I’ve got a confession to make: I like the idea of a template. Like most people, I’ve recently been bombarded with the idea of being location independent and traveling the world while working freelance jobs. And sure, some of it sounds appealing. I’ve listened to the Four Hour Workweek, and thought smugly, “Well, that will never be me. I am way too into stability for that!” In fact, I’ve spent a lot of my adult life desperately trying to fit into the standard “template” of what life is supposed to look like. As a kid, I thought I had it all figured out, and at 21, it looked like I did. I was married to my high school sweetheart, graduated with a BA in English in 3 1/2 years, worked for a non-profit, attended church weekly. Living the dream, or so it seemed.
And then it crumbled.
Within one year, I’d broken free of the religion I’d grown up in, gotten divorced, lost my job and found myself living alone, working for myself as a massage therapist, and completely unsure of where I was headed next. Instead of me shattering the template, the template shattered me.
Over the next few years, I worked myself back towards a standard life — the life I thought I wanted. I became an English teacher, dated guys I thought I would marry right away — searched for a way to make myself fit like a puzzle piece into this model the world had laid before me. I’ve worked for relationship stability, job stability, life stability — grasping at it desperately. And while it’s come for fleeting moments, it never seems to really be there. Fitting my life into the model I thought it should fit is like that old adage — a square peg in a round hole.
Still, I’m realizing more and more, day by day, that there’s something to this freedom thing. That maybe the world is forcing me into a different sort of life for a reason. Sometimes, I’m all, “Okay! NO TEMPLATE! WHEEEE!” and imagine what life could be like: travel, writing, no more alarm clock or lesson plans or waiting for summer break to have fun. And then I wake up in a cold sweat going, “OHMYGOD, NO WAY!” and holding my retirement account balance statements.
At the end of the day, I’m a big fan of listening to the lessons life tries to teach you repeatedly, and OKAY, FINE, I guess I’m not supposed to have a template life after all.
Or else I’m supposed to learn to like eating ramen noodles and living in a box.
I GUESS WE’LL FIND OUT.
I can’t wait to find out the reason why I keep having my template shattered, over and over again. This time, I’m determined to put the pieces back together in a brand new, un-templated way. Hopefully, along the way, I’ll find my own best life.
Like you, a ‘template’ sounds pretty darn good to me.
As I was reading your post, I started thinking about why I have always felt that I need to do all of the right things in the right order: earn the degree, get the job, marry the husband, buy the house, start the savings, the plan for kids…the list goes on and on. But where did it come from?
And all I could come up with is that it comes down to expectations – spoken or implied – that we grew up with, telling us what ‘grown-ups’ do. And once we get to actually be the ‘grown-up’, it’s a shock to the system when things don’t always fit into the planned-upon ‘template’.
We’ve been pretty lucky so far with things fitting into our ‘template’…but sometimes I wonder how life would be if we branched out – tried a new opportunity, saw a new place, stepped away from the plan and just went with the flow (typing that makes me say eek!).
This certainly qualifies as rambling, but want to say I admire your ability to re-define the ‘template’ and create a life for yourself that does not rely on mimicking the example of parents, friends or other people. You are open to making a life that is completely your own – which is inspiring.
Can’t wait to see what lies ahead for you, friend. 🙂
I love this post! I can definitely understand the desperate need to have a “template” and stability – those are the types of things that make us feel comfortable. But when I think about it, hardly anyone (if anyone) I know who has a “template” life also has a life that they’re excited about. Templates sort of put a stop to excitement, doesn’t it? I still fight for a template life sometimes, but I know now that it isn’t possible or even what I really want. And it’s scary, but in such a good way.
If you find yourself traveling the world and working from your laptop, come to Italy and say hi! I’ll have a room, a bed and a desk with your name on it 😉
All my best to you always!
And hooray for posting here for the first time! 🙂
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
I disagree. I have plenty of friends that live fairly templated lives and love it. I have one friend who always wanted to be a wall street banker, became a wall street banker, and loves every minute of it. He can’t imagine doing anything else and he can’t imagine wanted to do anything else.
