Back and forth. My brain feels like a ping-pong ball is bouncing around inside it, trying desperately to come to some kind of rest. With every post, every bucket list goal, every scan of the news, every conversation with someone who isn’t like me, the thoughts keep rolling.
This is my coming clean post. There are some things that have been plaguing me lately about bucket list rhetoric and now is the time to address them.
Heads up: I don’t have any answers to the questions I’m about to pose that have been whispering themselves into my ears for the past five months as I’ve written The Next Seven. And if I’m being honest with myself, the reason I haven’t published this very post yet is because I’ve been waiting for those answers to come. And they haven’t. And I’ve realized I have to write this post anyway.
Because it’s important. In fact, this post might just be one of the most important posts I’ve ever written, if not the most important post.
So grab a cup of something warm and get comfy. We’ve got a conversation to have and I need your thoughts. I need your responses on this one.
Meaningfulness, Difference, & Connectedness
Ever since the launch of The Next Seven, I’ve wanted this space to be about a lot of things. I wanted it to be a place of inspiration, motivation, and encouragement. I wanted it to be about how we each create meaning in our own lives and how to chase purposefulness. My hope was that people would come here and find posts on how to beat the mundane day-to-day responsibilities that weigh on us, and ideas on how to create an adventurous life that excites our senses and ignites our passion. I intended to create room for responses and conversation instead of just talking to myself and sharing my own limited, biased perspective.
And I’ve tried my very best to keep in mind that meaningful living looks different for everyone. My meaning will not be your meaning, your neighbor’s meaning, your friend’s meaning, or a stranger’s meaning.
Meaning and purposefulness is entirely individualized because we are all separate beings with our own insights and outlooks.
As I understand it, people find meaning in a number of ways, based on a few criteria specific to their own perspectives. These criteria can come from many places:
- personal values
- cultural background
- familial and relational influences
- religious beliefs
- individual experiences
- exposure to the perspectives of others
- historical treatment of groups we belong to
- access to resources (financial, educational, etc.)
- and much more
Wow! That’s a lot of different factors that make up how meaning is formulated and achieved. If we think about it, it’s no wonder that one person may find immense meaning in settling down and raising a family while another person may obtain meaning by remaining single and traveling the world, or that one individual may feel purposeful when they are contributing to a larger organizational picture while another feels most in-step with who they are when they are running their own business.
We are all different. That’s part of what makes the world such a fun place to be.
There are always interesting people to meet with stories that are not are own. Yet we share an innate humanness with a basic need for purposefulness, love, and acceptance.
How cool is that? There is connectedness between us even as there is difference.
You probably read my bucket lists or some of my other posts and think, “Why in the world would Amanda ever aspire to do that? Why is it important to her to think about things that way?”
And yet you are here, reading this, because we are connected. We are both humans who share a desire for a life well lived.
(Or maybe you are my mom, and in that case, hi mom!)
Still…there’s something about us as humans that separates us in such a way that causes me ample distress as I hit “publish” on each and every post.
My Background: A Necessary Disclaimer
I didn’t exactly have the very best childhood. There were problems that I choose not to discuss on this medium to protect people I love.
But I also won’t pretend that I didn’t have every single resource I needed to succeed.
I come from an upper middle class nuclear family. As you can probably tell from my pictures, I am white, and I am female. I was born with United States citizenship. I identify as straight and I feel most comfortable expressing myself the way people expect me to as someone born with female genitalia (aka I wear dresses and skirts and prefer it when people use pronouns like she, her, and hers to address me. This societally acceptable alignment between my genitalia and gender expression is also known as being cis-gendered).
My parents were financially able to move when I was six because they wanted me to go to the best public school I could, where the teachers were encouraging and the environment was mostly healthy for personal development and academic growth. I grew up in Northern Virginia in a suburb outside of Washington, DC, where people just assumed you’d go to college because that’s what everyone did in my neighborhood.
