Dear Naysayer

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on June 16, 2011

Dear Naysayer,

First, I don’t want to come off sounding like I am condemning you and your opinions because honestly I really do appreciate your thoughts and your concerns because I know you only care.  And none of what I am about to say is meant to be disrespectful, it’s just that you’ve given me much to think about and respond to and while usually I would probably just let it slide I’m on a new course now and I think there are a few things you need to know.

Whether you already guessed or can sense it, I’m seeking something different in my life now.  I’m not thrilled with many aspects of my job.  I’m not thrilled with many aspects of my life.  I feel trapped, like I can’t move forward or backwards.  I’m stuck in a state of meaninglessness and I know that if I don’t make a move now I’ll probably be trapped in this hell forever and frankly I can’t see myself surviving very long in that state.

I don’t really know when it happened, it just did.  I can’t say there was a particular day I woke up and realized that my life wasn’t what I had hoped or dreamed it would be.  I really have no one to blame but myself.  I wasn’t daring enough.  I didn’t embrace risk.  I didn’t venture out from beyond my own yard.  I was that neighbor who stayed inside all the time, peering out from behind the drapes eying the world around him with cautious and suspicious eyes.  I played it way too safe.  Only now do I realize that I was stealing from myself.  Over the years I had been assimilated into the dream except the dream wasn’t my own.  I had bought into the slick advertising.  It was a dream I was told was exactly what I needed.  But it wasn’t and isn’t.

Look, your points are valid.  At my age and with a family to support I do need to think about saving for retirement.  I do need to think about my kid’s future.  I do need access to quality and affordable healthcare and to live a healthy lifestyle.  I do need to figure out how I am going to earn a living.  I do need to consider the future.  But try and understand, that is exactly what I am doing with this sabbatical.

Saving for retirement is a good idea but is it still a good idea when it’s at the expense of your life now? Let’s face it, most of us don’t know the day and time of our demise.  The past is done and gone so forget that and let it go.  The future is unknown and unpredictable.  All we have is the here and now.  How many of us have bought into the whole ‘life delayed’ song and dance and then realized that we sacrificed the best years of our life for what?  No, your concept is correct but your methods are wrong.  We can have our cake and eat it too.  Saving and planning for the future and living in the here and now are not incompatible.

So you say I shouldn’t embark on great adventures because I have kids?  I think this is probably the biggest reason to take this journey.  This is probably the best education my kids will ever get.  How many kids their age get to experience a different culture by actually living in that culture?  How many kids are actually truly bilingual?  How many have studied places like Borobudur and Prambanan in books and then actually walked upon them and seen them with their own eyes?  This will be a real education teaching them far more than they can learn sitting in a classroom.

Yeah, the economy is floundering right now.  I understand that.  I’m fortunate to have a job that pays the bills.  I’m thankful for that.  But a job needs to be more than just a means to an end.  It has to have meaning and fulfillment because when it doesn’t it’s nothing more than a prison.  If you’re not doing what you really want to be doing then what are you doing and why are you doing it?  Are you living to work or working to live?  Sure it’s risky to quit it all and try a new direction.  But try and think about it this way.  What is the worst case scenario?  Think about the absolutely worst thing that can happen.  Can you recover from that?  Can you get back up on your feet and keep moving forward?  Chances are when you really think about it you can and you would.

Hey, you have a great job too.  Do you really think it’s safe from the corporate axe?  You’re kidding yourself if you think that’s true.  How’s that commercial go, “Life comes at you quickly”?  It can and it does at times.  But we persevere and we keep going.  We adjust and we adapt.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I do appreciate your concern I just have no room in my life for negativity.  If you can’t be positive then please just smile and wish us a good adventure and an amazing life.  Maybe we’ll end up crawling back but we’ll be crawling back with incredible stories to tell and we will no longer have that nagging question in the back of our minds; “What if we had taken that sabbatical to Indonesia?”

Peace!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy June 17, 2011 at 1:23 am

Right on Matt! One of the things that really drove home the concept of living while you can and not for some future date was my parents friend. He worked so hard all of his life, finally retired and then died of a heart attach six weeks later. Life is not about waiting for someday, it is about living for today!

