One year (and a few weeks) ago, Clo and I left Singapore to explore a new sort of life. I was doing it for my own reasons, and was (and still am!) lucky enough to have someone in my life who had her own reasons for taking such a dramatic step in their life at the same time.
I don’t think the root of my reasons are much different than those of many people who are in the “middle” part of their lives. We have an acceptable (and maybe even successful) career or family or friends or some combination of the above. I know myself to the extent that I am comfortable with my daily life and don’t stress out too much over the small things. I think a good percentage of people in the same place in life even consider ourselves adults, so much so that we actually manage to be responsible for our relationships, our finances and sometimes even a small human (or two, three or more).
Along with that comfort came several self-doubts. Perhaps self-doubt isn’t the best way to describe it, since it was more about questioning the goals of what I was doing as opposed to doubting myself. I didn’t have debts or children to support, and I certainly don’t have expensive tastes. For a couple of years I considered this from many angles, trying to decide what else I could do. What could I do that would truly excite me? What sort of field, profession or job would I really enjoy? How could I have a life which I found more meaningful?
Then I carried my best friend’s dead body out of the wreck of a tour bus. He was alive a few seconds before, sleeping in the seat ahead of me. We drove over the crest of a small hill in the rain into a line of brake lights and bus driver couldn’t stop fast enough; the bus drove off the left side of the road and rolled a full circle down the embankment. A couple of people were thrown out and half-crushed under one side of the bus. Most of us were stuck inside, somewhat smooshed since the top third of the bus had compacted to be level with the top of the seats since it rolled completely over.
He was in a very similar place in his life to me. We spent a lot of time together in the eighteen months I’d known him, from trips to other countries to innumerable morning runs with his entirely too small running gear to climbing moderately hung over on Sunday mornings to trekking in Borneo and Taiwan to kite surfing in Malaysia and Sri Lanka to many shared BBQ’s in Singapore and so many other things in between. He was of a similar age to me, though he had crammed an unimaginable amount of accomplishments into his life by the time I met him.
Life has a way of surprising you with some unpleasant shit. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this is exactly when I subconsciously moved over the line from thought to action and decided I was going to go ahead and make those drastic changes in my life I had pondered for so long. It’s not difficult to intellectually understand that life is full of things completely out of your control, but having it illustrated so terribly is impossible to miss.
Surprising no one, unpleasant shit is really unpleasant. The time in the hospital, actually getting to a good hospital post-accident, physical recovery, mental recovery, emotional recovery; none of them are easy and the accident left scars in many different ways. For me the worst part was the impact of the accident and death on other people who are important to me. My dead friend’s family, my then-girlfriend (and now wife) and our other friend who was also on the bus with us.
When mortality is staring you in the face, every day becomes more precious. Having this realization doesn’t suddenly change everything, but it certainly impacted nearly all of my major life decisions from that point onward. It certainly reinforced the realization that I wasn’t satisfied with the way I was living my life and the impact of how I spent most of my time (at work).
And with those circumstances, Clo and I have now spent a year in our new life. It’s not easy. We fought a lot in the first few months. Being together 24x7 is really tough. We’ve been a lot of places and changed our travel plans countless times. Going from a large income to a tiny one takes a lot of hard work.
One of the best parts for me is that we’ve been able to spend so much time with our family and friends. Even better is spending so much time with Clo, getting to know her and myself more than I could have otherwise.
I remain constantly aware that life is not safe, predictable or controllable. Because of that, I try very hard to be positive and spend my time with the people for whom I care the most. Lucky for me I’m spending the most of my time with my favorite person.
I can’t wait for another year of whatever life brings our way… though hopefully we’ll finally be in the southern hemisphere by then.