An Argument for Traveling and Escaping Social Constraints

Today, I called my grandma and her first words were a vehement, “You can’t go!”

After a little bit of digging, I discovered that after enduring a bit of harassment, my mom had told my dear, sweet, and very worried grandmother that I was planning on going to Nicaragua for a Spanish immersion and homestay program in June. We argued back and forth for a little while, though not angrily – she was worried to death and I was primarily exasperated trying to explain my desire to see the world. At my most frustrated, I erupted with, “You can’t keep me in a little box forever!”

Society teaches that the ideal is getting good grades in school, going to college and graduating with a degree (but hopefully not in philosophy or something equally as useless), working in a tiny cubicle from 9-5 (or just a good ol’ 9-5 job of any nature), getting married, having a bunch of babies, retiring and moving to Florida, and dying. Anyone who has ever made a choice outside of that line of thinking has had to endure criticism from family, colleagues, friends, lovers, and sometimes even random strangers. We’re told regularly that money can’t buy happiness, but yet, most adults I’ve known spend half of their lives working in jobs they hate to make money and then have kids and feed them the same “money can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a college degree and it’ll buy you a job and you can work work work like me and one day you’ll be happy.”

Well, I’m not happy with that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad I got the degree I did. I love teaching music with all of my heart, and it would take a lot for that love to be destroyed (though I don’t doubt the overwhelming destructive power of bureaucracy). But you know what? I’m not ready to settle. I want experiences that you can only get from digging your hands in the earth: from gorgeous sunsets in Africa, from Mayan ruins, from eating street food in Thailand, from feeding starving children, from watching tribal dances, from speaking a language I barely understand, and from being absolutely and utterly lost in a place I’ve never known and having to find my way. 

I’ve spent my entire life in Michigan. I was born in a small city where I spent the first 17 years of my life, spent 5 years at a college only 45 minutes away, and spent 5 summers and now a school year in Northern Michigan. I’ve barely traveled outside of my own state, and I’ve never left this country. I have no perspective on what happens outside of this tiny little box I’ve lived in, and I want to know. I’m sick of money running my life, of those stupid little green pieces of paper that heavily influence the way that I make decisions. I don’t want a house with a white-picket fence that I bought with my 9-5 job where I met my husband with whom I had a lot of babies. I want to connect with people all over that world, and when the time comes when I might maybe feel like settling down, a job teaching middle school with a few cats and a wife to come home to would be a nice substitute for all of those things society wants me to have. 

But I do understand that I’m young. These things I want now will mold and change over time as I grow older and gain more experiences. Regardless, I can tell you this: I want to create a life for myself where I don’t feel trapped into the constraints of society and what it expects of me, and I want to find meaning in the beauty and life of this world. I would rather take risks for the hope of a life rich with experience than settling into a dull life of security and ease. Maktub.

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