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical June 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Hi Amy! That is a perfect example of the tragedy of the delayed life plan. I think the death of my Grandma a few years back really sparked my awareness of just how short life is and how important it is for each of us to take control and live the most rewarding and fulfilling life we can. There are no do-overs.

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Sarah June 17, 2011 at 10:40 am

Hear hear! Well said!

I’ve encountered plenty of ‘helpful’ advice regarding my decision to travel and that’s at the age of 24 with no kids. I can’t imagine the extra number of people dying to have their opinion on your trip vocalised. In my experience, the people who are desperate to put down your aspirations are the ones who are most jealous and who can’t see themselves achieving any of their own crazy dreams.

Since we’ve been away it’s been wonderful to meet plenty of people who are actually living an unconventional lifestyle and we’ve been able to gain invaluable advice and inspiration. As soon as you step outside of your familiar comfort zone endless people and opportunities can present themselves which you would never have discovered by staying at home.

Good to you for addressing the naysayers!

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical June 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Hi Sarah! That’s awesome to hear. I’ve heard from so many people who started traveling and had so many incredible opportunities come open. Things that never would have happened had they stayed put. I think your point is spot on that no matter what you do or where you go there will be opportunities. The big question is where do you want to be, and what do you want to be doing? Decide on that and then do it. Been enjoying your adventures!

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Joanna June 19, 2011 at 10:09 am

Great post and I can totally relate on many levels. Especially about the ‘kids’ 🙂 Mine are several years older than yours and looking back I wished we had done more travellling when they were younger because in many ways it would have been easier but hey, life is constantly changing and we are looking toward the future and doing more travelling with them asap (before they are all grown-up!)…that said, I can also relate to the ‘naysayers’…my husband was talking with his older sister the other day and mentioned that he was going to look into overseas sabbaticals and she answered, ‘Why would you want to do that?’. He was a bit stunned by her reply but then realized she has spent all her 50+ years in the same place, relatively speaking, and has no desire to change. We are all different and he can respect her life-decisions but her reply made him all the more eager to pursue his dreams.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical June 20, 2011 at 12:21 am

Hey Joanna! Thanks for commenting. I think your end statement is great. We all need to respect the life-decisions of others but when others are critical of our own I think rather than let it discourage us we need to do it anyway to prove them wrong. It can be good motivation at times. Good for your husband to want to pursue it even more now. Cheers!

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Annie Andre June 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

Bravo Matt and well said.
I’m with you on this one. I’m so pissed that i was chasing that damn carrot and building up my career so that i could enjoy it when i was in a wheelchair.
And yes, contrary to popular belief, even if you have kids you can still take the road less travelled. At least it’s a life worth living right?

I have found that there are a lot of naysayers out there. But that’s because they need to defent their own way of living that they were taught to live from an early age. It takes a lot of courage to do what you are doing. I know, we’re trying to do it too.

I’m rooting for you. I know you’re going to live a life with no regrets and your teaching the kids to do the same…

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical June 20, 2011 at 12:27 am

Thanks Annie! I agree. I have nothing against those who choose the standardized path of building a career and delaying other things until later but I firmly believe one can have both. What I don’t understand are those who choose to purposely bring the dreams of others down rather than supporting them and helping lift them up. It does take a lot of courage to do this which is why the naysayer can really have an effect. More power to you for wanting to live your life your own way. Rooting for you as well! Cheers!

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Ali June 21, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Hi Matt, awesome post! I’ve been slacking on all my blog reading for awhile, but hopefully I can get back into it soon. I think it’s amazing that you and your family are taking this sabbatical to Indonesia! Even if your job won’t allow you the full year you wanted. What you’re saying about taking a risk and not having regrets is totally true. After all the work and planning you’ve put into it, I can imagine it wasn’t a consideration to take the 4 months instead of the year you want. Naysayers be damned, you’re going after what you want and you’re going to find a way to make it work.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical June 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Hi Ali! Hope things are going well for you. Thanks for your comment here. I was listening to a podcast of an interview with one of my favorite photographers (David DuChemin) and he made this statement: “The biggest risk is not living life to the fullest.” And it’s really true. We have all these fears of doing things but the biggest fear we should have is not living the way we want to live. Every day is a blessing and we should treat it as such. I want the rest of my life to be one exciting and fulfilling adventure after another. And you’re right…we will make it work. Cheers!

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