Friday, December 3, 2010

From Loneliness to Solitude

I grew up fairly sheltered in Delaware. I stayed at home for college, was a good student, and didn’t really cause any trouble. When I was growing up we traveled from NY to Florida to visit family but that was about it. My first real travel experience was a 3-week safari in Tanzania, Africa for a study abroad—and I was hooked. The following year I went on a 3-week trip to Costa Rica. I also had a desire to someday go to California and I got to make that dream a reality after I graduated. The plane ride to Reno was the first time I had ever traveled alone, and I had just graduated from college. It was a new chapter in my life – and I cried as I read a letter my mom had written to me in a book of quotes she gave me before I left (I know, what a baby). If you hadn’t noticed—I love quotes. I’m not the best with words so I steal other people’s words. As a graduation present to my parents I gave them a book of my photographs with all of my favorite quotes—and I try to live by many of them.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

I recently posted this quote and a friend mentioned that I am a good role model of this. That’s flattering, and while it’s fair to say that I enjoy doing what I’m doing right now and am trying to intentionally live life to fullest—it’s not completely honest.

The path to becoming a wildlife biologist is a difficult path to find. It’s not set in stone. You get the education and then find out that most of the work is seasonal and extremely competitive. And while all you want to do is make a difference in the world, you have to jump through a lot of hoops first. Don’t get me wrong, I love my career choice, but it’s not easy. Some people can stick it out, and others just don’t want to bother anymore.

After Truckee I moved a lot from job to job, met amazing people with new life views, and saw the most beautiful places in the US. I drove alone from Louisiana to Truckee in 2006. Everyone told me I was crazy, because a road trip alone would be boring. But it was the best road trip of my life. I had discovered solitude. It was the first time I could do anything that I wanted—and I wanted to see birds. Most people can’t look at birds for 12 hours straight and be completely content. At that time, I could. I stopped when I wanted to and I did what I wanted to. It was an adventure of sorts. And afterwards I decided that I wanted to make it a goal to see as many places as possible. So my travels didn’t stop there and over time I traveled throughout the west—sometimes with a friend. But most of the time I was alone—and completely at peace with that.

Everyone thinks it’s so wonderful that I can drop everything and just go. No permanent job, no significant other, no house, no pets, etc. And that I am lucky. Maybe I am. Or maybe I’ve just made different choices in life. Or maybe this is just the path I was meant to lead. I do not regret anything that I have done and there will be very few things that I will wish I had done but didn’t. But, I will be honest—that solitude has slowly shifted to loneliness, as all of my friends have started to settle down and I’m still moving. I have moved about 16 times in the past 5 years--which makes forming relationships difficult. Even when I was in Texas my summers were in California (thank God, ha). And now I move to keep myself occupied because my friends are spread across the country and I don’t have a place to call home anymore.

I still want to travel. I want to see the world. But it sure would be nice to share those experiences with someone else. I recently accepted a position in Indiana—and I’m going to do my best to settle for a little while. But regardless of where I am, I’ll be working on turning loneliness back into solitude.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” - Henry David Thoreau


Warren said...

great post. I recently ran across your blog and enjoy your posts and great pictures, keep it up!

Lisa said...

Thanks Warren! Glad you like them.