Yakima is not my destination.
I’m going to repeat this to myself for the next two years, as I remain committed to my plan to pick up and move to South America by winter of 2014. That will be three-and-a-half years after coming to Yakima, my absolute latest deadline. With luck, I’ll be gone months before that.
This is nothing against Yakima. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve gotten here. Although this started as a yearlong internship, within four months, it became a full-time, no-cutoff-point grown-up job. I had a permanent (as permanent as I wanted) job in my field within 10 months of graduating college, and I had already been employed in my field during those 10 months.
That is extraordinary in this economy and in the current climate among newspapers. Everywhere, people are saying that newspapers are dying, that jobs are vanishing; seasoned reporters are looking for work just as much as fresh-faced recent grads. So I am very, very fortunate to have gotten a job here so quickly.
And it’s been a good job. I’ve been able to settle into a beat; learned that I’m good at building sources; picked up a lot of useful information about health care, education, politics, etc. It pays well – well enough for a single girl with a car payment, at least – and has allowed me to live comfortably, even extravagantly.
And I’ve loved Yakima. This place felt more like home faster than anywhere else I’ve lived since I left my parents’ house for college – more so than Seattle, or Cadiz, or Port Townsend, or Santiago, or Olympia. And I loved all those places, too, and made great friendships there and had great adventures. I have made a life no matter where I live. Plus, I get to go climbing every week and spend time in the beautiful outdoors all around me. That’s nothing to scoff at.
So yes – I have nothing against Yakima or what it’s meant for me. And in 10 or 15 years, I might be able to see myself settling down here and raising a family (if such things are in the cards).
But this is not the best I can do. This is a stepping stone; a necessary one, to be sure, and one I am grateful for and that I do not deride. But it’s a starter job, a first-job-out-of-college, a temporary stop as I work my way into the places I want to be.
I want to be in South America. After that I want to be in the Middle East, then maybe China or Southeast Asia. I want to go everywhere, learn everything. I want to cover a war, getting the truth out to the world when everyone around me is determined to silence the media. I want to cover global politics, high finance, revolutions, growing economies. I want to write about things that matter, and I want to see the world change with my own eyes. I want my work to be a part of and an engine for that change.
I do not want to become so comfortable in Yakima that I’m not brave enough to take that leap. This is a stepping stone; I want to be able to jump into the rushing river and see where it takes me. I don’t want to pause indefinitely in the safety of that midway point, afraid of what will happen if I fail.
I could fail. That is a terrifying reality. I haven’t failed yet, so maybe I’m more optimistic than I should be; too naïve for my own good. Or maybe that idealism will help shield me from the kind of fear that could stop me from reaching my goals. But truly, I could fail. I could move somewhere and not find a job, or I could find a job and then get caught in layoffs, or I could find a job and then end up so beyond my depth that they fire me for incompetence. (Shudder. Not if I can help it.)
But I want to try. I want to push myself. That fear of failure is a motivator unlike any other. And I want to pursue the life I have always envisioned for myself.
If that means taking business courses and reading the Wall Street Journal every day so I can work for Reuters, bring it on. If it means taking language classes so I can speak Arabic and move to Afghanistan, I’m up for the challenge.
This is why I’m getting the tattoo. The first one, Courage, dear heart, was in response to those previous moves I’ve made. Every one of them was terrifying; every one of them started with me doubting my ability to succeed. But, just as in Dawn Treader, I realized “that there was nothing to be afraid of, and there never had been.” It would be prudent now to remember that my success, far from coming from my own steam, is really because God has been with me every step of the way. (Astonishing how easily I neglect that, isn’t it?) I have never gone on alone; even if I had failed, he would have been there.
And now, in response to the comfortable stagnation I already feel setting in, I’m going to get my new tattoo: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” I will not let my life be nothing. I will not end up decades from now regretting that I didn’t dare to step out and take a chance.
So, Yakima: I’m counting down. Let’s see. The bosses wanted a three-year commitment; I’ve been here 15 months and I have 21 left. Starting at the beginning of 2014, I will start actively looking for and applying for jobs overseas, and even if I find nothing, I will leave here by the end of that year. I will not let myself stay here.
Not for anything. Not for anyone. Not for fear of failure or money or the job market or anything. Not for a guy. Never for a guy. Not even a hypothetically perfect one with dark hair and crazy blue eyes who’s a climber and loves kids and makes my heart melt with just a smile. Never! This is my life, my dream, and I’m going after it.