A few weeks ago, I wrote about a nagging voice in my head that kept telling me to go back to doing normal for a while, and how trying to understand where that voice was coming from made me realise that I have two conflicting goals. I want to figure out how to make money as a writer, and I believe the best way to do so is to keep living the vanlife to make sure I have the time and inspiration needed. But at the same time, I really want to invest more time and energy into building and strengthening relationships, and I feel like I need to stay in one place, at least for a while, to make that happen. Read the post here.
Ever since I got to the point where I fully understood that the uncertainty and unexpected desire to ‘do normal’ that I’ve been feeling is a result of these two conflicting goals, I’ve felt like I had to pick one or the other. Somehow, I had this idea in my head that I need to decide right now what I want to make my priority this year.
I felt like I had to make a plan for 2019 right now - and then stick with it.
I thought I had to pick one or the other. But the more I thought about it, and the more I talked about it with close friends, the more I realised that, once again, I’ve been too black and white.
After hearing about my ‘dilemma’, a good friend asked me a simple question: “Why do you need to decide right now what your priority for the rest of the year is?” It was a simple question, but I couldn’t answer it. Because, the truth is, I don’t need to decide right now. I don’t need to know right now what I will focus on for the rest of the year. I can simply do one thing as long as it feels right and if it no longer does, change something. That is one of the best things about living life the way I do. I’m completely independent and flexible. I can do whatever I want (with some limitations), and I can change my mind as often as I want.
So that was the first turning point for me. I decided that I don’t have to decide right now.
For now, I want to enjoy the rest of New Zealand summer, I want to keep travelling, and I want to keep working on my dream to make a living as a writer. So that’s what I’m gonna do. And if I feel differently about it all in a few weeks or months, then I change direction.
The second breakthrough came to me while I was working. I work with a lot of young startup businesses. By nature, startups tend to be ambitious but resource-poor. They usually have about 10 times as many ideas and opportunities as they have time and resources to pursue. But most startup entrepreneurs find it very hard to say no to opportunities and often want to do it all. I don’t know how many times I’ve had conversations with entrepreneurs, trying to convince them to focus on one or two opportunities instead of chasing them all. What I usually tell them is that they should think about it not in terms of what they will and won’t do, but in terms of what they will do first and second. I’ve learnt that entrepreneurs respond better to me telling them they should pick an opportunity to start with and do everything else later, than me telling them they have to choose only one and forget everything else.
As I was having another one of those conversations with a startup team recently, I had a little light bulb moment and thought to myself that maybe I should listen to my own advice more. Maybe, instead of looking at my two goals as contradictions and as having to pick one over the other, I should focus on figuring out which one to chase first and which one comes second.
And the moment I figure all this out, I also knew right away which one would come first: I’m gonna keep chasing my dream to be a writer a bit longer. To be honest, I think in my heart I always knew I wasn’t ready to give up on that goal yet. But I guess my head needed a bit longer to catch up and rationalise it all.
The rationale behind it is pretty simple; I’ve worked hard to get this far. I’m making progress (even if it’s slow) and I just know I would always regret it if I walk away now. And it makes sense to start with this goal, because, if I settle down now and focus on strengthening existing relationships and building new ones, I might never get the chance to be this free and independent ever again. I might never get the chance again to simply go off on my own and do whatever I want without having to worry about how it impacts other people. I might never be able to sacrifice income to have time to write, the way that I can right now.
And on the other hand, if I can figure out how to make money as a writer, I can then do that from anywhere. If I get there and still feel like I want to settle down for a while and invest time and energy into relationships, I can do that while being a writer.
So that’s what I’m gonna do.
I’m gonna keep living the vanlife - not that I was ever really serious about giving it up :-) . I’m gonna keep chasing freedom and adventure. I’m gonna give myself the time it takes to find inspiration and to write, and I’m gonna invest energy into promoting and selling my writing (which is the hard part, by the way).
But I’m also gonna remind myself that I can change direction anytime I want to.
And most importantly, I’m always, always, gonna appreciate and be grateful for the fact that I have these choices. That I have the freedom and opportunity to live life in whatever way I want. Not everyone does!