I have fallen deep into the rabbit hole. Wedding photography, which I initially started as a way to exercise my creative interests (a serious hobby of sorts), has taken control of my hopes and aspirations. Not just the photography but the promise of a life focusing exclusively on and striving for my goals and ideals. As I have dug deeper into the community of photographers online I found story after story of people who have had success and have abandoned their cubicles. Not only have I been inspired artistically, but I have been inspired to question what I want to do with my life. Being able to invest more time into my family, my church, my community and myself by not having to clock in 40 hours a week is a dream almost too good to be true. And yet the dream tantalizes me.
These hopes are somewhat egged on by my current job. Don't get me wrong, I love engineering and the benefits of working at VDOT are very nice, but it is starting to wear me down. The biggest problem is that too much of my work life is determined by people who don't care about VDOT, namely the General Assembly and the candidates for governor, who would rather get reelected than solve any real problems. It is a real drag when projects you pour yourself into get cut because politicians can't get around to funding transportation. There are other factors too, but if I am working as a hydraulics engineer 20 years from now, I'm going to be disappointed with myself.
Last week I found another blog that has pushed me one step closer to the dream. The Art of Nonconformity by Chris Guillebeau shares his pursuit of his two goals: 1. To travel to every country in the world by age 35, and 2. To be a catalyst for the crusade against mediocrity and conventional beliefs. His A Brief Guide to World Domination (PDF) is a manifesto for our generation. What resonated the most from it was the idea that you don't have to choose between a life doing good for yourself and a life doing good for others, that you could, and should, do both equally well. At first glance this idea seems rather simple, but when I examine my life by that measure, I am doing mostly for myself with the idea that I will do more for others "later". He calls me out in the guide saying "[Putting it off is] a satisfying answer because it provides temporal relief. It's deceptive because it's not true..."
So where does that leave me? I know I want more from life and I want to give more of myself away. Unfortunately, the American Dream, 40-hours a week in a cubical doesn't seem to be headed that direction. My dream is definitely the path less taken, just sometimes it would be easier if I had a map of where it will lead.