What I wanted to be when I grew up.

What I wanted to be when I grew up…

Age 4: A Mermaid. “Amy Grant-Ariel- Mermaid” to be exact. Yes, you heard that right. My cousin and I had an Amy Grant fan club too – so embarrassing.  I think we only had one fan club meeting and we ate brownies. The rest of the time I mostly just swam with my feet locked together  like a fin and spent my time trying to convince my cousin that I was the REAL Amy Grant- Ariel- Mermaid and she was just my twin. She bought it- sorry Bethany.

Age 6: A better version of April O’Neil. I wanted to hang out with the Ninja Turtles like April, only I’d be better because I could fly. I day dreamed of flying around in the sky in my black skorts and hi-top sneakers, while singing, high above my school playground at recess where all the kids could see and wish they were as cool as me. At that exact moment, my good buddy Michelangelo would kick spin onto the playground and hand out free pizza to everyone before fighting off the bad guys that arrived to get free pizza. I was the coolest kid in the world… in my 6 year old mind.

Age 8: A pet groomer. As you can see, I was growing up and my dreams were a little more realistic. More so than my little brother Paul’s, who’s ultimate career dreams were to be either an elevator operator or a car valet, only he wouldn’t make people pay because he’d just do them to be nice. I was way more practical than that. Until that is, my mom told me that I’d spend my days picking poop off poodles butts and I yelled at her “you ALWAYS crush my dreams!!!” before running to my room crying, where I decided I didn’t really want to do that anyways.

Age 10: Sea World trainer. Free Willy made a pretty big impact on me. Even after I saw the movie “Orca” where killer whales are actually killing, I was still on board. I thought I could change them. This dream never faded, I still want to do it. So all of you “The Cove” lovers out there, just accept it- I’m a bad person.

Age 11-15: A famous singer. I WILL be discovered while singing in my car one day. You’ll see.

Age 16: A social worker for foster kids. Until that is I was sobbing so incredibly hard (and loud) through the entire first half of the movie, The Sixth Sense, that my boyfriend at the time had to drag my out of the theater wailing. Yep, The Sixth Sense, a completely not at all sad movie, during which I couldn’t stop being sad because that poor little boy was scared all the time! I remember collecting my composure outside the theater when my boyfriend said, “um, maybe you shouldn’t be a social worker, you MIGHT not be able to handle it”.

Age 19: Film Soundtrack Producer: This was my answer to the question, “if you could have any job in the world…” This dream still lived on in my heart until I moved to LA and saw how sucky some of the jobs in the film industry really are. Especially if I end up having to spend my days picking out music for the Wiggles or something like that. Call me disillusioned.

Age 20: No idea. I loved when we’d go around my Family and Human Development classes at ASU and ask what everyone wanted to do when they graduated and all you’d get was, “I don’t know”, ” I don’t know”, “I don’t know”. I thought that was probably a bad sign.

Age 23: Still no idea. I was getting my Masters of Arts in Professional Counseling, but I knew I didn’t want to be a typical counselor sitting in an office. Go figure.

Age 25: A photographer. I’d tried my hand at real world jobs and then went, wait this sucks. I want a pretend job like my husband (who was a photographer)!

Age 27: A writer. Thus Rare Existence was born.

Age 29 (now): It’s complicated. What I want to do with my life has less to do with what it is that I do specifically and more to do with how it supports the rest of my life.
Not necessarily money wise (but duh, that’s important), but more values wise. I’ve been investing my time into figuring out what is important to me in the rest of my life so that when I find a job that supports that well, I’ll know it!  I’ve also been investing energy into some personal growth issues that I feel will better open me up to being the person I need to be in order to do the things I need and want to do in life.

After investing my time into working through those sorts of issues, I now know I want a job that I enjoy well enough that will allow me to have the flexibility I need to make whatever decision I deem is best for my family.
Freedom (time, financial, geographical, etc, etc) is key. If my husband and I decide to take a year to sail around the world with our family to teach our kids that way, right on- we want to be able to do it. If the public school system turns into a brainwashing, 1984-esque military camp and homeschooling is the only way around that, right on- we want to have the ability to do that! I know I can’t control everything, but the goal I want to work towards is to do my best to never be in a position where I don’t have the freedom to choose what I know is right for my family. P.S. having “freedom for my family” means my husband has to have freedom as well so becoming a Real Housewife of Orange County is sadly out of the question for me.

