Self-Employees of the Month: Andrea Enright & Michael Boudreaux

Andrea Enright and Michael Boudreaux

A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then … the glory … a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories.”

–John Steinbeck

In 2005, Andrea Enright was living a golden, idyllic freelancer’s lifestyle, her communications portfolio fattening ever with contracts from well-known clients that ranged from Boston Market to Planned Parenthood. She had already successfully escaped the proverbial grind … but something was still missing. Her husband, Michael Boudreaux, a tech maestro for DIRECTV, thought so too. After a bit of soul-searching, they blew out of Denver and joined the Peace Corps.

When their two years of service in Bulgaria came to a close, Andrea and Michael kept going. On a mission they call “Wanderlust or Bust” they continued across the globe, including Syria, Lebanon, and Kurdistan (yeah, that’s Northern Iraq), couchsurfing, blogging, videoing and volunteering as they went. Continue reading

The Rest You Must Invent

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Just trying to keep it in perspective. (Salt mines, Czech Republic) 

 

You think the world owes you
It don’t owe you a thing.
When it’s given all it can
The rest you must invent.

–Morees Bickman, “Rosebush Inside”

Especially here in America, we think that we deserve the good life. Isn’t it is our birthright? Isn’t it in the constitution? Isn’t it written somewhere?

Even if it is, I would like to know who exactly can honor that contract. Natural disasters, accidents, villains, and just plain chance intervene in our otherwise glorious destiny and sometimes, bad things are going to happen. The good life is not something we should expect; it’s something we have to work for. And even when we do, there are no guarantees.

We are spoiled.

I mention this because it relates to the general conception of what a healthy work life really is. What kinds of demands and expectations can we reasonably place on our work lives?

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Astonishment | Mary Oliver

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I referred in my last post to a type of inner work that, for me, trumps the prospect of a permanently nine-to-five existence. I think Mary Oliver knows what I mean (but then, there’s little that she fails to grasp).

Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Mary Oliver

Spanish Shock Therapy

 

 

“She wants to hear
wine pouring.
She wants to taste
change.”

Rita Dove

For all the value I’d placed on travel in earlier posts, I confess that prior to this excursion to Spain, I’d failed to see the true power of a good trip. Sure, I understood that travel afforded loads of perspective, adventure, and relaxation. But I didn’t know how vital and transformative that could all be—because I’d never needed it as desperately as when I boarded the plane last week.

I had never been depressed before, which I suppose is pretty damned lucky after 32 years. But 3 months in the ‘burbs of Atlanta—with its14-lane highways and looming McMansions—slowed me down to an utter standstill. Every cell in my body huddled drearily in my skin, organs, teeth and bones until my body felt like some kind of shelter for the weak and weary. Believe it or not, I was hesitant to even take the trip at all. I was certain I’d lost any trace of a sharp, agile mind (which every traveller needs) to the seemingly endless logistics of my recent relocation.

But as the plane sped up and lifted off last Tuesday, I was physically shocked into a whole new mindset.

“Look, honey,” my partner pointed to the gargantuan strip mall where we’d inevitably been doing our shopping. He knew I hated the place, but was trying to raise my ire. “Camp Creek Parkway!”

I did not look back. Instead, I vowed that I would never set foot on that patch of asphalt again. In fact, I didn’t (and still don’t) know what I’d do when I landed again, but there would be no more life as usual. If I go back to Atlanta, it won’t be for long.

Landing in Barcelona, even my walk through the airport was electrifying. I was jolted into light, sound, and motion. God, I love motion. When we came upon the medieval streets of Barri Gotic, we stopped to sip our first café con leche—the first coffee drink I’d purchased in months that did not come from a corporate chain, thanks to Atlanta’s severe lack of independent coffeehouses. Hours later we were cocking our heads up at the wild spires of the famous cathedral, then feasting on cuttlefish and jamon, then sipping cava (with free refills, mind you) at a dark bar.

But it wasn’t the hedonistic indulgences that rocked me out of paralysis and back into my own true self. Lord knows I enjoyed our sunny day on the ancient ruins on La Costa Brava, and crashing at the quaint farmhouse in the Catalonian countryside. But it was simply the experience of that flight—the dramatic separation from the humdrum of everyday life—that made me feel the power of travel, the shift in perspective that I so needed. The rest has been gravy (… or should I say salsa).

That I’d harboured such deep doubts about this trip reminded me that sometimes closing my eyes and leaping is not such a bad idea. I suppose that sometimes that can lead to disaster—it certainly has before—but more often than not, it leads to new eschalons of opportunity and wonder.

On the surface, travel is a temporary escape that can squander loads of moolah and jack up your carbon output. But luckily, there’s more to life than what’s on the surface.

Lingerers and Quitters

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This month’s issue of Psychology Today has a great article, “Move On!” , encouraging us all to do just that. If you’re thinking of escaping but second guessing yourself like crazy, this is the article for you. An excerpt:

“Some people plod away in dreary jobs and dead relationships, while others are forever cutting people off and finding new careers. If you fall into one of these two extreme categories, your tendency could be a default.

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Escape of the Day: Gaping Void

Gaping Void

I had never heard of Hugh MacLeod’s graphic and contemplative realm, Gaping Void, until today. In it, he explores his own ways of staying creative while juggling a full-time job. He is actually an advocate of keeping, not escaping, the ol’ day job.

On the matter of salvaging creative energy and preventing employers from sucking the life force from you, Hugh has scribbled mad commentary over the past few years–all on the back of business cards. The post “How To Be Creative” covers the territory well. As a bonus, he gives each drawing a Creative Commons license, free to download and add to tee shirts and coffee mugs as you see fit (as long as you’re not selling them). Check it out.