And I did. And my parents paid for it. And now I’m in grad school, and I’m leaving with loans but I’m also leaving with a Masters degree that will ensure I’m always employed.
I’m never oppressed for the way I look except by men who think they have a right to my body and time. If I need something, I have no problem obtaining it. The same is often true of things I want.
The world is built for me, someone who had almost everything handed to her on a silver platter.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t work hard. Of course I did. I studied a ton in high school and college, and I played sports and ran clubs and participated in all kinds of volunteering opportunities.
BUT (and there’s a BIG but), lots and lots of people work hard and never have the things that I do.
Plenty of individuals are born into poverty or working class families. They may wrestle with abuse, homelessness, hunger, and lack of educational opportunities. They may have to work three jobs just to get by, or perhaps wrestle with unemployment due to health issues or job cuts. Perhaps they regularly experience discrimination and trauma because of the way they look, who they love, or how they must express themselves in order to feel in-step with who they really are. Maybe it’s difficult to get out of bed some days due to a mental illness or a diagnosis stripped them of opportunities to reach big dreams. I could go on and on.
And maybe you identify with some of the statements above.
Clearly there is a difference in opportunities and roadblocks. Here I am, a blogger sharing bits of my life, hoping to inspire others to dream big and reach high. Yet I do not experience the same barriers to my goals that other people might and do.
For example, I am planning a trip to Thailand this summer. I could tell you that I am paying for this trip with my own hard-earned money, and that would be true.
But think about this: because my parents were able to financially support me through college, I was able to muster up a savings account with some of the payments I gathered at odd jobs I performed growing up, and that’s where this the fund for my plane ticket and travel expenses is coming from. Not everyone has that luxury. Not everyone is able to decide to go to Thailand tomorrow and just do it.
My ability to do many of the things that I do is because of privileges I have that I did nothing to earn. Much of the experience I write about here on this blog are unreachable goals for others.
So what do I do? Do I stop writing this blog? Do I take it down? Do I only share my goals and dreams if I feel they are reachable for everyone?
I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not sure.
My Initial Thoughts On How To Proceed
Listen, I have no clue what I’m doing with this whole blog thing. All I know is that I’m passionate about living meaningfully and purposefully, and I want to start discussion about what that looks like for other people.
Another thing I know, and something I’ve realized as I’ve written this very post, is that we are all connected.
We may have different backgrounds or life experiences. We may have completely different opinions or outlooks or opportunities.
But we are all people. We all share those basic human desires to live vivid, passionate lives full of meaning and purpose. And in this we share that spark of electricity in our souls that defines us as human.
So I’m going to keep speaking to that spark. I’m going to keep igniting that flame in myself and in others.
I’m not going to hide my privilege, not because I believe I have a right to it but because I believe it’s important to be honest about where I’m coming from and who is posting here. (Plus, I think the first step to fighting barriers to opportunities for others is to own my own privilege and the part I play in perpetuating injustices.)
And I’m going to try to keep the diverse experiences and backgrounds of others in mind. I’m going to keep thinking about this. I’m going to keep asking questions.
I’m going to keep an eye on myself, critically and constantly, and ask others to do so as well.
Because I want The Next Seven to be a place of inspiration and motivation, a space where we can discuss what adventure and meaningfulness looks like. And I also want this to be a place for everyone. I want all people to come and find a home here, a sense of belonging.
So, friends. I need your help.
Give me your thoughts. In order to do the work I’ve outlined above, I need your perspectives. I need your voices. And I need to be told when I mess up and don’t notice it. If this role is comfortable for you, please offer me the ideas, experiences, and ideologies that make up who you are. I’d love to get to know you.
By the way, thank you. Thank you for reading and for bearing with me as I process, trip up, and rethink it all. I appreciate your support more than you know.
What did this discussion about opportunity, privilege, and bucket lists bring up for you? Do you have any thoughts for me on how I should make this place home for everyone?
Feel free to pin this post with the photo below!