Wanderlust – wandering, navigating, movement, voyaging, rambling.
Blocking Wanderlust with Lists and Goals
I have spent too much time making lists and setting goals. But have come to understand that this was my way of organizing and acting as if I controlled “something”. And besides as a tactile person, writing things down made them tangible.
Societal norms, marketing strategies, career workshops all encourage us all to believe that if we do not have a designated path, success is illusive. But what is success, really?
Adhering to goals and lists can stymie unanticipated opportunities that arise. Following rules are okay to get your footing, but once you know the basics, break loose before societal norms and boredom suck you into their vortex.
I am in a constant battle with my creative and practical self to avoid that vortex. There is an ever present internal conflict between control and the call of freedom to do what I please. I often block my own wanderlust.
I grew up in a place that exuded rule following and practicality. Living in silos where comfort and safety is key. And face it, much of society operates this way. Always shunning the outliers and rule breakers.
Long term, well defined and detailed goal setting is denying how the world works in real time. Things change so rapidly. And let’s not forget that even though we are just tiny specks in the universe, the ripple effects fling far and wide. Eventually, they touch us all.
Planning is only realistic when it is flexible and adaptable.
Shame has always been part of the equation when it comes to unrealized goals, unexecuted lists and being a rule breaker.
If you disregard the standard path of compulsory education (graduating at 18), college (graduating at 22), marriage (early 20’s), career, children (early 20″s), mortgage, two cars, yearly vacations, grandchildren, retirement (mid 60’s) you fail Success 101. And I have, many times over.
I am thankful that in the 21st century this normalized path is finally changing, especially since the pandemic dumped everything on its back.
I did go through a self shaming period in my late 20’s, early 30’s. It came when comparing myself to others. It consumed me. I felt my achievements were inadequate and misguided. Fortunately, certain people and places presented themselves and freed me to explore who I was. Many fits and starts, but eventually I caught on.
It is uncanny how those transition periods moved me toward myself. Unbeknownst to me until much later. I was wandering toward self which is not a journey that can be coerced.
No planning, list making, goal setting is going to put you on a path toward who you are because so much of it is by chance. Free yourself, dive in head first and see what surfaces.
No shame in that.
A Wanderlust Education
The educational paths that surfaced for me were by no means straight or even necessarily goal specific.
Numerous life altering diversions presented themselves. Most of which involved lack of funding, so I had to make do with available resources.
One early example, I attended a local community college while working full time to pay for it. Subsidized housing and a clunker vehicle that got me to where I needed to go as long as I added oil each time I filled with gas. Moving whenever the rent went up or my building was torn down. Thus living in numerous and sometimes questionable apartments during my early twenties. Thankfully, never in my car.
Eventually, as grants and loans allowed, my educational interests took me to five different institutions of higher education and various majors or tracks. I eventually honed in on the visual arts and education. But still having no specific goal beyond my bachelors degree (but then, who does?).
I went on to receive two advanced degree, the last at age forty. And even though my intention early on was not to teach college, I was afforded the opportunity to do so. Going on to teach for 24 years as an adjunct and then a tenured professor.
College Visual Art departments get a soft pass when it comes to following rules. I was free to guide my students toward interpreting their world through art. And up until writing this, I have never realized how much teaching was an act of wanderlust. Moving, navigating, traversing through concepts and problem solving, using real world and imagined experiences. In addition, I travelled with student overseas to experience a whole other level of wanderlust.
Teaching was a good gig. Giving, receiving, learning at every turn.
Looking back, I have always been living some form of a nomadic life. Still am. Being flexible, adapting and discovering what I can manage on my own. And although anxiety producing early on, these situations moved me toward myself. An internal confidence emerged and was there when things were really lousy or unfair. I persisted and not because of any unrealistic goals that were set.
Truthfully, I have been winging it most of the time.
Wanderlust and The Unanticipated – Death
We often choose not to recognize or face head on the situations or mysteries of life that surface unanticipated. Especially if they do not fit within our goals. They are messy and disruptive.
The death of a parent, a child, a friend is an unanticipated mystery. All the signs may be there of the imminent end, but we still choose to deny the physical and emotional concept of death. We choose not to talk about it and are in shock when death finally comes to pass.
Death alters our plans, our goals, our daily lives. No one can prepare for that life event. And even though there are funeral arrangements, living wills, death plans, this is just surface stuff. It does not deal with what individuals are feeling deep down in their bones, their soul. There is no controlling the outcome and aftermath, no matter how hard one tries.
So we are told to live for today, fulfill that bucket list (there is that frickin list thing again), live as if it is your last day. What does this do to our psyche but make us create more goals to achieve before we die.
Recognizing Freedom Through Wandering
We have little control over the general workings of the world, so we may ask why should we care about that bigger picture? One person cannot possibly change the trajectory.
As global citizens, we indirectly experience the world everyday through social media or other means. And because controlling any of it seems illusive, we head back into our bunkers, go about our business, checking off our lists. It is more comfortable, until it isn’t.
So why not accept the fact there is little we alone can do to make changes in the world, but that we are indeed part of the solution? Why not recognize the freedom in that acceptance?
Living with an attitude of wanderlust allows experiencing unforseen activities and discoveries. Shaping and shifting with the tides. Humanity and nature have been doing it for centuries. Wanderlust is all about adapting to whatever current situation you find yourself in. Move through your life and the world freely, be responsible and respectful toward yourself and with those whom you come in contact.
This is how we affect the trajectory.
Image: Inception, 42″ x 50″ acrylic painting by Michelle Lindblom
Inception means beginning, initiation, rise. The piece began with me plastering parts of my 30 plus year old wedding veil to the clean white gessoed surface of the canvas. The veil provided texture, shape and movement, great stepping off points to a abstract painting. I chose to repurpose the veil. It was taking up space and I felt it had a higher calling. My work process is nomadic in every sense of the word. I traverse from one painting to the next when moved to do so. I navigate and explore the surfaces with no set goals except following my instincts. Wanderlust in action.