I believe that almost everyone works better with a plan, which is just a self-created, self-imposed template. Me, I have to know what is going on. If I don’t, I just shut down. Spontaneity isn’t something that works for me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t allow plans to change, but there has to be a plan in the first place.
I dunno… I’ve never put much stock on doing things a certain way because it was either a) expected of me, or b) because that’s how it’s always been done. If you don’t force yourself to live in a little box you get to just live life, and enjoy things has the happen. Sure things change… but that’s the fun part.
Richard @ Lifestyle Design Unleashed says
I was actually quite a “career guy” once upon a time. I gave my heart and soul to a few big companies, worked my socks off, got promotions and pay rises, and yet there were two problems. Firstly, I just wasn’t satisfied. Secondly, with every promotion or pay rise came *more* responsibility and *less* freedom. Slowly, work took over my life. I watched as other people in the company worked the minimum required and had a great life outside of work, while I was always pushing the “next big thing”, always wanting to be best. But by doing that, I gave up on life in a way. Then one day I had a sudden “eureka!” moment, wondered what I was doing, and jumped into an “untemplate” life.
Sure, it can be stressful sometimes. Sure, I can lose sleep sometimes. But the possibilities, the freedom, the options, the satisfaction of controlling your time, your finances and your destiny are heady stuff indeed!
Nice article. You know, I have always desired the untemplater lifestyle ever since I was little. But I do have one deep dark secret…I LOVE cubicles. I don’t know why, but I have always wished that I could work in one! ha ha!
I think we spend our twenties trying to fit some template or another (even if it is an untemplated template), seeking to live our ideal, or the ideals of others. And when we hit our thirties, we stop caring so much and realize that happiness arrives in ways we never would have thought. It is all about what is right for you, no matter what that looks like. Good luck!
Adventure-Some Matthew says
I think that Nilsa brings up a great point: the templated lifestyle isn’t necessarily bad, but too many people think that it will always “work”. They don’t prepare for if they aren’t happy living that lifestyle, or it doesn’t work out, or the template otherwise falls apart.
My wife will probably live a fairly templated life. She’s in school for nursing right now, will graduate and get a job. But with me working on starting a business of my own, we’ll always have something to fall back on. And since one of my goals is to make it location independent, I can move around with her if she decides to change jobs.
Amy, best of luck to you!
As always, you rock Amy.
I’m actually having trouble fitting into the teacher template. I just graduated with an elementary education degree a few days ago, and now I feel like I have to fit into this “template” of what a teacher is. I feel like I have to look and act like a teacher even though I dont have a real teaching job.
But I want to wear a powerpuff girls tshirt, short shorts, and sillybandz, damnit! 😀
I think I need to follow this blog. 🙂
Best of Luck to your Amy on your journey, hope you keep us updated.
Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks says
Congrats on your first article over here. What a great site. Thanks for the link!
I think the key for those of us who feel more comfortable with a template is to know that at some point in our lives, our template will be shattered. And we need to be open to opportunity, even if it takes us in a different direction than we expected, hoped or dreamed of taking. I’m excited for this next chapter in your life, because I know you’ll stumble upon great things.
I know it can be a struggle, but I think “the road less traveled” can make all the difference. Looking forward to seeing how it all works out.
Love it! I spent a year studying abroad then decided to take the practical route and go to culinary school instead of major in arts & social change, worked my ass off until I got a fulltime job at one of the best bakeries in the bay area and shared a good sized, wood floored, large windowed two bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood in Berkeley with my best friend all while still dating my high school sweetheart and I ended up f-ing hating it. All of it. Well, except living with my bff, I’d go back to that in a heartbeat if I hadn’t decided to move home out to the country and go back to school for social work.
Today is my first day not as a pastry chef, from today forward I’m a mentor in a group home. I might hate it and I might fail but it feels good to be living in the place of pushing my boundaries and following my dreams instead of having it all figured out. Good and terrifying.
Doniree Walker says
Beautifully written, dear! And congrats on your first post here 🙂