"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." ~ Joseph Campbell (American Mythologist, Writer & Lecturer). 

To be honest, I didn't have a planned life to get rid of, making the transition into a new life far easier. I don't plan ahead, I don't save for retirement. I rent an apartment because I refuse to purchase a house and I can't imagine living with another person or getting married. I am okay living with some financial debt, as I know it is my reality. When I die, I just want to keel over, untroubled by the events, accomplishments and misfortunes of my life. This is me. I have wasted so much time and there's no more time to waste. Wine should be drank. Music should be listened to loudly. Feet are for dancing. Lungs are for taking deep breaths. Lips are for kissing and smiling. Family is for loving and driving you crazy. I should go to Africa. To Limuru, Kenya. As soon as possible.

After dinner at my colleagues place, I let myself sit with the knowledge that a journey to Africa was actually possible. With my mind spinning with the information I had learned, I didn't feel scared about what emerged as my potential future. Ron's son had described the beautiful and "not-so-beautiful" aspects of life in Kenya, at least the parts of life he personally experienced. In his three months there, he got malaria and what's known as "jiggers" - a flea parasite that burrows into your feet, lays eggs, and eventually pops your toenails off (*shudder. He treated his jiggers before it became problematic). He had pictures of "bathrooms" (latrines) that would make most people resort to peeing in their pants....personally, I'd rather pee in street. And he had pictures of very poor, starving, HIV positive children. That was hard, but it was also reality. These images were mingled amongst beautiful photos of sunsets, jungles, locals, smiling children, and amazing adventures. I wanted to experience it all...not to sound too, you know, cliché.

I emailed Ron asking him to contact his connections in Kenya and then waited for approximately one month before skipping that step entirely and directly emailing the volunteer coordinator myself. Something that had taken so much time to develop now seemed urgent and immediate. By this time, I had spoken with my supervisor at work who had been hearing of my dreams of Africa for quite some time and wasn't terribly surprised to discover that I was putting a plan into action. Initially, I had no idea as to how much time I could take off and when I originally approached the conversation with my boss, five weeks somehow sprang into my head as a reasonable amount of time to travel to Kenya. Five weeks. It seemed like the perfect amount of time to travel to Africa, do some volunteering and return home. It didn't seem too long or too short - just enough time to get some experience. Barring all complications and potential limitations that could be placed upon my travel via the executive director, my supervisor agreed that five weeks was a possibility. I emailed a woman named Marlies, expressing my interest in volunteering. I proposed the five weeks and attached my resume. Then, I waited another month.

That was a long month. I imagine my waiting for her response was similar to a child writing Santa Claus and then waiting for Christmas morning to arrive to see if their wishes were answered by the jolly guy upstairs. When she finally wrote back I spent 2.3 seconds being terrified to open the email and then another 1.4 seconds deciding that was ridiculous. Email opened, the first few lines read beautifully....."perfect fit..." "skills and experience are very relevant...." "love to have you....." Then came the however....."however, we would prefer for you to come no less than two to three months in order for the children and workers to get used to you." Well, that was never going to happen. Balloon, deflated, flying around the room making that puhhhhhhhhhffffffff noise.


Enter racking brain to see how I could make this work.

The Secret to Life According to Me.

"I think I've discovered the secret to life - you just hang around until you get used to it."
~ Charles Schulz (American Cartoonist)

This morning I woke up at 4:30am for absolutely no reason. I laid in bed until 5am and then got up, totally pissed off that I wasn't still asleep. I did a couple chores around the house and eventually left to grab some Tim Horton's...what else can you do at that time of day?? As I was driving to Tim's, the streets were quiet, no one was around, everyone was still asleep from their turkey dinner the evening before. The only person on the road was a female teenager, riding a skateboard on the sidewalk. As I saw her, I thought to myself, she hasn't even been to bed yet; I remember those days.

I started reflecting back to my early twenties, when I could work three night shifts, not sleep during the day and still had the energy to go out to the bars at night to drink and dance until 3am. I remembered the mornings, walking to work so hungover I was throwing up on the street, and then getting to work where some blessed staff person allowed me to sleep for a couple hours before starting my shift. I remembered the days of attending my first university, where I would pass out in class due to being intoxicated and still would do fine on the exams....and that was when I even made it to class. More than anything, I remember not having a care in the world; the feeling of not being responsible for anything other than myself and my tiny world. Where my biggest worry was coming up with a $1.75 for draft in the university pub and making sure I had a cute outfit to go along with the beer. Those were the days.

Today, creeping towards my mid-thirties, life looks a little different. That doesn't mean that I've stopped having fun, it's just that now - fun looks a lot different and has an earlier bedtime. I can't say I've drank enough recently to attempt to scale an eight foot fence, only to get my jeans caught up and have to hang there until some other drunk person got me down. And, I can't say I'm totally comfortable crashing at some random person's apartment anymore, waking up having no idea where I am. No, I am much more civilized now.....civilized and somewhat boring. My priorities are different, as they should be, and I am now more into eating healthy and getting a good night's sleep, while also having fun and living socially. Like I said, it just looks different now.

After all this reflection on my early morning drive, I came up with the secret to life, as I see it anyway. Again, what in the hell else was I going to do at that time of day, other than solve one of  life's greatest mysteries. Here it is:

When "they" say youth is wasted on the young, "they" are very accurate. When we are young, in what we have no idea is the prime of our life, there is hardly anything better than that. We look the best that we are ever going to look, we have the most energy we are ever going to have, our brains are still sponges that rapidly absorb information, and we are free from most responsibility. The friendships we have are the most important of our lives and the ignorant relationship we have with ourselves isn't yet jaded or too critical. Time passes slowly as there is literally all the time in the world to do what we want. Essentially, these are our glory days, of which we have no idea of.

We spend these years thinking that there is more out there, thinking that when we're just a little bit older we'll be able to experience everything that life has to offer us. What we are astoundingly unaware of is how fabulous we really are and how life has actually started and that it only goes relatively downhill from there. We have no idea how good we look, how much energy we have, how intelligent we are, and how boundless our future really is. Basically, we are clueless and it takes getting older to gain perspective and, well, a clue. Once you are old enough to realize all of this, you're likely past that prime and have entered into a totally different place in life, wishing that you had the good looks, energy, intelligence and potential that you once had in your earlier years.

And that, my friends, is the secret to life. We are never happy with where we are; rather, we focus our energy on moving forward or backwards to what we perceive as being an easier, happier time. We spend our life time engaged in this, all the while time is flying by and suddenly - you are in your mid-thirties and time feels like it's running out. Not running out as in nearing death, running out in the sense that you are moving further away from the age and mentality that allowed you to do all of those crazy things in your youth. You become more cautious, more aware of your mortality. You start thinking of things like, if I do this, I might actually die, something you would have never even considered in your younger years. 

I guess the only way to combat this is to get it earlier on in life, which is unlikely to occur. Therefore, once we get it  later on in life, we better do something about it. Like appreciate the life we have right now. Because, at this moment, similarly to when we were young, we look the best that we ever will again, we have less energy than before but the most we're going to have from now on, and are less intelligent from frying our brain cells but more intelligent than we will be in the future when our brain starts to slowly degenerate.

This is it people. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is the only one we have.