I Changed My Life Plan Again.

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via The Odyssey Online 

Last night before bed I found both of my parents grabbing a snack in the kitchen. I cleared my throat.

“There is something I need to tell you guys…”

I paused, a little nervous.

“I replanned my life over the weekend…what else is new?”

My parents chuckled. They are fully aware of my peculiar penchant for rehauling life goals on a regular basis.

“It has been about two weeks since the last time I replanned my life, so I was way overdue…”.

I hope all of you, dear readers, can be as patient as my parents. I do change my life direction too often, but I’m in the stage of life where I believe it is important to be extremely intentional with what I pursue.

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via The Dream Catch

I want a project that I can give myself to pursue vigorously. Guys, I am addicted to living off of caffeine and a packed schedule. Busyness keeps me happy, but only if I am pursuing something that matters to me.

I don’t want to just run hard. I want to run hard in the right direction.

Over the weekend I was in Knoxville, Tennessee for a church mini-conference. My sisters and I had a lot of driving time to chitchat. They were concerned about my motivations for pursuing real estate.

And they were right. Some things I’ve been through have made me overly desperate to become financially independent as soon as possible. But money doesn’t drive a happy life.

So I decided to take another look at my state of affairs, goals, dreams, and potential direction. This time without the pressing need to make a quick buck.

Two realizations and one remembrance later, I’ve got a whole new life planned:

First, I realized that I am not done being a student. While in Wales, I was thriving academically. I had relationships with my professors built on mutual respect. I had a group of peers I could geek out with. I loved it all so much. Of course, I could always go back to college later or get a degree online, but I don’t think that would fulfill my desire to fully live-out the student experience as a young, unattached woman free to explore the world with my peers.

Second, I also realized that attending university at the local college or community college is financially feasible if I work hard. Between in-state tuition, a couple of jobs, and scholarships, I could work out a way to continue my education debt-free (something that is extremely important to me).

And then I remembered what I really want to do.

I want to become a middle school teacher. 

Now before you start to think that I am really crazy and completely indecisive, let me ensure you that this didn’t just come out of the blue. Teaching has always been a goal of mine. I had originally planned my life to look like this:

  1. University in Wales
  2. Work as a Foreign Service Officer and travel the world
  3. Settle down to become a teacher
  4. Retire and become a real estate agent

In this way, I planned on fitting four of my main career goals into one lifetime. Dropping out of college kinda whacked up my plan, so I turned it upside down. I figured I could become a real estate agent immediately and use that business to fund my education.

Now it seems to make more sense to finish my education now, while I am young and ready to be on campus. Neither real estate nor FSO work requires a special degree, so once I have my teacher qualifications I could still switch gears and spend some time working abroad.

For now, I am ready to throw myself at becoming the best middle school teacher I can possibly be.

I know, I know, I’ve said this before. This time it is for real, if you can believe me. I really think I found a direction I can live with for a long time.

Wish me luck ❤

Oh My Goodness! There Is Such a Thing as Reading Too Much!

 

 

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Sometimes my sister and I have life-changing conversations at the kitchen table whilst our lunch digests. A couple days ago we had one such conversation.

Mariah and I were discussing the benefits of reading. I love stories, in almost any form. I  believe that the stories I read, watched and heard as a child played a huge role in the development of my own personal code of ethics and moral compass.

The stories we ingest become a part of who we are. 

So read, read, read, right? Reading offers seemingly limitless benefits, I mean studies have shown that reading reduces stress, increases brain connectivity and function, improves empathy, and much more.

Yet as my sister and I were talking, I began to grapple with a problem I’ve been stewing over in the back of my head for a while now.

Is it possible to overeat good stories?

There have been periods in my life wherein I feel stuck in a fictional world, vicariously living through the characters I meet in books. My motivation for pursuing life goals falls, as I become content to escape to an alternate reality.

I don’t want stories to provide a life-long cubby to hide in. I want stories to inspire me to do things in real life.

What happens if children or adults become content to give up the real world to live inside the fiction that they read? Is it possible that reading too much could diminish creative output?

“Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.”

-Albert Einstein 

The goal of reading is not to escape the real world, it is to gain knowledge which is eventually processed and results in action and a fulfilled life. If you only ever consume, without reflecting and producing, reading loses value:

 

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We must at times take breaks from consuming knowledge to internalise what we’ve learned, sythnesize through reflection, and ultimately produce something completely original.

 

With that in mind, I began to reflect on my own reading habits. I noticed that during low periods of productivity (due to personal tragedy or other circumstances) my time spent reading  rises. However, when I am super busy pursuing life goals (like when I was living abroad) I spend far less time reading.

