I am unsure of when our world changes from a potential dreamscape to an alarm-clock life, but I am aware that it does. There is a seething vitality and immediacy to the lives of young adults that comes from a lack of comprehension of the fleeting nature of life, coupled with an almost boundless fountain of energy. Time passes, though, and what eventually comes is more (settled? sedate? predictable?) except when it isn’t.
You get used to it. There’s a pattern. Monday morning drag yourself out of bed, Tuesday morning a little more acclimated, Wednesday morning a relief knowing you’ve hit halfway, Thursday coasting down to a Friday afternoon hey-survival. If you’re lucky you approach Friday evening with verve and if not you sit on the couch with a breath of relief thinking, “at least tomorrow isn’t an alarm clock morning…”
This week I made a currency purchase to prepare for my trip; my trip that even I admit is a blatant choice to step away from the alarm-clock life. I am approaching the trip with split emotions, more cousin than opposite: sheer terror and sheer excitement. These four weeks will be anything but the alarm-clock life, and as my week has crept on I’ve swung back and forth multiple times between excitement and fear.
What the hell am I doing, going to multiple countries where I don’t speak the language? What the hell am I doing, packing up my life for a month and living on two bras and a single pair of well-broken-in sandals?
I don’t know.
That’s actually the point.
Nobody gives you a ribbon and a cookie for mastering the alarm clock. You get up, you do your job – if you’re lucky it’s challenging and fulfilling – you come home and you tend your nest and you call it a day. Your reward is the chance to do it over again tomorrow.
In two weeks I’m doing a socially-acceptable batshit crazy thing: I am putting my entire life into a small backpack, and I’m disappearing. It’s a sharp contrast to the two-bedroom-two-bath life: can I actually take a third shirt? Will there be room to take my favorite camera lens? What am I willing to carry on my back across five countries in four weeks? How many note cards do I need to bring to tide me over until I can get to a museum to purchase more, and start sending them back to family and friends? (Just-in-time manufacturing applied to European backpacking: send them as soon as they’re purchased, and you never have to find room for them in your bag.)
In the past few months, I’ve experienced something similar to what I think my mother may have experienced after my father died early: the realization that there’s no promise, no guarantee, no assurance that your best-laid plans will come to fruition. I’ve had items on my life list for years, always treating them as a future extension of myself: Things I Intend To Do.
There is a world of difference between intention and actual planning.
#16: Successfully order beer. In German. In Germany.
Will happen sometime in the next 13-20 days.
#7: Finally take that decades-delayed trip to London.
I land in 30 days.
On Tuesday or Wednesday of this week I’ll pick up my spending money. I’ll need to remind myself that the Euro symbol is shift-option-2 and the pounds sign is option-3 … because I’ll need them.
In a week, I’ll make my first change: I’ll start setting my alarm clock an hour earlier each day, to buy myself about a timezone a day in preparation for flight. I can’t entirely erase the jet lag, but I can make it less punishing. I won’t have a ton of time to sightsee in Munich, and there’s no reason to lose a perfectly good Saturday in Munich if I can just make my alarm clock work for me for a change.
I’ve given it enough of my life. Now it’s my turn.