will ever be much more than that. After all, the next year will see me redefine every little assumption I’ve made about my life to this point: why I work, where I live, what I do with my time, and how I survive day to day, both physically and mentally. I’m going to be pretty busy. I’m basically starting over. And yeah, it is a little scary.
I have worked a typical corporate job for nearly a decade now. I am fairly treated and fairly compensated for my work. The problem (though I may complain otherwise on Friday afternoons) is that civil engineering, as interesting as it is, is not something I want to be doing for the rest of my life. After all, I chose the field of engineering fifteen years ago. And wait, before you tell me how old you are and how long you’ve been doing whatever, please remember that a lot of us didn’t quite know who we were or what we really wanted when we entered college at the age of eighteen. Did I say a lot? I mean most. I sure didn’t. I simply chose a field of study that interested me, that seemed important to the world, it seemed like I could do for the rest of my life. And I chose it because engineering required many of the things I was good at: math, spatial reasoning, problem solving, etc. It turns out though that it wasn’t my math teacher who was right about my potential but my English teacher. It turns out that what really gets me going isn’t engineering, but writing.
There is no way I would have known that fifteen years ago. There is no way I would have had the maturity and confidence to even recognize what I wanted. In college the most successful students do what they are expected to do, not necessarily by family or faculty, but they do what they expect of themselves. The partiers enter college expecting a party. The studiers expect tests. The curious expect to learn. They all get what they come for at a variety of prices. I expected to learn. I paid for it. And I learned. I really liked structural research and I really liked lab work. I almost made a career out of it. But I didn’t. I took a surer, better-defined path because I didn’t have the self-confidence to even reflect for a second and figure out what was going to be good for me. I was so busy being successful I didn’t stop to think why I wanted to succeed. Ah, we are such messes in life, yet we dare call ourselves “adults.”
My point is that thirty-three year old Jeremy is today living a life shaped by the decisions of eighteen-year-old Jeremy. These are two very different Jeremys (Jeremies?). Eighteen-year-old Jeremy was often alone, mostly by his own choice, looking out at the whole world, which seemed just scary enough that one ought to have a solid plan for facing it. Thirty-three-year-old Jeremy realizes the world is way scarier than he ever imagined, but he also realizes that the only antidote for this crippling fear is facing it. The answer certainly isn’t in surrounding yourself with things that make you feel secure: I tried that. These things just lie, they provide only enough security to let the fear in without you noticing. And living in fear might have been tenable for Jeremy, but he wasn’t happy. The more mature Jeremy wants to actually be happy, wants to live, not to be afraid. Because the more mature Jeremy realizes that fear hides amazing things. Behind fear lay everything new, everything different, everything actually worth surviving day to day for. Overcoming fear (all while maintaining a healthy respect for it, think of conquering heights here) is powerful for the curious. The curious live for different worlds and different perspectives.
So I have discovered in the last fifteen years that I am curious. That I like exploring different worlds and different perspectives. That I like writing about them. That’s the plan for this tag collection on this blog. I’m using the tag“A Life Abroad”, partially because in about a year I will be literally living and traveling abroad for an undetermined length of time. But I also use “A Life Abroad” because that describes the life I want to explore and the life I want to bring to my writing. These are the lives I want to read about. I truly believe that we are never more observant and grateful than when we are somewhere new, and I think that whatever happens to us in the future, abroad in the uncharted wilds of life for the first time, we should be observant, and above all, we should be grateful.