Oct 25, 2016
By Tiffany D Soukup
Noises whirled, gears cranked, voices both laughing and screaming surrounded me as I stood in queue, my eyes fixated on the red line. I was a young child impatiently awaiting my turn to get up to the red line. Most people around me were happy and excited. I was anxious and fearful as I chanted internally, “Please let me be tall enough, please let me be tall enough.”
A metal gate clamored open as watery eyed people with windblown hair wobbled outside. The queue moved forward and the gate master signaled for me to stand with my back to the red line, which served as a measuring unit. Holding my breath, eyes closed, I awaited the outcome. With casual ease the carnival man, cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth, looks to my dad and said, “She can go.” With youthful giddiness I ran off to jump into the Tilt a World. I was finally big enough to ride on all the rides at the carnival. The moment of reaching the height of the red line signified a whole new world had just opened up to me.
During our formative years, as young people we encounter a lot of red lines, or markers that indicate milestones in our life. Entering ninth grade signifies we are finally in high school, turning sixteen means we can earn a drivers permit, turning eighteen entitles us to vote. These examples of goals are naturally incorporated into our younger years, hopefully propelling us onward into a success adult life.
I think it’s our adult life where choices can get tricky. The most structured societal ‘red lines’ have passed and now we have the freedom to create our own markers. How we handle this next stage greatly influences the type of life we will have and the freedoms that either will or won’t follow. In my opinion, there is no shortage of advertising to tell a searching soul what they ‘should’ have to feel happy. Flat screen TV’s, houses, fancy cars, cool phones and nice clothes are only the tip of the iceberg of what one could spend their life pursuing.
As a newly turned adult, how are we to know what we really want? It has never made any sense to me that we are supposed to spend the better part of our first eighteen years of life in a fairly structured environment, under the guidance of adults, and then one day just know what we ‘should do.’ If you have ever felt this frustration, I can tell you, you are not alone.
For me, I have discovered the act of traveling is what makes my life feel alive. I started traveling by taking a risk to move west to Jackson Hole, WY. One suitcase packed, I had no idea if I would like it or if things would work out, but I faced the unknown and went anyway. Even today I think I share common adult fears of the unknown such as time, love, health and retirement. Despite reservations of life fundamentals that could turn out poorly, I encourage myself to focus on living in the present. Now is what we have. Now is what we can count on. Now is the place I want to feel happy. I plan for the future, but I don’t live for the future. I live to follow my dreams and I cross bridges when I need to.
The illusion of safety in succumbing to my fears does not outweigh the reward of actively pursuing the feeling of being alive. It’s not all bliss. Certain days are filled with cramped legs, misfortune and stress. But I am committed to living this life. Some times I have to completely reassess where I am at and some of the most painful actions have been coming to terms when I needed to eliminate either people or habits that were subtracting from my life. The pain of inaction can be even greater.
Growth takes guts. If we don’t push ourselves outside our comfort zone, we will never know how grand we can grow. As a kid, I stood in line not knowing the outcome of the red marker, but I didn’t let it stop me from getting in that que to begin with. As an adult I continue to create markers that are meaningful to me. I find my greatest fear is a life gone by without seeing what I could become. I find my greatest freedom is the pursuit to discover what I can become. For me, pursuing my passions to the greatest extent of my abilities is the freest feeling I know.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence 2016 Travel Writing Award and tell your story.
About the Author
Tiffany D Soukup
After her first year at university, Tiffany moved to Wyoming in the spur of the moment decision to live on the floor next to a washer and dryer. She has never looked back since embracing a life of adventure. With her husband Chris, she travels the world full time as a travel blogger and photographer. Learn more at www.vagabondway.net.