So now I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to start investing into the actual logistics of this mystical career that will provide me and my family with the values I’m craving for us.
Right now it looks like photography will always be a part of that, but I feel like there will probably be more to it in the end because I know I have the desire in me to do more than just give people with lasting memories through photos (not that it’s not important, I just want to use my talents in other ways as well). I want to help people learn. I prefer to help them learn through artistic and beautiful means, like how a fantastic movie, book, or song can make you think in ways that causes you to change your life. How that will play out exactly is still unknown. Will I do all those things for money? Not necessarily, maybe I’ll find a job that provides enough through working a little so that I can do the rest of these things just because I enjoy it (taking notes off my brother who now is an elevator operator and car valet for free). I don’t believe a career necessarily has to be what dictates how I spend my time. In fact I prefer that it doesn’t because as soon as something becomes a “have to” for me, I tend to resent it immediately!

Basically there are two options for me, and both include providing a life of freedom for my family.
One, I just find an incredibly flexible job(s) that provides freedom for my family, that I also really love and feel like I’m “meant to do”. Two, I could just find a job(s) that I enjoy somewhat that provides the most amount of money for the least amount of work so that I’m free to spend the rest of my time doing what I need to with my family and whatever else it is that I’m “meant to do”.  Asking for too much? We’ll see. The benefits to this would be so great that I’m willing to try it before giving up on it! By the way, I know that drug dealing sounds like the best solution to this, but that is definitely off the table for me. Stripping? Off the table. Any sort of illegal activity that could result in either stabbings, sex for money, or a warrant for my arrest… off the table. If I have to carry a concealed weapon on me at all times in order to perform my job… so far off the table, I can’t even see the table anymore. Writing is definitely still on the table. Teaching, speaking, life coaching, etc., etc. are all on the table for discussion. It’s just one step at a time and exploring different aspects until I find my fit!  But as long as whatever it is includes a life of freedom for me and my family, then I’m in!

Your turn! What did you want to be when you grew up and what are you looking forward to doing with your life in the future?

 

The Extraordinary Family Life

A traditional family life is a beautiful thing. The 2.5 kids, white picket fence, stay at home mom, a dog…. it’s really a great lifestyle… if it’s the one you’re meant to be living.

In truth, I really support this lifestyle and many times I even envy it. The only time I have a problem with it is when people believe its the ONLY way to live, regardless of whether it’s meant for them or not. In truth, it seems like this is the easiest lifestyle to fall into without realizing or questioning it. It’s the American dream, so it’s something many of us have been taught about since we were young.

If you are one of the people who is meant for this lifestyle, then congratulations you have found your “extraordinary word“!
What? You don’t think that “FAMILY” sounds extraordinary enough? Well it does because the extraordinary part is not as much about what the word itself is as it’s about the fact that you are living the life you are meant to be living. Ordinary living people just fall into life and never question whether it’s really right for them, extraordinary people question it, make conscious decisions, and live life intentionally. So if you played house from ages 2-22, your lifetime roll model is June Cleaver, and your favorite baby doll as a kid not only knew how to pee and poop but how to say her ABC’s backwards, do the dishes, and resolve conflict with her younger brother… and if nothing in the world sounds as good to you as spending majority of your time, life, and energy raising children… then congratulations you have uncovered what you are meant to be doing with your life!

However, just because you have kids, a husband with a 9-5 job, and a house with decorations in it, does not mean that FAMILY is your extraordinary word.
Don’t assume that just because having a family is a part of your extraordinary life, that it actually is the be all end all to your extraordinary life. And definitely don’t assume that FAMILY is your word just because that’s the word you think you’re supposed to have or that other people think you are supposed to have. You can have a family and still have a word like FREEDOM or ADVENTURE… they are not contradictory concepts. You will just be moving as a family into a life of freedom or adventure, rather than doing it by yourself.

Whether or not you have kids and whether or not your word is FAMILY, you can still choose to live an extraordinary life.
I don’t have any kids, so I know enough to know that I know nothing. I may not know stuff but I do see stuff. And what I see are people who have kids and who don’t have kids, managing to accomplish what they are meant to do in life. And I see other people who have kids and who don’t have kids, saying they will one day live the life they are meant to live though they never actually get around to doing it. I also see that there are different seasons in life meant for different things. I see people who put certain things on hold for a season and then pick them back up when it’s time for a new season. And I see other people who use difficult seasons as an excuse to never move forward and progress out of those particular seasons into new things. Whether or not you have kids has nothing to do with it, either way you get to choose the kind of person you want to be and how you want to live.

