I was born and raised in the Midwest—Kansas City, Missouri to be exact—and I grew up thinking that life revolved around a plan. You know, the one that says we should go to a 4-year university, graduate, get a job, get married and then have kids. Although this plan was ingrained in my head, I was always searching for something else, as if what I wanted wouldn’t be found in Kansas City. Something was missing and I didn’t know what it was.
At the time, I felt as if my only option was to enroll in a state University because it was a necessary stepping-stone to start forging my career path and was all part of “the plan”.
Except my path wasn’t being paved as smoothly as I expected and I soon realized that I didn’t like my major, the school or the city I was in. But it was something more than that. I tried transferring and picking a new major but it didn’t seem to make a difference.
Life just seemed to be on cruise control.
I eventually lost motivation because I didn’t want to work towards a degree that would stick me in an office all day. My biggest fear was that I would wake up one day and realize that life had passed me by and that the only thing I would have to show for myself was a shiny degree and a mediocre job that I couldn't care less about maintaining.
I felt like I had exhausted all of my options. I bounced around from job to job selling clothes at boutiques or waitressing at restaurants while taking classes during the day. I felt completely lost because I just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere.
I spent a lot of time getting lost in the lives of characters in books because I could live vicariously through their adventures. I found the stories exciting, emotional and thrilling. But the more I read, the more I longed to have my own adventure.
So when one of my best friends called and suggested I come stay with her for the summer in Florida, I nearly ran off campus that very moment. When I finished the semester, I packed my car to the ceiling with whatever it would hold--praying that it wouldn't collapse from the weight--and drove the 1,500 miles to my new home. I had no idea what the future held; I just knew that I wasn't going to be part of the status quo.
Before the summer had ended, I decided to sign with a modeling agency in Miami, partly as an excuse to not go back to the Midwest but also because it was something I had always wanted to try. I dropped out of school, got an apartment and moved to a completely unknown city where I didn’t know a soul.
It was liberating. It was terrifying. And it was a new beginning.
Miami was an entirely different world from what I knew. It was a vibrant city, brimming with culture. I was introduced to people from different countries, eating foods I had never even heard of before and I was even trying to learn Spanglish, the official language of South Florida (Ok, maybe unofficial language but I’m a little concerned that my autocorrect did not highlight that word just now).
What I found was that people were like-minded. They were cultured and well traveled. I had never seen people or places so interesting and I was enthralled by it all. Being exposed to so many different cultures in Miami opened my eyes to the rest of the world. I wanted to see how other people lived and the beauty of other countries. It ignited my sense of wonder and I couldn't wait to take off on new adventures.
I wanted to see the world.
I looked for jobs that were flexible enough for me to travel or that required me to travel. I was able to explore the mountains of Peru, go on vacation with friends in the Bahamas and work on a travel program in several Caribbean islands.
I began jotting down my experiences and eventually discovered my love of writing. After a few years, I decided to return to school. This time around was entirely different because it was on my own terms. I wasn't just fulfilling a requirement; I wanted to improve my writing. In December 2013, I had finally graduated!
I left Miami shortly after to continue my adventure and wound up teaching English in China. Afterwards, I backpacked through SE Asia on my first major solo trip before heading back to the USA.
I’ve knocked some amazing things off my bucket list and it’s only the beginning!
I've been to places I never thought I would go and had experiences I didn't know were possible. It hasn't always been easy but none of it would have happened if I didn't take the risk of paving my own path. So don't be afraid to go somewhere you have never been, to try something new or to make yourself uncomfortable, because that's when life begins.