One morning when I was 20 years old, I stood on a dock at the Southern tip of Spain waiting for the ferry to North Africa.
My college roommate Marcia stood next to me and was by far the braver. Had she wavered even slightly I would have talked us out of getting on that boat. We were juniors in college in Southern California, abroad for a year, and we’d never been on the African continent or to a Muslim country. Although we’d hitchhiked around Ireland and slept in a tiny, unlocked customs shack on the Portuguese border, Morocco felt way outside our headlight beams, in that dark periphery where all manner of unknown danger lurks.
With reasons not to go blooming like algae in my mind, I walked on that ferry.
Here are three memories from Tetouan, Morocco in 1992.
- Just outside the Medina, the white-walled, old city, packed with spice merchants and carpet sellers, women were taking their kids to school and grocery shopping. I sat on the steps, studying their abayas, and headscarves. I smiled when I got caught staring. I usually got smiles back.
- It was hot and dry and mint grows everywhere. If you order a glass of iced tea, they stuff it with mint leaves and pour the tea over them – basically a mint julep, minus the Bourbon.
- Many of the buildings have rooftops where you can gaze over the bustle of the city and the orange orchards that surround it. The ivory buildings pop against the blue sky and The Rif mountains shimmer green and gray in the distance.
Of the year I spent in Europe, Morocco was my favorite adventure because I got smarter and braver. Standing on that rooftop thinking about writing books one day, I vowed I wouldn’t allow the dark peripheries threaten my horizon again.
But then I grew up and did it.
For the last eight years, I’ve worked in Corporate America, doing a job that was lucrative and age appropriate, but one that was no more suited to me than size five shoes. Last Thursday, I quit.
I want exuberance, meaning and purpose, but I followed luxury and security. If your headlights were made in America, you may have done the same. The path is bright and well-marked, lots of folks are on it and your parents won’t regret sending you to private school if you choose it.
But what if you didn’t choose that path? What if you wound up there by default and you’re so stifled you’re about to jump out of your skin? How do you get off it? And what do you do instead?
Those questions have crashed about in my mental rock tumbler for so long they’re now just shiny pink agates. I’m rubbing them like talismans, quizzing smart people who’ve bushwhacked their trails and come into new territory, muscular, scarred and grinning. I’m doing the same for the 20-year-old girl on the roof in North Africa, she just happens to be 40 now.
This blog is the lab and I want you to come along.
Are you drowning in debt? Waking with dread? Bored out of your mind but terrified of the dark outside your headlights. Want to make your life matter more than it currently does?
Me too. Let’s do it together.