A matter of perspective…

Poas Volcano, lower crater

So Jerry and I are part of a vacation and travel club.  We were recently able to plan a major trip, and decided on Costa Rica because:

  1. We’ve never been there before
  2. There will be swimming, warm beaches and sun involved, in the middle of a Midwestern winter
  3. The trip description was so darned cool – I mean, seriously touring a volcano, included in the trip price!   How fantastic is that?
  4. We can afford it, even though the plane tickets are literally twice the cost of the vacation.
  5. Swimming.  Sun.
  6. Jerry’s aching to go fishing.
  7. Did I mention the swimming and warm, sunny beaches?

This was not a spur of the moment decision (although that would be super cool, too!).  Several circumstances all came together to make this doable for us – time, money, the trip opening, rewards points to use within our club – but since we had been talking about doing something like this, when the opportunity came we were poised and ready.

Costa Rican sunriseOnce we had our adventure arranged, we started telling our family and friends about our upcoming trip, and I kept hearing a phrase that puzzled the heck out of me: “Wow.  Trip of a lifetime!”  Puzzling, because my initial thought at hearing that was along the lines of ‘Ummm… no.  Not really.  Going to be doing a lot more of these trips,’ a notion that seemed completely normal to me.

Equally puzzling, I realized after a few moments of reflection, was the fact that two years ago I would have said the exact same thing and believed in every syllable.  So what makes the difference?

And how to condense two years of growth and self-development into a few paragraphs that won’t leave you staring at your computer screen in blank incomprehension?

The way I figure it, the difference starts and ends with our ability to dream – and our willingness to do so.  When we’re kids, we say things like, “When I grow up, I’m going to be President,” “…going to be a doctor,” “…going to travel around the world,” “…going to go to the moon.”  Not ‘I’m going to try to be President,’ or ‘I think I’ll work on being a doctor.’  As kids, our ambitions are huge, and our dreams are bigger.

Bills, bills and more billsThen as we grow up, we hem ourselves in with jobs and taxes and living expenses and worries about how to keep our bosses happy so we keep our jobs and where we’re going to find the money for new tires and brakes for the car and how to schedule getting the kids to and from activities and still be able to cook dinner, clean up and have an hour or so to relax before going to bed only to get up the next morning and repeat the day before… and we make ourselves small in comparison to all those details.  So small that everywhere we wanted to go, everything we ever wanted to do, becomes impossibly far away.  Dreams become impractical, childish whims that demand time and energy we don’t have to spare.

So we give them up in the name of adulthood.  A trip to a place like Costa Rica – a mere five-hour flight! – becomes a ‘trip of a lifetime,’ and we die a little inside because deep down we truly believe that’s all we can ever have; just that one moment in the sun, that merest breath of freedom, and then it’s back to the daily grind with no hope of anything better in sight.  And life goes on like that, year to year, with us never realizing what we’ve given up – or how to get it back.  I still remember how I felt the moment I gave up my greatest, longest-lasting dream – the moment I told my husband, “It’s never going to happen, okay?”  Part of me felt practical, firm, justified.  The rest of me… just went hollow.  Empty.  I didn’t even feel a sense of loss, because I was convinced this was the right thing to do; stop reaching for pie in the sky, because not only was I never going to be a writer, my writing was taking time and attention I needed to devote to working extra hours, getting a second job, something – anything! – to help pay the debts we were drowning in.

I was fortunate.  Soon after that, I connected with some people who were actively working on their dreams, whose example allowed me to reconnect with mine.  Successful, happy, positive, enthusiastic people with adventurous families and huge plans for their futures.  People who offered that happiness and the route to it with open hands and hearts.  And I learned the same things that they had learned – the same principles anyone can learn:  that we become what we think about most of the time (Earl Nightingale – The Strangest Secret); that every decision we make, no matter how minor, carries us up the success curve or down the failure curve (Jeff Olson – The Slight Edge).  That by our own mental and emotional focus we create our own situations (Michael Losier – Law of Attraction).  That dreams are where success starts, and pursuing them is a big part of what creates happiness (Tony Robbins, John Gray, Stephen Covey).

I started writing again.  I gained confidence in talking to people.  I took up photography.  One by one, I removed the toxic elements of my life – a job I hated, people who opened their mouths only to complain or run someone else down, the garbage in my own head that said I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t deserving enough, was too blue-collar for any kind of happiness or success (and believe me, the garbage inside my own head was by far the largest portion of what I had to correct).  And gradually – so gradually I was almost unaware of it – events began arranging themselves to suit what I wanted to create, and my life changed for the better.  So did my views on what I’m capable of achieving, with work and the correct, more positive perspective.  The bills didn’t magically go away, of course they didn’t, but I learned new ways to pay them (such as my writing, which I was doing anyway and have a talent for).  And instead of a future drowning in debt, I’m now looking at a future I am creating; where trips to exotic shores are not ones ‘of a lifetime;’ a future where my writing will become my main income; where Jerry and I become debt free in less than ten years.

And anyone can do as I’ve done.

So see big.  Dream big.  Think big.  Plan big.  Act big (’cause you won’t go anywhere if you stop at planning).  And if you aren’t sure how to get started, what to do, where to go, let me know; I can help you with that.

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