A View from the Fence

14 Dec

I’m afraid that I’m spending my time in the present telling myself that it won’t be my future and that in the future I’ll look around and realize it’s still my present.

Isn’t that what we’re all afraid of? I’m squishy, I bite my nails, I’m a slave to the corporate machine, I want to go to grad school, I want to travel somewhere fantastical, and I want to accomplish something truly amazing in my lifetime.  I drug myself through my everyday experiences by telling myself that someday, these things will change.  

On a small scale, I’m working on them.  A few of them.  Truly working.  But I’ve worked on them before and failed, which is why I’m working on them now.  And so every day I have this tiny little voice in the bottom of my toes that cries up to my tiny heart and says go do something drastic.  Just go.  The Appalachian Trail, backpacking in Europe, starting my own business, walking to California, writing a novel – the voice has had a lot of time to think up suggestions.  And my brain follows right behind, touting that the important things in life are experiences and that there is no point to paying bills and having a roof over my head and fulfilling traditional adult expectations if I’m not doing those things in order to fuel a passion or fulfill a purpose.  It whispers real-life examples.  People who throw away everything normal about their lives to fulfill a dream or take an epic adventure or start a journey they feared they’d never plunge into unless they jumped on the spark in their stomachs. 

And then it tells me to get serious and that I can’t spend my life as a dirty, starving hippie, wandering the earth without a clear cause.

Sometimes I think the plan is to, well, plan.  For x amount of years, I’ll try such and such.  For y amount of years, I’ll do this and see if it works out.  By [insert year here] I will accomplish the things on this list I put somewhere but never look at.

Other times I think I’m making it all too complicated and that I need to just keep an open mind and take opportunities as they come, constantly being sure to simultaneously seek them out. 

There’s something inside me that won’t allow me to live an average life.  I don’t want to spend it in a slumber.  I don’t want to have a steady, predictable job so that I can buy a place to put the things I buy in and then invite everyone over and show them my place where I put my things and give birth to little versions of me who grow up to learn that jobs and places to put your things are what life is about.

Have you ever thought about how little of the world you’ll see in your lifetime? You can travel all you want, but there are so many places to go.  The world is so huge and the experiences it has to offer are so numerous.  There are going to be things you never see, places you never step foot in, and adventures you never embark on. 

I just can’t figure out if that means that I should go do as many of them as possible or that it’s just reality and we live where we live in the means that are allowed us, and we must make small adventures into big ones.  If I pick either and dedicate myself fully to it, as I am wont to do, I could make a huge mistake taking either path.  With one, I risk spending my life in a slumber; with the other, I risk throwing away everything to go on a journey that fails miserably and makes everyone think I’ve lost all shreds of sanity.

Or, I could live a life on the fence where I am currently perched: not willing to choose a side but not wanting to look back at a life that was lived just on the cusp of a decision. 

That’s surely no life at all. 


36 Responses to “A View from the Fence”

  1. Lori December 14, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    This is spot on. However, you would be hard pressed to find a graduate student who doesn’t wish they had a 9-5 job. I could think of more examples, but I’d be willing to bet that you could ask anyone if they wish they were doing something *else* with their life, and they would say yes. Just sayin’.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      yeah – we all want to be somewhere else, do more, try something new… I don’t know if anyone really ever looks back and tells themselves job well done, but I also carry a lot of angst about whether there’s something bigger I need to be tending to. My hunch says yes.


  2. freelancingkelly December 14, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Wow, Jackie, that was deep! I think this is a familiar struggle for a lot of people, me included. I think everyone has a phase where their current situation isn’t enough, and then a phase where you’re happy as a clam at a 9-5, as long as you’re doing something you love with the other hours of the day.

    I like what you said about how maybe as long as we’re just open to opportunities that come and open to what life brings, then we’re ok. I think that’s as spot-on as you can get…and honestly, it gave me a sigh of relief. That’s how I live and I ALWAYS wonder if it’s good enough or if I need to be doing something more “amazing.”

    You have to think too…if you were to write the next great American novel, or follow a hippie tribe around or run across the country like Forrest Gump, would it be enough? Does anyone ever feel satisfied with what they achieve? I don’t really think they do…it’s going to be a constant battle. But you already do amazing things…you write this awesome blog that tons of people get joy out of reading! and you do something brave and scary every Tuesday! That’s a lot more than I or a lot of peopel can say for themselves.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks a lot, kelly – I really appreciate your kind words. And maybe you’re right – staying open to new ideas is perhaps the best way to compromise. It’s hard to keep your head on straight *and* be daring – maybe it’s not possible to seem both to everyone?

      Btw, your december 14th post makes me sad. Those are all silly reasons to not do things. Do what you want, be your own person, and be secure enough in yourself to know that that’s all that matters. ❤


  3. pegoleg December 14, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Most of us spend our lives on the fence because we’re admiring the color of the grass on both sides.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

      if I like it so much, I should jump, right? 🙂


  4. Wazeau December 14, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    When I was young, the one thing I didn’t want to be was mediocre. I wanted to be extraordinary. Now I am fifty and mediocrity is pretty much how I would describe my life.

