I was a well-oiled machine up until the Summer of 2011 – I say ‘machine’ because I repeated the same motions every single day: woke up at 7:20am, got to work around 8am, finished around 6:30pm, took a spin or Pilates class, ate dinner, and went to bed. I say ‘well-oiled’ because up until that fateful day, I’d had no setbacks, I was headed in what I thought was the right direction, and I was in top-working order.
Then my humerus popped out of place during a yoga class and changed the course of my life.
I know this sounds dramatic. Injuring one’s shoulder most certainly is not the end of the world.
That said, this caused my routine to careen and eventually come to an abrupt halt, and therefore sent me into a tailspin.
The first bomb was the news that I had torn a ligament and had also essentially broken my shoulder. This was all a bit over my head and not really sinking in until my surgeon told me my recovery would take a full year.
The second bomb was the necessity that I take at least 6 weeks off from work post-surgery. This information did not go over well at the office where I was told 6 weeks was an “eternity”. It almost ended in my firing. This was the first thing that really made me question what the heck I was doing spending my life in an office where people didn’t care much for one another.
I had nothing but time to think after the surgery. It was the first time in years that I had paused and done nothing. It felt so good to just be, and I laughed and cried a little to myself over the fact that being stuck in a recliner adorned in a giant sling and hopped up on pain pills was preferable to slouching in my cubicle.
Injuring myself forced me to look around and ask “the f**k? Is this how someone in her 20s is supposed to live?”
I had always wanted to travel. It had always been my passion. Even as a child, when everyone else seemed to know what they wanted to be – a fireman, a ballerina, a dentist – the only occupation I could think of was to see the world. I wanted to learn more about other people; I wanted to jump off of waterfalls and swing from trees; I wanted to hold my breath under water and swim with fish; and I wanted to be an Explorer. What better occupation could there be?
Somewhere along the way, amidst the As in school, Dean’s List honors, and Louis Vuitton purses flashed around campus, I decided that I would have to wear a suit to work if I was really to make something of myself and own one of those bags. I thought it would make me happy. I lied to myself.
Sitting there post-reconstructive shoulder surgery, stressing out about my job, and no closer to my goal of seeing the world, I asked myself if I should do it before my body became too broken. There was a perfectly good chance that after retirement would be too late.
I had set this goal as a child, back when responsibilities and shouldn’ts and bills didn’t exist. Surely it was a silly dream. But what more pure dream could there be? Had I lost my sense of wonder and replaced it with a need for stability? It was time to shake the foundation.
I saw that there were other people traveling long-term. Some of whom I attended school with and whom I knew weren’t rich. I started reading and looking into the possibilities – I had ample time as a one-armed invalid to conduct my research.
The shining truth became clear. It was doable, and there was no time like the present.
The months since then have been spent saving and budgeting, agonizing over the decision to leave (and I really do mean agonizing), healing and rebounding from the surgery, and alternating between hyperventilating and allowing fleeting moments of excitement about the upcoming trip.
As this post goes live, I’ll be 2 muscle relaxers into a plane flight one-way to Bangkok, on an open ended journey where I’ve planned nothing, and set forth no musts, have tos, and shoulds. After all, it’s time to get out of the old routine.
My surgery took place on September 27, 2011. Today on September 27, 2012, exactly one year later, I’m going to give my childhood dream a chance.
I’m doing it.
I do hope you’ll come along.