* So if your word is FAMILY, live it to the fullest and hopefully you will continue to see Rare Existence as a place of refuge, support, and community.

* So if your word is not family, but you do have a family, then continue on this journey alongside your family and the rest of us to find out what sort of extraordinary life is in store for you and your family to discover and live together.

* And if you don’t want anything to do with the word FAMILY ever in your life, then I’m not talking to you because you probably didn’t read this far in to this post anyways. 😉

Give them something (good) to remember you by (a project)

I was recently asked the question…

“What do you want to be admired for?”

I had a lot of fun answering this question. You see, the questioner didn’t specify that you had to already be doing these things you want to be remembered for… just that it would be freaking amazing if people actually said these things about you! As I was about to head off in the direction of “sensational lion tamer, the best in her field” and “the most compassionate miracle producing doctor I’ve seen yet”, I decided it would probably be more helpful if I took a slightly more realistic approach.

The question hiding underneath this question is, “what are your core values?”

What things do I really think are important in life? Acne free skin? Check. Dogs with fresh breathe? Check. There are LOTS of things that are important to me! This list is going to be long, starting with either free shipping from Amazon or fat free fro-yo (I can’t decide which is more significant to me).

And now you see why you can’t simply ask what my core values are… that’s just too big of a question. Asking what I want to be admired for is a great way of narrowing it down… as long as you remember to clarify that we are talking about REALISTIC things so I don’t start muttering something about how much people love the glittery aqua and periwinkle colored scales on my beautiful mermaid tail.

So you think you already know your core values do you?

Well do you really? Can you distinguish between your parents values, your community’s values, your favorite TV show character’s values? Not to mention your OWN values? I’m telling you it’s so much harder than you think when you’re wondering, “now did Ross and Rachel decide it IS okay to sleep with someone else when you’re on a break or not?”, or “did my dad say pot’s okay only if you’re at Woodstock? Or was it only if you’re 65 with back pain? I can’t remember.”. I’m telling you, core values can be a very convoluted and confusing thing in this day and age!

Now do the work.

Since I have now given you the ever important question that you need to be asking yourself to figure out your core values, go ahead and give it a shot! Identifying your core values is the first step to figuring out what your extraordinary word is… which of course is the first step to figuring out what your extraordinary life should consist of! Well actually, your values should be the starting place for anything at all in any kind of life, really! So taking the time to make your core values concrete and clear enough that you are able to actually write them out, might be a more important step in your life than you might think!

Now grab your Rare Existence notebook – that you of course started right when I told you to – and a pencil (or keyboard, you know what I mean) and start a list of answers to the question… “What do I want to be admired for?” and see what you come up with! After that, see if you can pull general concepts from what you listed and turn them into a real list of your own personal core values that you want to strive to live by… so that they actually will be things people will admire and remember about you long after you’re gone.

 

P.S. If you want to take it a step further, look at your list of values and see if you can draw out your extraordinary word from it!

*If you want more help uncovering your values, beliefs and identity’s check out some of the other projects!

Beginning to Define it For Yourself

What?! You’re not me?! Really? Are you sure? I could’ve sworn…

Your definition for an extraordinary life is unique.

If everyone’s definitions were the same, it would just be called “ordinary living” and I definitely wouldn’t be wasting so many of my youthful years telling you about it (I have mountains to conquer and dragons to slay you know). You can’t compare your definition to that of others (unless of course yours is way better than theirs), and you shouldn’t stop reading Rare Existence if your definition is different than mine. If you have kids, your extraordinary word isn’t freedom, or you’ve worked hard to find yourself at the top in a very demanding career that you love….then you haven’t committed any terminal sins that prevent you from living an extraordinary life, you’re just not me (but you might want to try it because being me is AWESOME)!

I’ve met plenty of people who’ve known what they wanted to do with their lives since they were 5 (no, I didn’t say “what their PARENTS wanted them to do with their lives”, that doesn’t count) and some of those paths that they are SO excited to head down, don’t naturally involve much freedom.  But as long as they’re doing what they truly love, they probably won’t care much.  For them “success” might be their word and freedom could be their ordinary word and I wouldn’t think anything less of them. Besides, life isn’t all about your career, whether you put the word “extraordinary” in front of it or not.

No excuses are good enough.