    Take the risks, do the things life is showing you, the things your heart is saying you want to do. I wish I had.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      you sound like it’s too late for you. is it? 🙂 I like to think it never is.


  5. Anita S December 14, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    You said it!


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      I love how open everyone was to sharing on this. It’s great to hear all the perspectives, isn’t it? 🙂


  6. JWo December 14, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Very deep indeed, especially from a someone who sells vacuums (hehe).

    I worked with someone that did just up and leave everything. We were graphic designers at a office supply company when she decided she wanted to teach English in Prague.

    I just stood there in awe as she was telling me about it because I couldn’t imagine doing something like that, leaving everyone and everything she’s known behind to create a new life, not just in another city or state but a new country.

    Having seen how she was when we worked together (shy, timid) I gained a whole new respect for her and how she grabbed life by the throat and told IT what she wanted to do instead of the other way around.

    She loved it and has experienced things that I prolly never will, all because she was simply willing and able to step off the path she’d walked on for years and follow it in whatever direction it took her.

    I’m definitely a fence walker. I can see both sides (maybe my journalism background) of things and tend to take life day-by-day instead of having long-term goals that I’d like to accomplish but most likely wouldn’t.

    But my friend’s accomplishments will always be in my mind because deep down inside there’s a part of me that would love to figuratively follow in her footsteps. Just not to a new country…

    From a fellow fence walker, hang in there…


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      We picked up this convo elsewhere, but I always want to respond to every comment, so let me say thanks again 🙂


  7. Bridgesburning Chris King December 14, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Oh Jackie as a fence sitter too I know what you mean. I have had some wonderful and some not so wonderful adventures that usually occur because someone else propels me off that fence. And then there is the eternal struggle and sometimes it seems fine when we see progress..but really most of mine are do overs.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

      We live in this world where everything seems so accessible, but at the same time, what makes everything so accessible is sometimes the reason we also feel so separated from what’s important and so basic. Something big is coming – I just have to make sure I keep an eye out and constantly seek.


  8. Jules December 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    This is so DEEP. I also think about this all the time.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

      right? I was wary to post it because it strays from the usual – but what’s on your mind is what’s on your mind.


  9. mistressofpoetry December 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    Life is about risks, and if we never take them, we never live. Go do something amazing and satisfying without thinking about whether it is amazing or satisfying, unless it strikes you as so in the moment. Be inspiring. Travel. Then travel again. You never know when, and at some point you will realize, that firm, long-term goal will hit you and you will find such a passion that you cannot live with yourself unless you do it and work hard towards it. And nevermind what others think of you for it. This is your life and your goals and your passion, and living life on your terms can never be a mistake. Sure it’s tough right now, but to have something to work towards, some dream of where you want to be in the future, now that’s worth everything you will do now to get there.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

      This is almost poetic. I love it – thank you.


  10. AlphaJD December 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Time and time again I’ve wondered “What If”. What if I did that, What if I tried this. Till finally I turned the what if’s into a try’d that.

    I’ve traveled, I started my own business, I sold that business and started others. I’ve realized I, in some odd way miss the normal 9 to 5 jobs. Where I can go to work, leave my troubles there and go home. I’ve grown past that, I enjoy my own schedule. I enjoy taking the day off to simply walk around. There was a time when I didn’t enjoy much.

    I woke up one morning, starting at man in the mirror I no longer recognized, and for the most came to the conclusion that I did not like that person looking at me. So now what. Well I’ve taken to the gym, 5-6 days a week. (Did you make it for your run this morning?)

    I’ve changed my outlook on life again. (this seems to be a reoccurring concept with me) My wanderlust has reappeared, and I’m contemplating a lot of the same things you are right now. I’m only a few years older then you, and I’m not so sure we never really stop wondering about these things in our lives.

    I’m a person who enjoys making life changes and decisions as easily as most people find breathing. I believe it is never too late, no matter your age to change your view on life. To take a new direction, to travel the world. Wanna drop what you’re doing and take a trip. Great let’s go. Life for most of us can never be contained in one city, in one view that we repeat every day.

    You mentioned this in your post “With one, I risk spending my life in a slumber; with the other, I risk throwing away everything to go on a journey that fails miserably and makes everyone think I’ve lost all shreds of sanity.” We all make these choices. Who’s really to say that if you choose to let things go and make off on some new adventure that it won’t work. You never know till you try. With the closing of one door, another will open. And if it’s not the right door, no worries. You’ve got a hallway full of ones to choose from.

    Jackie, it really comes down to this. Can you really accept your life as is. To stay a sheep to the world and live that way for the rest of your life. Most can say yes. They enjoy the daily routine. Then again for some of us, we can only say No to that. I know I can’t live that way, can you?


    • mistressofpoetry December 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

      Couldn’t have said it better. I second that.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      I have a friend whose roommate decided to put off college and instead travel abroad and see what came of it. She did that for a while, came back, and went to school. Now she’s finishing a few years after when most do and sometimes thinks about how that makes her feel behind. In my mind, she is worlds ahead. It’s all really a matter of perspective, isn’t it? And you’re right – I have to assess where I am with mine and whether I want to change it 🙂 Thanks for sharing.


