April 2011: A Change in Perspective

Posted on Jul 29, 2011 in stories | 0 comments

I went to Europe in November 2010. The ambition to go back was then set on a shelf until we were ready to pick it up again. I didn’t realize it at first, but life had taken our hands and was slowly leading us toward our Europe goal.

What we needed beforehand was a change of perspective–away from the traditional and toward something more open-minded–to make Europe happen. That change came in April 2011, right after Ryan’s graduation.

Even more so than my own graduation, this rite of passage marked the start of several life-altering changes for Ryan and me. I only saw a few options on the table for our future life: landing a job, moving away, starting a family, buying a house. These options were part of a path that had been laid down before us by Society, and now that we had graduated, Society seemed eager to push us down this path at a run.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely ready to “settle down.” But I’m pretty good at doing what I don’t want to do, so I was prepared to take the leap anyway. I gotta hand it to Ryan to question Society’s unspoken rules of living. He felt hesitant about settling down immediately as well–but he actually acted on it.

From my perspective, I couldn’t tell what was going on at first. I could sense a hesitation in him to find a job–which worried me a bit. Was he secretly one of those men who preferred to dump the family and career responsibilities onto his wife? I’d been the breadwinner for a few years up to this point, so it wouldn’t have been hard for him to do.

Our families worried a bit with me and bombarded us often with questions about how the job search was coming. We didn’t have many answers for them for several weeks.

This was a stressful time, because I could tell we were floating. I could tell others knew we were floating. And at least initially, I didn’t know what was going on in Ryan’s head. Suddenly the options for our future had been shoved aside, but nothing had yet taken their place.

Although I didn’t want to be, it was very easy for me to care about what other people thought of us during this time. We didn’t have a plan anymore, so that left a big question mark on our character. I imagined nothing but judgment in people’s eyes, as they wondered what was really going on. Were we just lazy and irresponsible? Had we not planned well? Was I just not able to control my husband?

I personally flip-flopped back and forth between the traditional perspectives of my family and the new perspective that Ryan held: that there must be another way, even if we couldn’t see it at the moment. I felt badly about how torn I was between the two sides, because I wanted to support Ryan fully in everything, and yet I felt he had me dangling over a precipice.

All it took was a series of honest conversations with him to realize exactly where he was coming from. He is a smart enough man to realize that we didn’t have to jump into Settling Down mode right away. He recognized that–because of the generosity of family and friends, our own hard work, and our choices over the past 5 years–we were in a very good place to try something different first. We didn’t have kids, we didn’t have a house or car payment, we didn’t have any debt, we both had university degrees and professional experience and skills to support us from anywhere. We had money in the bank. We had the desire to try new places and things.

While all of our friends were busy taking care of these things throughout college, we had held back. Now we understood why. We both knew these things were important–and we would get there eventually–but we could be free for as long as we wanted, until we were ready.

The more I looked at our situation, the longer our list of non-traditional possibilities became and the more comfortable I felt with the unknown we were facing. It was still difficult to explain this new perspective to family, but at least Ryan and I were on the same page and headed into the unknown together.

Suddenly, Europe was back on the table. We wanted to get there more than anything else. We didn’t yet know how or for how long, but we didn’t care. We just wanted to get there. So began the research phase of this Europe idea.

 

Continue the story…
May 2011: an Evolving Idea

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