While I just said that this isn’t all about your career and I’m alright with the fact that your career choices will probably be different than mine anyways… I take back all of  it if you are really just using your career as an excuse for why you aren’t pursuing your extraordinary life. Not cool man, not cool. I can see right through you… and so will everyone else when all your real goals and dreams come crashing down around you to reveal what you should’ve been doing all along. Your career is not an excuse.

The same applies if you have kids. Please, PLEASE do not let that be your excuse!  I’ll tell you right now, it’s not a good one!  A unique challenge maybe, I’ll give you that. But an excuse, never. In fact, I believe that the very reason you absolutely need to be living your extraordinary life is BECAUSE you have kids and they need a healthy parent who is a good example of how to live with passion and joy (didn’t you read my Emma Pillsbury quote at the end of post #4?).

I know plenty of families who have lived very extraordinary lives together. Since you might not believe it from someone who doesn’t have kids yet (me) I am going to hope I can convince you by enlisting plenty of help from extraordinary parents I know who seek to live extraordinary lives right along with their kids!  Just the other day I just met a man from Holland, who lives in Mexico, and sells Argentinean food.  He has two kids and he moved to Mexico with is girlfriend in search of freedom and a home on the beach… it can be done!

It’s OK if you have NO IDEA what your definition for an extraordinary life is!

I think it’s pretty normal to feel clueless.  Any discovery process is complex, confusing, and can be quite overwhelming.  That’s why we’re doing it together… and we’re starting out slowly.  These first few posts are just to get you on board with the concepts I’m talking about here and we’ll dive more in-depth into some pro-active steps for you to work on soon enough.

Perfection is not required.  Complete clarity in your identity is not needed.  Inexplicable, mysterious, or magical talents are not a pre-requisite for this course (but if you do have some of those, please tell me so I can proceed to steal them… Brewhahah!!).  All I’m asking from you at this point is that you’re ready to start thinking. And I’m hoping that you’ll eventually be ready to start acting on your thinking.

So wherever you are coming from, wherever you are at… it’s time to start moving towards where you want to go…. whether or not you even know exactly where that is yet.

 

 

The Ordinary Word

The yin and the yang. The black and the white. The light and the dark. Perez Hilton and Vin Diesel. Our world seems to keep it’s balance through opposites. And it’s no different when it comes to extraordinary words.

For every extraordinary word there is an anti-word… an “ordinary word”.

The ordinary word is the one that sits on your other shoulder, taunting you and your goody two-shoes extraordinary word with his pitchfork, evil sneer, and sarcastic tone. I hate to tell you this, but if we’re going to pursue our extraordinary word, we have to forsake our ordinary word.
So what’s the opposite of my extraordinary word, freedom?  Are you sure you want to know…. it really sucks to hear.

The opposite of freedom is security.

Ew I know! Why does it have to be like this?  Why can’t they just be causal friends who only see each other on Christmas and Easter? At the very least they should be Facebook friends! Really guys, you should try to work something out here for those of us who don’t want to take sides. We want to hang out with BOTH of you, it isn’t fair that we have to choose!
But alas, it’s the truth. The more freedom you have, the less security you have, and vice versa.  As much as I want to stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I never heard that,  it’s true.

This is my great struggle in my pursuit of an extraordinary life.

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that my Achilles heel is fear.  And in an attempt to fight the things I’m afraid of, control is my weapon of choice.  Fear and Control are definitely blood relatives of Security. On Christmas and Easter they all get together in Security’s giant house and eat the feast that their buddy Paycheck brought them. Freedom isn’t invited because he’s off sun-bathing in Tahiti with his friends, and besides they’d rather gossip about how foolish and irresponsible he is than actually talk to him anyways. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting at home praying for peace on earth so that we can all go enjoy Paycheck’s meal together!

This is the reason that every time I come to a crossroads in my life, a major battle ensues.  On the one hand… Freedom, waving his late bedtimes and quality relationships to tempt me.  And on the other road, Security is taking me on a tour of a beautiful new house that could be mine and reenacting for me the fictional story (that I once believed strongly) about how I can have complete control over my life.
Don’t be surprised if my head explodes from all of this one day.  And when that happens, I’m sure Freedom will just shake his head in disappointed sorrow that all of this could’ve been avoided if only I’d chosen right from the beginning.  And Security will just come and apathetically sweep up the messy remains that were once my life… which is the exact same thing he’d planned to do as soon as I joined his side anyways.

(Thanks to my brother, Paul McDaniel, who drew me this picture as a visual representation of this post!)

