It’s my birthday again. And l continue to love birthdays just as much as I said I did on my last birthday blog. I still like to celebrate all month long and maybe even a few weeks after that — hence the lateness of this post. (The big day was technically back on August 17.)
This birthday was something of a milestone: my thirtieth. All sorts of feels came along with that number that ran in direct opposition to my standard M.O. of loving my birthday, and making it the excuse to toast to life at every opportunity.
My friends in their thirties assured me this was no big deal, but they did not succeed in convincing me entirely. It felt very big, and very scary, and like something that was happening without my permission. Like some sort of injustice, even though it’s the natural state of things. We get older. Thirty is eventually the result of that, if we’re lucky. And if we’re luckier, forty, and so on.
Leading up to the date, there was all of this anxiety. What would I be like at thirty? Would I be like what I’d wanted to be like at thirty when I was twenty?
But then suddenly, it was here: my thirtieth birthday. And I woke up and I thought, I’m still me. And maybe I’m not who I thought I wanted to be at twenty, but I’m also not who I thought I wanted to be when I was five.
At five, my older brother told me there would come a day when I wouldn’t love dolls. And I cried and cried — because I couldn’t imagine a version of me who didn’t love dolls. That girl was no fun, and I wanted nothing to do with her.
Well, at thirty, I don’t own a single doll. I’m OK with it. I feel like I’m still fun. Dammit.
All that to say, the younger versions of ourselves don’t get to hijack our lives with their expectations. Circumstances evolve, and, hopefully, we do too. Then we make decisions based on what’s real in that moment, what truly matters. And that’s what I’m trying for, day by day.
On my 29th birthday blog post, I announced I’d quit my job to go freelancing full time so I could travel more frequently and finish my manuscript. So here’s a little update on how that’s going for me:
I’m still working on my manuscript. I finished a draft last November and am pretty excited about it. The working title is Living with Strangers in Shitty Apartments. It’ll be a collection of essays about the two and a half years I lived in New York in such circumstance. I hope to self-publish it by summer 2018.
I’ve gotten to travel a hell of lot. I made it to Nola, twice. And also to Turks & Caicos; Sequim, Washington; Toronto, Canada; St. Francisville, Louisiana; Charleston, South Carolina; Salt Lake City, Utah; Louisville, Kentucky; New York City; Houston; Dallas; and my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, for some very momentous occasions including the birth of my second nephew, a dear friend’s wedding, and the first birthday of that same nephew.
Having the flexibility to take these trips has been life changing. I feel so much joy when I’m somewhere new, and when I’m able to return to an old favorite (like Nola, Dallas, and Shreveport) to celebrate glad tidings with family and friends or to just relax in the comfort of happy memories while making more.
That’s why even though freelancing has been tough, it’s also been very worth it.
Who knew starting your own business from scratch wouldn’t be easy as pie? Ha! But seriously, I want to 100% honest with those of you out there thinking about doing this thing, too. If it’s your dream, by all means, do it — but do it knowing full well that it’s not for the faint of heart.
During the launch of my freelance writing business, I’ve experienced epic highs, devastating lows, and every emotion in-between at intervals that were unpredictable. It hasn’t been a steady ramping up. The slow building of my business has happened in uneven, jagged intervals with edges that cut deep into my ego — and into my savings. I’ve had regular clients that suddenly didn’t need work. I’ve had interviews for gigs that I thought went wonderfully well, but then never heard back about, even after repeated follow-ups. I’ve had new clients that needed so much work I thought I might suffocate from the weight of it all. I’ve had myself as my boss, and it turns out that, as a boss, I can be a total bitch.
But the end result is, I’ve established a steady base of clients who like my work and want it often enough to pay my bills. And that is a glorious thing.
I finally feel stable enough in my freelance work to take the next leap — going full gypsy, digital nomad-style.
What’s that mean, exactly? I’m moving to Ghana, Africa, for at least three months and then seeing where life takes me after that.
Why Ghana? My sister-in-law and brother live there now, so I have a place to stay.
What in the world are they doing there, Carmen San Diego? My sister-in-law works for the embassy, and my brother works for a law firm based in Texas that lets him work remotely. Yes, I know, they’re badass. And they’re letting me hitch a ride on their coattails all the way across the Atlantic.
What’s newly thirty-year-old me going to do in West Africa? I plan to keep up with work from my freelance clients, to finish up editing my manuscript, and to blog about life in Africa at least once a month while I do those other things, somehow.
And what’s next? Well.
I’ve left what happens after the first three months intentionally open ended. And by that I mean: I got out of my apartment lease, donated all my furniture and appliances to a women’s shelter, stored my last few worldly possessions with friends and family, and bought a one-way ticket to Accra, Ghana’s capital.
So what happens afterward is entirely up to which doors open and what makes sense down the road. I can see a lot of different scenarios playing out when January 2018 — I move back to Austin and rent a room and travel around from there, or I continue to travel from Ghana and explore more places until I no longer feel like it, or I fall in love with Ghana and convince my fam to let me stick around a while longer, or I get this whole drifter thing out of my system and decide to regrow some roots somewhere stable. Maybe I buy a house. Maybe I even buy a tiny house. Maybe I buy a goddamned tree house. Who knows what nearly thirty-one-year-old Leigh will be into.
The future is all possibilities, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the story unfolds. At five, I wanted dolls. At thirty, I’ve gotten greedy — I want the world.
I hope y’all will stick around with me to see what happens next, and that you’ll keep doing scary stuff that gets you out of your comfort zones, and will tell me all about it.
I leave October 10 — meep! And yes, I’m scared. But I’m also thrilled. There’s a fine line between the two emotions, and I’ve discovered I’m happiest when I’m skirting the razor’s edge.
I’ll be in touch in a few weeks or so with an update on life on Africa’s west coast. Thanks so much in advance for any words of encouragement. I talk a big game sometimes, but the truth is I couldn’t do anything at all if not for the support of my family and friends and random readers of this blog (yay for the kindness of strangers!). You guys are the best cheerleaders. And…I’m getting choked up. Moving to Africa for a few months will really make ya weepy, y’all!
OK, this post has gotten whoa long. And I’ve said the things I need to say. Love y’all, will post again soon — please wish me luck!
Try something scary lately? Leave your story in the comments! I wanna hear it!
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