When you’re on vacation, you have a real chance to take a good long look at your life and the world around you, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of choices you’ve made, and the advantages and disadvantages of living and working in a certain way. My recent vacation in New York State made me realize that I have reached a point in my life where I prefer small to large—small towns, small companies, and small groups of people I care about. The preference for small towns instead of big cities will surprise some people who know me, I’m sure. The largeness of city life no longer appeals to me the way it did when I was starting out in my career; city life energized me then, and that is perhaps as it should be. When you’re starting out, ‘the world is your oyster’, as the saying goes. I don’t know the origin of that quote, but it most likely has to do with opening an oyster and finding a pearl inside, or opening many oysters in the search for pearls. In any case, the world of a large city is amazing and attractive for its energy and excitement. New York City is a perfect example; at one time in my life I worked there and loved that time in my life. But I would not want to have that work experience again. I grew up in a small town--Tarrytown, and every time I return to it on my annual trips, I realize how lovely it is. Part of that has to do with its smallness; it is manageable and familiar to me, even though it is no longer the same town in which I grew up. I don’t require that at all. Nothing stays the same, so it would be a waste of time and energy to try to keep things from changing. In fact, I like the changes that my hometown has made; I like what it has become. It is a lovelier town, and I feel comfortable there, with the people, the atmosphere and the landscapes. As one of my friends said, it is a mixture of people from all walks of life. I like that—a microcosm of the world. In the same way, I have come to appreciate small companies and ventures. If I could, I would work for a small company rather than for a huge bureaucratic organization where you are just an employee number at best. That’s not to say that large companies don’t function well or that they don’t treat employees well, they can and they often do, but the work experience is impersonal and it’s tough to find people who care enough about your career for it to really make an intellectual and emotional difference in your life. That’s been my experience, in any case. Bigger is not better, for many reasons that I won’t go into here.
I alternate between wanting to take new risks/start on new adventures (residual impulses from my past that continue to exert a small pull on me), and wanting to play it safer in order to focus on the people and activities that matter most to me. I am past the point where I need to take risks to prove anything as far as my career is concerned. I’ve achieved the personal career goals I aimed for and I now have other ideas about how I want to use my time, e.g. writing, as I’ve often talked about in this blog. I am already well-underway in that venture; I am currently writing two books, one a new poetry collection, the other a book about the town where I grew up. Writing feels right, even though it feels scary at times to feel that way. Am I really writer-material? Can I do it full-time instead of in my free time? I don’t do it full-time as a way of making a living, at least not now; it would not pay the bills. And that’s what’s needed right now—a job that pays the bills. I work to live, rather than live to work as I did when I was younger. That feels right too. If I don’t have to worry about the bills, I am free to write. That’s how I look at it. And if I focus small, i.e., don’t worry about the big literary world out there, full of would-be authors and budding writers, I’m fine. I can write in peace and believe in what I’m writing, without worrying about how it will be received generally. What drives me now is the desire to share my thoughts and feelings that make up the stories, poems, and novels that I am creating. The desire to create is what satisfies me now, followed by the desire to share what I’ve created. Quite a new thing for me.
Mostly, I’m happy with my life at present. I am letting go of older ways of thinking and doing things, and that feels right. I’m preparing for new life phases, and am grateful for the time to think about those phases and to prepare for them. Not everyone gets that chance, for different reasons. I am grateful for the peace and harmony that vacation has imparted to me. I am also grateful for all those who are dear to me, whom I care about and who care about me. Not everyone has those kinds of people in their life, for different reasons. I’ve realized too that letting go leads to peace and to the understanding that living life is not about controlling it or its outcome. It’s about living life and being present in your life.