When we were in Italy, I met an American college student at the emigration museum on Salina. Among many other things, we talked about his plans once his internship at the museum ended. He planned to return to the states to complete his college education, but then what? He expressed concern that his mother wanted him to get a "real" job- like in a bank. He feared this meant a path would be laid out for him that he didn't want- a wife, kids, white picket fence, responsibilities- in essence a suburban life with no adventure.
Of course, I can't know if a job in a bank is right for him but I CAN comment on the part of him that fears a path he didn't want would be predetermined. Certainly, the path he described happens to many people- some because they choose it, some because they move along through life without really thinking and then they suddenly realize that's what happened.
I told him he could have that life if that's what he wanted, or he could choose to have a different life. I understand his need for adventure. My husband and I both wanted to travel, so this is one reason we were married for 11 years before deciding to have children. We had plenty of adventure in those first 11 years. We went on a camel trek in the Sahara. We hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We rode bush taxis in Niger. And we flew over the vast open spaces of Alaska in a bush plane.
And, here's the exciting thing: we continue to travel with our kids. Sure, the kinds of trips we take have evolved, but we still have fun adventures. We visited Stonehenge, rode bikes on the carriage paths in Acadia National Park, attended a wedding in India, and, most recently, walked among ancient ruins at Agrigento, Sicily. We've "mucked about" plenty with our kids both here and abroad.
My main point to this college student was that he gets to choose the life he wants. Sure, there will be bumps and adversity along the way- such is life- but he doesn't have to follow some predetermined path. Even if he takes that job in the bank, nothing else about his life is determined. He can get married or not. He can buy a house or not. He can live in a city or in the 'burbs. And he can choose to travel if that's what he really wants to do. And, most importantly, if he chooses one path and later realizes he doesn't like the path he chose, he can change directions- find a new job, move to a new place, find some new adventure. Unlike previous generations, there is no expectation that we'll work in the same job at the same factory until we retire with a company pension. Sure, that comes with new challenges, but it also means we can choose the life we really want.
This is the part we can model for our children. Do you have the suburban lifestyle and hate it? Maybe a change is in order. On the other hand, do you love it? If so really embrace it and don't worry or complain about the small stuff. Do you have kids and want to travel? Figure out how to make it happen. Make it a priority. And don't feel pressured to take the trips everyone else is taking. If you love Disney World, great! Go to Disney. But don't feel like you have to take your kids to Disney because everyone else is doing it. I've heard this as a reason for not taking a trip to the Grand Canyon- "We had to take the kids to Disney so the Grand canyon had to wait."
Decide what you really want so you can make the life you want.
Do you have the life you want for you and your kids? What's holding you back? What can you change to get the life you want?
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