What I’ve Learned (and Relearned) About Myself This Year

2015 has been a year of reflection. Here’s what I’ve learned (and relearned) along the way.

Work

I want to work to live, not live to work. To me, “living” means exploring interesting ideas and complex problems (like those of education), focusing on creative projects (like books), traveling, gaining new skills, enjoying the outdoors, staying connected with old friends, and making new friends. This is truly the stuff of life, and I only want to work as much as I need to enable myself to do these things and provide for my basic security and comfort (which includes savings and a Roth IRA; working to live doesn’t mean living hand-to-mouth).

I care about working with young people in an opt-in / consensual environment—but also one that challenges and pushes them. Serious challenges and hard work transform lives, but only when they are voluntarily chosen. Growing up successfully into adulthood is one of life’s greatest adventures and I want to contribute to that process. I want to treat the young people with whom I work with respect, as individuals, and as the adults they will soon become.

Values

I love leading a life of permanent travel. That doesn’t mean forsaking a home; it means having many homes. That doesn’t mean losing a sense of place; it means have a sense of places. It doesn’t mean being alone; it means having friends, networks, and connections everywhere. Practically, perhaps this will look like living one place for half the year and traveling / exploring / working abroad the other half of the year. I want to see as much of the world as possible before dying, but I want to do it slowly: not as a fervent box-checking mission. I have a serious lust for novelty, and staying in one place year-round doesn’t feel like a good fit for my life right now (nor has it for the past decade).

Access to nature, wilderness, and the outdoors is the primary value that trumps all others right now. Urban areas are wonderful, and I do want to remain connected to city people and city culture, but I’d rather struggle with the challenges of living in a mountain town (e.g. lack of culture, limited social opportunities) than those of a big city (concrete-everything, having to commute to get to nature). I want to build a career that will let me spend a lot of time in nature (e.g. by giving me the flexibility to be outside when it’s nice out), and if I’m in a relationship with someone, she’ll need to seriously prioritize time spent in nature (not just a weekend trip every once in a while). Nature is the trump card in life right now.

I need to use both my body and mind every day to be happy. My favorite ways to use my body include: trail running, swimming, biking, hiking, backpacking, walking, partner dancing, windsurfing, and feeling the sun on my skin. My favorite ways to use my mind include: reading, writing, synthesizing ideas, sharing discoveries, and discussing big complex topics. When I don’t make both of these happen on a regular basis, I let myself become miserable, and I’m not fun to be around.

Family

I want to have kids, and I want to go on adventures with them. I’ve always known that I want kids, but this year I’ve clearly imagined myself living abroad with my kids (especially when they’re young and in language-assimilating mode), doing extended road trips, and going on ridiculous outdoor adventures like multi-month hikes or bikes. I want to be a weird, awesome, and unforgettable dad. Right now I’m 33; if I had a kid by age 40 (and took care of myself), I think I’d still be healthy enough to do cool outdoors stuff with them.

Relationships

I want to be with a woman who shares my core beliefs about work, family, travel and nature. There’s value in the idea that “opposites attract,” but not in these cases. I’m happy to be with someone who works in a totally different field than me, comes from a very different cultural background, or has very different ways of exercising her mind and body. But the core stuff has to match. Without that, I’d rather be single.

I dream of collaborating with my partner (work-wise) and building something together. I know this is a bit contradictory to what I just wrote, but if I’m being honest, I do think about it. When I see adult couples who are co-directing a summer camp, building a start-up together, or co-authoring a blog, I want what they have. The path seems fraught with risk but also great reward. If this didn’t happen, it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

I’m a romantic idealist. I confirmed this basic fact way back in 2003 when I discovered my inner INFP nature. I carefully avoid most potential partners (because I’d rather deal with the challenges of being alone than being with the wrong person), but when I meet someone attractive who seems to share my core beliefs, I dive in head-first with confident, enthusiastic energy. I make big gestures of affection, risk my feelings, put myself on the line. I don’t hold back because I trust my gut and I enjoy the feeling of romantic pursuit. (I also enjoy the story it creates.) I’ll risk glorious failure in the pursuit of a deep and passionate romantic connection. While doing this, I live very much in my head and in the future, sometimes to the detriment of enjoying, experiencing, and living in the present. I can also come off as overwhelming, impulsive, and impatient.

That’s the update. Thanks for caring!


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