I used to feel guilty for not reading enough while I was living abroad. Now, however, I believe it is all part of the natural cycle of creative input versus output. If I had spent my days abroad locked up in my room reading books, I would have missed out on chances to develop relationships and pursue projects. However, all the time I spent locked in my room reading during my gap year at home helped to inform and inspire me to pursue studying abroad and helped me to make the most of my experience.

 

 

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Perhaps the ebbs and flows in my time spent reading are the result of a natural cycle of productivity. Reading more in hard times inspires me to push through and informs creativity later on. However, I don’t need to feel guilty for taking breaks from vigorous reading during busier periods of life. 

(Mind you, even in the high-productivity/low-reading times I try not to give up on reading completely. I usually spend a minimum of 15-30 minutes a day reading long-form articles, like The Economist, New Yorker, Washington Post etc… and 20 minutes to an hour of reading a random library book. )

I’m pretty sure that most people experience peaks and valleys in their life. Nobody is 100% productive all the time. When you are feeling low or have a slower period of life, immerse yourself in books. This ingestion of knowledge will fuel your periods of higher activity when you don’t have the time to read quite as much.

So there you have it, some evolving thoughts I’ve had on reading and productivity. What do you think? Do people who read too much experience problems with socialization and/or creativity? Am I totally off-base here? Do your reading habits go through cycles or remain fairly constant?

How Do You Fall Asleep?

You know that moment when you realize that something you’ve done your entire life isn’t as “normal” as you thought?

For example, this morning my sisters and I were discussing various sleep woes. One sister mentioned that she had a bad habit of staying on her phone til she was dead-tired. Another sister said that she plans her next day as she falls into dreamland.

Wait, you guys don’t tell yourselves stories? I thought everyone did that! 

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Since I was about 6 years old, I always had a story to work out in my head as I lay my head on the pillow. As soon as the light turns out, no matter where I am, be it in an airplane, couch, or my own cozy bed, I begin to plot some imagined scene. I usually fall asleep before the scene ends.

Because I fall asleep quickly, I often spend months reimagining the same scene each night, with only slight variations. If I finish a story or get bored of it, I start something new.

The stories I fall sleep to don’t often make it into my daytime writing. I like to keep them in my head because that way they remain an alternate world I can fall into every night. Everything in that universe is completely within my control.

I think it started when my older brother told me he could control his dreams. I had a lot of nightmares as a kid, so I was pretty keen to learn my brother’s trick. I started planning the dreams I wanted to have before I fell asleep, hoping it would change my actual dreams. It didn’t, but the habit stuck.

So basically, you tell yourself bedtime stories? 

Yeah, pretty much.

It isn’t as productive as planning the next day’s activities, but it is a relaxing way to decompress. It saves me from cringing at the mistakes of my day or dreading the tasks of the morrow.

Now I am curious, how do you fall asleep? What do you think about in the moments before The Sandman takes you? 

 

What’s Better Than Jury Duty?

A couple days after I arrived home I got a letter calling me up for jury duty. Lotsa folks gave me advice on how to avoid getting picked for a trial:

“Just tell them your uncle is a police officer.” 

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Is it weird that I wanted to get on the jury? In fact, I looked forward to it for weeks. I know I’d most likely be assigned to a parking dispute or something equally inconsequential. Still, I’ve always been interested in law and debate. And I’ve  watched way too many crime procedurals to not have a teeny tiny hope for an unrealistically intriguing story. TV drama expectations aside, I genuinely enjoy trying new things, even if they are liable to maddeningly boring .

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So the night before jury duty I was pretty disappointed when I found out that I had been excused.

Excused! I never asked to be excused! What if I had gotten into a trial, fallen in love with the court room, met an incredibly competent lawyer who inspired me to pursue a law degree, spent 10 years studying law while working, and eventually became a world-famous women’s rights lawyer, spending the rest of my life fighting for the voiceless! 

Stupid jury excusement means that there isn’t even the tiniest chance for all that to happen. I was bummed.

The next day my big sister took me on a coffee date (which actually consisted of her driving me 30 minutes to my favorite coffee shop in silence, buying me a large black coffee, and then patiently waiting for caffeine magic to turn me into a functioning human so that we could chit chat a bit. Did I mention that my sister is very patient?).

While we were at the shop a bubbly real estate broker sat down next to us with a young couple. She was answering their questions about buying their first home.

I managed to maintain a conversation of niceties with my sister while low-key listening in on the real estate conversation.