  11. thesinglecell December 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    I love Peg’s simple statement. It’s so true. Part of what we think of our lives lies in the way we view them. True, it’s easy to feel trapped and tragic in a day-to-day grind where we feel no excitement, no (to borrow a phrase from Carrie in “Sex and the City”) zsa-zsa-zsu. But if we’re just fortunate enough, the grass is often green on both sides. We merely have to notice it.

    That said, I have found that what has granted me or led me to wonderful adventure in my life is my voice. As a singer, I’ve belonged to organizations that allowed me to travel to perform. My point is: sometimes we don’t need a grand plan, or the courage to chuck it all and go. Sometimes, all we need is a vehicle that gets us there regular-like. For some, it’s cooking, which leads to trips to other countries to learn about food, or the venture of a restaurant business. For some, it’s art, which leads to world studies. For me, it’s music. But these things don’t just happen wham-bam. These are things that are already present in our lives and our persons, things that we can do, which we turn into motivations, often slowly, or just with luck. I would suggest, dear Jackie, that writing might be that vehicle for you. Lollipop Tuesday can go global, be bigger than a post. Just a thought.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      🙂 Yes. Thank you for putting this into words and passing it along. I appreciate you taking the time to chime in here.


  12. jaredblakedicroce December 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    I am by no means, “a success” — not yet as an actor, though i’ve had roles in big films/TV; not yet as a writer, though i’ve finished my first book, started my second, and host a blog that’s more magazine article than a traditional “blog; and not yet as I want to be, I’ve not satisfied myself.
    Sure I’m broke, and work harder than I “need to” for the money i have — but I’m happy! I’ve accomplished a lot at 28, and I’m aware of how much more i want to achieve, all because I’m walking the path.
    Don’t hesitate from leaving the fence for fear of failure. Failure teaches a lesson, success teaches nothing. You must fail to grow, and you must try to fail 🙂
    Before i came to NYC — after selling my car and riding a bicycle for 2 years to save up — i had told an uncle of mine that i simply couldn’t do it. I couldn’t save enough to move, i wouldn’t have any success, and i would never be able to do… well.. anything.
    He looked me dead in the eye, after my self lambasting session, and said this, (and it changed my life forever): If you want something bad enough in this world, you’ll make it happen.
    Make it happen people. Don’t wait. It’ll be just one more day that you’d wished you’d started 🙂


    • jaredblakedicroce December 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

      Oh, and how could i forget, GREAT post Jackie!


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

      If you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. Yes. You know, that actually kind of sums up what I’ve learned in 2011 in other areas of my life. Thanks so much for sharing – your uncle is a wise man.


  13. Renee Mason December 16, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Hi Jackie, just a heads up that I gave you the Versatile Blogger Award. If you choose to participate it’s a bit of work, so please don’t shoot me!


  14. Jer December 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.
    -Robert Frost.

    Seemed appropriate.


    • pegoleg December 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

      This is one of my favorite poems. It is always very appropriate 🙂


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      thanks Jer 🙂


  15. Katherine Gordy Levine December 17, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    Think I am the oldest here. Everyone speaks their truth and I agree with much. . Cranky old lady also needs to say. Now is all you have, you cannot always choose your now, sorry it is a myth that if you really want something, it will be yours. Just not true, you need “a little bit of luck” as was said in “My Failr Lady.” Hard work and wanting help. Hard work and wanting also erode living in the now which is all we are certain of having.

    When I was not sure what I wanted or felt torn between my choices. In other words when I was fence sitting, my strategy was to wait. Sometimes someone else pushed me off, sometimes I jumped. Regrets, mainly that I took time from enjoying the view.

    Stay strong, it is hard out there, but also wondertul, and now is all we can be sure of possessing. .


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

      Katherine, thank you so much for sharing your words of wisdom – I truly appreciate it 🙂


  16. Marylou December 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    I tell ya … zenhabits.net

    great blog…

    I have learned quite a bit from it in regards to this particular conundrum. I too am on the fence. I think a lot of people in our generation are. We were told as kids that we could do/have anything we wanted and we grew up to find that idealist’s dream was taken by our parents’ generation and they left us with nothing: a harsh, cold reality to face. (This is of course a gross oversimplification of what happened. I blame Reagan, mostly. 🙂 )

    However, I think that one thing 20-somethings forget is that … we’re still only 20-something. When I start to worry I’ll amount to nothing if I have not yet learned 5 languages and visited Europe at least twice, I realize that… the people who are able to do that by my age either had a lot of money handed to them or they gave it all up, and they may or may not have been able to cultivate the freaking awesome relationship with their mom that I have with mine.

    So I have to constantly remind myself of a few things that I think we all know, whether we learned it the hard way or not:

    -nothing comes immediately: hard work goes into everything that is worth doing. Instant gratification doesn’t get you what you want in the end.
    -if you really want to live in Europe(for instance), there’s nothing wrong with working toward that goal. Even if it takes 20 years for you to get there.
    -we are entitled to absolutely nothing. except for our gotdamn civil liberties.

    it’s all about Balance.


    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      I love this – thank you for sharing. Well said.


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