I dropped out of college when I was 21 years old. I was unable to make the grown-up decision of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, so instead of halfheartedly choosing a major and a career-path that I was not at all passionate about, I quit school (queue the judgmental eyebrow raises and worried tones of disapproval). The choice to drop out was not a decision that I struggled making at all. What keeps bumming me out however is the condescending response I commonly receive from others when they learn about my choice to skip college.
I started working full-time as a barista and quickly became captivated by the coffee industry. Years later, I haven’t lost my love for coffee, I am still working at the exact same coffee joint where I learned my trade, and I am sincerely happy with my life. People always say that’s all that matters right? What they usually mean is it’s all that matters as long as you’ve completed the cookie-cutter steps to achieving the American Dream:
degree + career + marriage + house + kids + dog = happiness
Hate to break it to you, but that equation looks like misery to me.
Let me clarify, I am not dogging on the people out there who have their lives together and are happily married with a house, kids, career, secure future, and the whole package. I know many people who have successfully put together and happily solved the American Dream life equation. I also know a lot who live their life with the idea that completing that equation is the only thing that matters, gives them value or a good status in society. People stay in terrible relationships rationalizing that being in an awful, unhappy relationship is better than not being in a relationship at all.
I read the perfect quote on a chalkboard somewhere that said, “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.” So many Americans are working jobs that they hate because they have that mortgage, car payment, and their kid’s college fund that all keep them tied up as a financial slave to a career that makes them miserable. Society pressures us all to go after that perfectly framed textbook life. And those of us who decide to color outside the lines and stray from those societal norms are labeled irresponsible fools who pay no attention to their future and refuse to grow up.
There have been countless times when a customer has commented on the number of years I’ve been at my job and said something along the lines of, “You know you can’t be a barista forever!” My response usually catches them off guard when I quickly respond, “Oh really, why not?” Why can’t I work a job for the rest of my life that I love, pays my bills, and has provided me with enough of an income to save up the money to take three months off this year to go traveling?
I am a risk taker. Playing it safe and by-the-book bores me. I crave adventure. Every day is another opportunity to make my life as incredible as I possibly can. If a situation or a person doesn’t bring me happiness or have a positive impact on my life, I let them go. I just got my first passport and before 2016 is over, I will have visited more than 10 countries. I’m going to sky dive, bungee jump, zip-line, dance with strangers, finally see Pearl Jam live, eat a deep fried tarantula, and I’m going to experience what life is like on the other side of the world for someone where the most pressing daily task is finding something to eat.
When it comes to Carpe Diem, I’m not telling you to throw up the middle finger to your job, say screw all of life’s obligations, and I definitely can’t give you permission to put thousands of dollars on your credit card to take that trip to Machu Picchu, even if it has been on your bucket list since the beginning of time. What I am telling you to do is couple your heart with your brain and quit putting all those things on your bucket list on the back burner. If you are in any situation that is making you unhappy, I hope you find the courage to take the first steps towards a positive change.
It has taken me 3 years to save up enough money for my plans this year. My carpe diem moment is finally here. And after I’m done with the all the exciting activities I’ve got penciled in this year, guess where I’m headed? Right back to manning that espresso machine, shooting the shit with my regulars, and saving up for my next big adventure.