Aggh! It was so perfect. My dream is to work as a buyers broker, helping young  families find their perfect first home. I want to demystify the home buying process, empowering millennial couples to get the best deal and start their lives together on the right foot.

See, even real estate, something normally associated with investors, red tape, and $$$ can be romantic if you put the right spin on it.

I am thankful that the Lord placed that couple next to me. You see, I am a bit easily distracted when it comes to pursuing dreams. I’ve got a lot of energy, but sometimes it is hard for me to throw myself fully into pursuing one thing full-time. How do people let opportunities pass their peripheral vision without turning to look? I need 19th-century horse blinders.

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Here’s a powerful graphic from my favorite productivity book, Essentialism. It pretty fairly depicts the way I spend my energy versus the way I want to spend my energy:

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My licensure course starts on the 20th. So it’s  a good thing that I was inspired to start studying, rather than sidelined by a potentially life-changing trip to jury duty.

All things work out for good.

A Little Perspective

I’ve driven across the country 21 times now; every time I am astounded again by the artistry and diversity of the landscape. From the majestic mountains of the Mojave desert and the sunsets of West Texas to the rolling hills of California, there is much to soak in and thank God for.

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On this trip, the drive through the desert (always my favorite part) was extra special. Due to some unusual rainfall in the area, the hills and mountains were covered in grass so green I found myself wondering if it was real.

The brown hills of the I-5 had been completely transformed from this:

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via Les Schwab 

To this:

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via Pinterest

I dared not try to capture the scenery with my mediocre iPhone photography. Even pro photos don’t do it justice.

Imagine! Lying just beneath the surface of the desert dryness are seeds, ever ready. With just a little bit of rainfall, the entire landscape is transformed (into something I imagine heaven to look like).

I wonder if you could turn that into a metaphor for the dry spells of our lives?

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it…

Isaiah 35:1-2a. 

Another highlight of the trip was taking my niece and nephew up to my favorite lil spot on planet earth, Muir Woods National Monument.

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Once again, I didn’t try to take photos. The trees are just too big, too majestic. If you have never been to a redwood or sequoia forest, put it on your bucket list right now. Muir Woods offers a short 1.5 mile walk that I personally believe every human should experience at least once in their life.

The best part was that my nephew seemed to enjoy it as much as me. As I walked him through the forest, he bounced his legs and arms and gurgled almost constantly.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. 

-John Muir 

 

Update: No Surprise, Still Stuck In Texas

Our truck broke down yesterday,  which means that we are still stuck in Texas.

Don’t worry, it’s all in accordance with family tradition. My family can’t drive through Texas without some variety of minor catastrophe. And as far as catastrophes go, this one was manageable.

The moving truck ran out of diesel faster than expected (due to the harsh West Texas winds) and refused to restart after mom and I brought extra fuel from a nearby town. So it was, we were stuck in the middle of nowhere.

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literally the middle of nowhere

As we waited for a repairman to come take a look, we decided to have an ice cream picnic.

Ice cream ended up being dinner, but shhh, don’t tell anyone cause that’s naughty (and also my favorite kind of dinner).

Note: I am kinda a lil bit overtly obsessed with ice cream. Have you ever tried Bluebell? Apparently, it is made only in Texas. It might be my favorite ever (don’t tell Joe’s Ice Cream in Wales). What’s your favorite brand? 

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As if ice cream amongst the cacti wasn’t good enough, as we waited *hours* for the repairman, the sun began to set.

You can complain about the flat barrenness of the West Texas landscape, but the lack of hills, trees, and everything else makes the sky that much more dramatic. Rather than sit on top of the land, the sky encompasses you, as if you were in a dome theater or planetarium.

Sunsets and sunrises around here are like Disneyland quality light shows.

(Fun fact: When I was a wee middle-schooler, my obsession with the Texas Sky inspiredme to write a  romantic short story that ended up getting published by TeenInk… that’s embarrassing. You can check it out here if you are interested) 

 

 

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We didn’t get out of Texas yesterday, but I did get to wake up and witness another incredible South West sunrise this morning.

Here’s to hoping we can make it across the border today without any more surprises.

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Thoughts From Deep in The Heart of Texas

Ah, love a good road trip.

This has been no exception.

I earned my driver’s license two days before the trip started and have found that I really love driving. Which is surprising, considering that one time I turned down a police officer who asked me to drive illegally before I had a license… but that’s a story for another day.

Today we found Texas. My little sister couldn’t believe that we entered Texas on day two.

“Isn’t Texas like halfway?!?” she exclaimed. 

