The past few years, I've had an extreme case of wanderlust, or so it seems. When I think about it, I've lived in the same place for nearly a decade and a half, aside from a brief stint in Columbia, Missouri for college. The sense of mystery and excitement has worn out. I'm ready to move on to a new place and make new friends.
I feel exactly like I did over six years ago when I got my acceptance letter for Mizzou. I wanted nothing more than to just leave my suburban Maryland home and travel to the middle-of-nowhere Midwestern Missouri, which turned out to have more of an urban mentality than I had originally thought. It might seem strange that a girl from the DC Metro area, with easy access to almost anything, anytime, without even having to use a car, would want to go to Missouri. In fact, when I told my high school friends where I was going to college, most of them asked why Missouri or said, "You mean Huck Finn Missouri?"
Given my history of moves, I suppose my mentality makes sense. I was born in Winona, MN. Shortly after, I moved to Wisconsin, where my brother was born. Then, not long after that, we moved to Portland, OR for all of maybe three months. Then to Florida for less than five months. By the time we moved in with my dad on the beautiful island of St. John in the Virgin Islands in February 2000, I was five years old. Two years after arriving in St. John, we moved to another house on the small island. A year and a half later, at the age of nine, I was carted off to Rockville, Maryland without much warning. And finally, two years later, we moved into another house a mile away, the house we've now called home for nearly 13 years. I was 11.
But spending these many years in one house took its toll. It seemed like a good idea to settle down, but honestly, moving didn't bother me too much. I was sad to leave the Virgin Islands to be sure, because my best friends were there. But otherwise, even the short move in Maryland was pretty manageable. Granted, I was probably too young to really understand how stressful and annoying moving could be. But as the years dragged on, I found myself getting more and more restless.
I needed excitement. Breaking the rules didn't excite me. In fact, breaking the rules scared me. It didn't make me feel wild or free or independent. Yes, I did things like sneak out of the house late at night. Honestly, I hated it. What did excite me, though, was doing something new and going somewhere new, whether that meant breaking the rules or not.
So I did things like go to DC with some friends all day. I did things like take on the Philly Cheesesteak Challenge. I did things like run around the nearby creek, exploring every crevice not covered in poison ivy or spider webs with my two dogs off-leash, having the time of their lives. I did things like set leaves on fire in a plastic tupperware dish floating in a stream for science. I went back to my old neighborhood and explored places I once used to love, trees I used to climb, hollowed spaces I used to store things, and parks I used to play in. I did things like sleepover with a friend at her place when no parents were around, run outside at midnight as it snowed, randomly bump into a drunk friend, follow him on his adventures to the nearby park and beyond, all the while laughing at (and with) him, and then stumble into bed at 5 a.m. completely satisfied with life. Those times were the best.
Then, when I finally packed up my stuff and moved to Missouri for college, I learned to love the feeling of independence. I loved making my own plans and not having to be accountable to anyone except myself. I loved late night escapades. I loved skipping class and then acing the exam. I loved going to class, working my butt off, and then acing the exam. I loved my new friends. Pretty soon, I loved my new boyfriend. Life was pretty much perfect freshman year. It was everything I'd ever dreamed about: The spontaneous burst of life and happiness that I'd been craving ever since, well, middle school. Maryland was a distant dream, a memory I was fond of but preferred to keep as a memory rather than reality. Missouri was my new home.
Sophomore year started off fine. I was ecstatic to return to my independent, friend-filled life at Mizzou. But something happened along the way. My attitude changed. Suddenly, I was scared of everything. I wanted to stay, yet I wanted to get out. I didn't want to go home, I just wanted to go. I was insanely restless, bogged down by the routine that was class-work-boyfriend-friends.
For a while, I thought it was a culmination of all of the bad things happening that year that caused my mood to go sour and my confidence to drop. I chalked it up to a bad year. 2015 would be better, I thought. Anything was better than 2014.
And you know what's funny? I seriously thought that New Year's Day would be the catalyst to a better year. That the flip of a digit from '4' to '5' was going to solve all of my problems.
I quickly discovered that my "bad year" wasn't really that bad after all. What made it seem so bad? My attitude was so optimistic and peppy freshman year that nothing could ever really get me down. But around the middle of sophomore year, my attitude started becoming more nasty. I didn't find excitement in everything. I didn't want to stay up late, except for the occasional party or when I forced myself to stay up late with my boyfriend or friends. I wasn't as excited about my classes. Learning was becoming a dull chore. I wasn't making a ton of new friends.
Simply put, I was stuck in place. I had run into that wall. I was at the border of town, itching to take that step out and dash off, leaving Columbia behind just like I did Maryland. And I'm still stuck. Now, I'm back in Maryland, and I'm still stuck. I'm still at the border, hesitating, gazing longingly at the horizon, thinking, "One day..."
Because I'm going to be honest: I want nothing more than to just leave and start over in another city far away.
It's not school that's scaring me away. It's the fear of routine, of a boring existence doing the same thing day in and day out. It's an irrational fear, nearly worse than my fear of spiders. I can't imagine my life being a constant routine, day in and day out. I would let a thousand spiders crawl all over me if it meant I could avoid it for good. And this fear makes me cranky. It makes me cranky and crabby and anxious and scared. It makes me check out of reality and dream about other places.
I can feel it. My adventure here is done. I'm ready to move on.
The thing is, it's not just a case of wanderlust. Wanderlust is associated with traveling. No, I don't feel a constant need to travel, although the idea does sound appealing as a sort of "maybe one day," back-of-your-mind thought. What I need is adventure.
The thing about being an adventurer is this: You don't need to constantly travel to exotic places to find adventure. You find your own adventure wherever you are, and then when that wears thin, you move on to the next place - or even better, create your own adventure.
But having a fresh start in a new place never hurts to spur that energy, curiosity and mischief that creates adventure.
And if you relate to any of the following things, you might be just like me - an adventurous spirit with serious wanderlust:
- You love spontaneity.
- Plans? What plans? The only plans you make are for that day. And when you do make plans in advance, you usually cancel them or tweak them to fit your desires for that day.
- At the same time, you love to create in-depth plans for adventures you're going to take. Even though you'll end up throwing half of it out anyway.
- You have an irrational fear of routines. They're a drag, they're scary, and you do everything to avoid them.
- You want to live somewhere you've never been before.
- Actually, you want to live in several different places. Why not try all of them?
- Whatever you decide to do for a living, it can't tie you down to one place, or at least it can't tie you down to a single desk.
- You have a fear of long-term commitment - to plans, to people, to things. Unless those plans or people allow you to be on the move.
- You find yourself being a couch potato when you're stuck and you don't know how to get out. Because being a couch potato allows you to dream about all the things you could be doing.
- Your feelings change so quickly; one day, you could be committed to moving to a big city, and the next, you could decide your greatest wish in life is to own a farm.
Let me tell you this, though: No matter how outlandish or socially unacceptable you think your wishes are, never stop trying to make them become a reality. Heck, I even considered being a ski bum for a while there. But if I had stuck with that, and if I still wanted to do that now, I would do it in a heartbeat. Us adventurers love to do crazy things that other people might not even consider doing.
You do you.