Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Great Escape

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

As I focus the first month of this year long endeavor on optimism, so many other qualities and poor habits have gathered under that same umbrella: pessimism, (managing) expectations, patience and impatience. Today I found two more sharing a seat in the shade, boldness and adaptability.
I read a story about a young family that spent years dreaming of giving up their rat race jobs to spend a year traveling the world. Check out: Great Escape Plan I have personally known two other people who have done it. It is a rare and wonderful accomplishment that all their other life experiences are measured against. Just planning it changes the importance of your daily living. Got to do something you don’t want to do at work today? Not for long. Can’t really afford to splurge on that big screen TV? No matter. It wont be much use in storage while watching the WORLD in high def.
The article was very relatable because the couple are local TV reporters with a one year old baby. They started after I left TV. I don’t know them. But I know their struggles. Writing about tragedy and cruelty day in and day out can make the most optimistic person feel hopeless. Missing little league games and being the last one to pick up your child from daycare because of out of town live shots made the career I once cherished a resented captor. When my last contract was up, it required boldness and adaptability to start my own pr business. I made that choice because I needed to continue to earn a living. I could use my skill set. It was critically important to have a flexible schedule and be able to put down some roots as my son started school. It was my less flashy version of traveling around the world.
Just as boldness and adaptability are closely related to optimism, they are also less than six degrees from separation from liberation. There was a tremendous sense of liberation when I gave up something that no longer worked for me and took action. 
I wondered if that couple had the money to go globe trotting years ago without having to save, without having to take a risk; if the journey would still require adaptability. Without the element of boldness, could you still be elated by liberation?  Would you need optimism before purchasing a one way ticket to Europe? Probably not.
Since getting married and making the choice to stay home with our children, my decisions are no longer motivated by how am I going to make the mortgage. My husband is blessed to be in an established career that allows me great freedom. So why do I not feel more liberated? If anything, I have been captive to a sense of guilt that I am not using this time more wisely or at least enjoying my time more. There is an added self imposed pressure to find a new purpose worthy of this extraordinary gift.
I read an interesting finding in “Learned Optimism” by Dr. Martin Seligman. Men and women are more depressed in this generation than any before it. Americans are more depressed than almost any other country. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men. In an unrelated survey this year, the city I live in was ranked by Men's Health Magazine as the most depressed city in the nation and I live in paradise! 

In studies, it didn’t matter if you were wealthy or poor, the numbers didn’t change. They scientifically ruled out possible causes for the gender difference like women are more likely to report depression or women have to play double duty with working and taking care of the home. The main contributing factor, at least for the gender difference, boils down to something called rumination. Women think, men act. The word rumination, according to Seligman, originally meant “chewing the cud”. It refers to animals like cows or sheep who chew on their regurgitated, partially digested food. Ewww. Is that what it is like when you play your thoughts over and over again instead of doing something about the ones you don’t like? 
Naysayers can point out what could go wrong with a plan to give up both incomes in your late thirties with a one year old baby, and figure it out on the fly. But I say bravo!  There is liberation in action. Anna Tataris and Roy De Jesus are calling it The Great Escape Plan and intend to blog during their adventure. Childish dreamers or Childlike visionaries? Whatever side of the fine line you think they stand on, they are my heroes of the day. 
My question for the day is: What would your great escape plan be? 

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