One of the reasons I’ve started this blog is to show people that we’re not magical, we’re not special, and we don’t have it all figured out.

I say that because people are always telling me how jealous they are of our freedom.  I do know why and I am very grateful for the benefits my job brings… because I know there are a lot of them. But it’s important that you know that we don’t have special powers. I promise, we don’t even have Spidy senses; and we definitely don’t have sticky, disgusting spider webs that shoot out of our fingertips (poor spider man got all the stupid powers).

We have the life we do because we’ve chosen it… and you can choose it too. But you WILL have to sacrifice things you may not be willing to give up. You’re going to have to leave behind your ordinary word. Maybe not right away of course,  it’s OK if you’re not ready for that.  But you’ll probably be asked to do it at some point, so steal one last kiss and start saying your goodbyes now because this train is leaving, Baby.

Ordinary people live by ordinary words. 

They can’t see past their deep-rooted fears long enough to reach for that intangible future. So they don’t.  They hold on tight to their ordinary word, often completely unaware that it is exactly what’s keeping them from clinging to their extraordinary word and the extraordinary life they’ve always wanted that comes with it. There’s a reason this existence is rare. The sacrifices are great, but the blessings from it are limitless.

Choose your words wisely.

Post #5: Your entire life in one word

Everyone has a single word that defines them.

At least that’s what Elizabeth Gilbert told me in “Eat, Pray, Love”. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve begun to believe her.

She begins explaining this concept by naming various cities and what their words are.  For example, New York is ACHEIVE, Los Angeles is SUCCEED, Stockholm is CONFORM, and Rome is SEX -or POWER if you’re talking about Vatican City (I’ve never been to Rome so I can neither confirm or deny these rumors).

So, do you know your word? Is it FAMILY, DEPRESSION, PLEASURE, FAITH, DEVOTION… etc, etc.? It doesn’t have to be a positive word, it only has to be true.  If your word happens to be one you don’t like then go ahead and name it, but make sure you add on to it the one you WISH was true… we’ll call that your “extraordinary word”. And that’s the one we’re going to be working on here.

So what is it? What’s your word?

I knew my word without hesitation.  When I asked Scottie his word, it didn’t surprise me that he answered with the same word without even pausing for a second.

Our word is FREEDOM. 

By freedom, I don’t mean that we lack disciple, rules, and boundaries.  I have those, I want those, and I need those.  The only difference is that I want to have a say in where to place them.  I want to set up my life so that I feel like I am always able to choose to do what I believe is best for me and my family, rather than to have an outside person or force choose for me. Time freedom, freedom from debt, emotional freedom, freedom to choose where to place my energy, freedom from addictions, freedom from unhealthy societal pressures,  freedom to choose a unique lifestyle for me and my family… all of those things (and many others) are small parts that go into this bigger picture of freedom for us. The last thing we want in the world is to end up in a place where all our decisions about those things have been made for us – without any regard to whether or not they are good for us – because we were too passive to care or too lazy to act.

We believe it’s our responsibility to make the rules for our life and that we shouldn’t rely on anyone else to do it for us; not society, the government, social norms, family pressures, etc., etc. It’s our job and if we choose not to do it, we have no one to blame for the results but ourselves.

 

Why is this level of freedom so important to us? Because we got tired of being hypocrites.

We continually found ourselves saying what was important to us, only to look around and see that our lives didn’t reflect those things at all.

“Relationships are our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why all you know more about the characters on the TV shows you watch while you work than you do about your best friends?

“Our marriage is our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why you just called your wife a Fatty-McButter Pants after a stressful day at the office?

“Helping others is our #1 priority.” Oh really? And the last time you did anything like that was….? It doesn’t count that you gave the neighbor kid a quarter because he was short for change at the soda machine.

I got so tired of feeling like I “had” to do things a certain way, because those certain ways made me feel like I was unable to do what was really important in life. So I started looking around to see if I could find other ways to do things. And I found that the answer was to seek freedom because that will be what enables us to do our best at what’s really important to us.  Things like, creating and maintaining community, being generous with any kind of resource we have (whether it’s money, love, knowledge, hospitality, etc.), living a healthy lifestyle (we still have a LONG way to go on this one!), traveling, pursuing our passions, loving endlessly, and experiencing overwhelming joy and beauty in life.  That is an extraordinary life for us, and the key to all of this (in a really long and complex way that is too much to explain in one post) is freedom. So freedom we shall seek.

So what is it? What’s your word?