I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. But when I would tell people I wanted to write books for a living, they would say, “That’s great! You better have a back-up plan. You can’t make money as an author.” So while I was at Whitworth, I went back and forth between being an English major, and being an Education major, because what I really wanted to do was write, but what I knew I needed to do was be a teacher, so I could pay my bills. Finally, my love for writing and literature won out, and I finished my time at Whitworth with a degree in English.
Two years out of college, I had worked a series of jobs I didn’t like, trying to make money so that I could write someday, but I felt a little directionless, so I went back to graduate school to get my teaching degree.
And when I finally finished graduate school, and got my first full time job as an English teacher, I should have felt ecstatic. For a few weeks, I did. This was it. This was the life I had worked so hard to achieve. I had made a few detours along the way, and gotten lost a few times, but now, I finally knew what I was going to “do” with my life. But the longer I worked that job, the more restless I started to feel. Something just didn’t feel right. I felt bored. Tired. And guilty for not being grateful for the incredible blessings in my life.
The more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized the reason I was so restless: This wasn’t what I wanted.
One day, a friend asked me this question: “If you could do anything with your life — if you didn’t have to worry about money, or paying your bills, or school debt, or what your parents would say — what would you do?” And my answer was easy. I would travel across the country and write a book about it. This is what I had always wanted. I just didn’t believe it was “responsible” to want what I wanted. I didn’t believe I was allowed to want what I wanted.
So I quit my job, moved out of my apartment, sold everything I owned, and set off (with a friend) in my Subaru to visit all 50 States (well, 48 states in my Subaru, and then 2 states by plane). That’s where the whole thing started, but it definitely isn’t the whole story.
From the moment I decided to go, until now, it’s been a journey of fighting fear, self-doubt, overcoming obstacles, and making difficult decisions. The book is about my journey, not just across the country, but my journey to discovering what I really wanted to do with my life.
The biggest lesson learned while I traveled is this: It is possible to live the life you really want to live. It is okay to want what you want. But there will be many things you have to let go of in the process.
The most surprising part of the “letting go” process for me is that I don’t feel like I lost everything when I gave up my stuff. I feel like I gained everything. I feel lighter and freer and more awake and engaged than I’ve been before in my life.
Taking the leap to chase my dream has opened doors for me I never dreamed possible. I’m so thrilled I get to do what I’m doing, and I still can’t believe I get paid to do what I love.
I love what John Eldredge says. He says, “Don’s ask yourself what this world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and do that. Because what this world needs are people who have come alive.”
I’ve found that to be true, and it’s totally changed my life. I hope it changes yours, too.
Allison (Spotts) Vesterfelt, an English alum’ of ’05, recently published Packing Light:
Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. This book is reflection on her journey through life and through all 50 states.