“Yup, Texas is 1/4 of the way there, 1/2 of the way there and 3/4ths of the way there, so hang on”. 

Course, sis and I have already had our share of adventures. From impromptu guitar busking in Georgia…

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…to singing parking lot duets at the top of our lungs in Alabama.

And then there are the lazy periods in between rest area jump rope breaks.

I’ve been studying real estate to prepare for my February class (so excited to jump head-long into a new career!) and my mom and I are listening to a lecture series on Winston Churchill.

In between the learning, singing, and driving, there is still too much time to think. The lull of the car on bumpy roads against a backdrop of fastly changing scenery offers a perfect environment for reflection.

A Path Appears

Within the vast hazy nothingness of my future, a few cloudy something-or-anothers are forming.  In other words, I still don’t have a 5-year plan (shocker!). I have a one week plan. 
 
This coming Friday my parents and lil sis will be driving across the United States. We’ll be helping my brother drive his moving truck across. 
 
I’ve ridden across The States 20 times, but this is going to be the best trip yet. 
 
*You know you’ve road tripped one too many times when gas stations in Illinois and rest stops in the heart of Texas seem vaguely familiar
It is the perfect time for roadtrip number 21. There is nothing like traversing the great plains of the United States with books, family, and long periods of music-listening nothingness.
 
This Friday we will start the 5 day journey. I’m hoping to blog regularly throughout the trip. So watch out for a whole lotta crazy sister-to-sister singing, caffinated tirades,  and, most likely, a good bit of soul searching
P.S. Yes, the title of this blogpost  is a reference to a great book I read last year about living a life that matters. 

I Dropped Out Of College… Now What?

Most of you know that an unexpected turn of events led me to end my European adventure a year and a half early.

Curious? I’d love to tell you the whole story. But at the end of the day this is the internet, not my diary.

I dreamed about going to college loads as a kid. I dreamed about what it would feel like to graduate. This was not part of high-school-Susanna’s Comprehensive Plan For Life.

I had plans for if I got accepted or rejected to such-and-such school. I had plans for if I won such-and-such scholarship.

Although life is wrought with uncertainty, I figured there wasn’t much a great plan couldn’t account for.

The apocalypse could’ve come and I’d still have found my way to college. Yet, for all that time spent planning, I never thought to make a plan that involved dropping out of college.

I’m back with my parents and siblings and home from the scary stuff. Yet the reality is that I’m farther into uncharted territory than I’ve ever been in my life.

You can be sure my journal is chalk full of lists, charts, schedules and other ways of trying to figure this all out. Still, I’m willing to admit, for the first time in a long time, that…

I have no idea what my life is going to look like.

I’ve strayed too far from the formula to ever fit back into the life I expected of myself.

(High school + college + bible school + marriage… you know the one?)

 

I’m excited.

An Unexpected Goodbye

Dearest MissAdventure Readers,

At the end of 2016 I found myself facing some pretty tough decisions.

As you know, I was scheduled to spend Christmas Recess in Germany. I did get to Stuttgart for a week and had a lovely time. However, less than halfway into my time there I ended up traveling home to the US unexpectedly. Now it looks like I will be staying here in The States indefinitely.

Yes, that means I am dropping out of university. And yes, in a sense it means that my adventure in Wales is over for good.

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I loved everything about living and studying in Wales. I am going to miss my British friends and professors dearly. I learned much from studying in another country, and even more from just living there.

I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I had to live abroad for a year and a half. I consider my time in Wales to be one of the most glorious chapters in my life thus far. It ended sooner than I expected, but that does not in any way detract from what it was while it lasted.

I am still unclear where life will take me in the coming months. I know this much:

I may be helping my brother’s family move across the country (road trip anyone?).

I will be spending lots of time with my younger siblings, homeschooling them and making up for the time lost while abroad.

I have a few serious writing projects to pursue.

I’ve got an epic reading list to devour.

I may attend the local community college and/or take online MOOC classes.

I will probably pursue my life-long dream of becoming a real-estate broker.

So you can see, there are a whole lot of uncertainties. Thus, this blog will have to evolve quite a bit. I understand that if you started following me because you were curious about studying abroad, our journey together may be coming to an end. That’s fine! Thanks for joining me!

However, if you’ve enjoyed following the mishaps and stupid mistakes that make up my life, I welcome you to stay on for the ride.

I don’t know where I am going. I cannot promise international travel; in fact, I don’t expect any. Still, I’ve got a feeling that there are a lot more exciting turns of a new kind on the horizon. I am ready to embrace them as they come. And I am sure that the adventure is only beginning.

Sincerely,

Susanna

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