by Shelley Klausen
“You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” – C. S. Lewis
It’s funny, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. When I was in grade school, I wanted to be an architect or a stewardess. In high school, a cinematographer or photojournalist. Through my 20s-40s, I worked mostly in the arts, both administratively and creatively. Now, as an innkeeper for the Tucker House Inn and Harrison House Suites, I’ve come full circle, combining my love of travel, planning, food, and getting to meet new people.
The thing is, I’ve never been afraid of change or trying something new. It’s easy to get locked into the false idea that we have to choose a career, relationship, set of friends, and then stick with it/them forever. I’m proof that this simply isn’t true. It’s never too late to create a new path for yourself, doing what you love. Guests oven ask me how I arrived here? How did I end up in this gorgeous spot on the planet, working with the dream team at The San Juan Island Inn Collection? It’s not as hard as you might expect.
Look forward, not behind
Change means reinvention. Each time a major shift happens in our lives—leaving a job or a relationship, moving, losing a loved one—we have to choose who we want to become or risk never reaching our full potential. What is most necessary is that you have to choose reinvention. Each time I’ve done it, I’ve had to forge my new path deliberately and with foresight. When I’ve waited for my future to find me, I’ve waited in vain, lost in confusion and sadness. Or, I’ve ended up in a situation that wasn’t a good fit or turned out badly.
Shortly after I was married in 2014, after struggling in a career that was consuming me emotionally, I woke one morning with a vision: a crowd of people from the life I needed to leave behind with the sun rising opposite them. I was facing them, standing between the two. The sun beat down on my face and I felt calm. When I woke up, I realized that the reason I was having so much trouble moving forward, was that I had no idea what to move toward. I was agonizing about people and situations I just couldn’ t change. I wasn’t spending any time envisioning what made me happy and working towards it.
Take the first step
So, I quit my job, got a part-time retail position, and began preparing for a one-year road trip with Patrick, who did the same thing. We leased our house, put our things in storage, bought a used RV and traveled the country. We used the time to rid stress from our lives, enjoy each other, and make plans about what to do next. My anger and pain left me, I embraced forgiveness, and I found excitement in taking responsibility and control of what I wanted my future life to look like. You are not me, and life situations are unique. But, I believe that whoever you are and wherever you are in life, these steps are crucial to making change happen:
Create a vision for your future
Sit quietly, close your eyes, and imagine the people, places, or situations that you need to leave behind. Imagine the future that you want, whether it’s simply a feeling, a group of people, or a situation. Imagine how it will feel in that new place. Picture the sun coming up behind your future, the warm glow of the light on your face. Silently voice your appreciation for everything that came before. Then, turn toward the sun, and with forgiveness and gratitude, imagine yourself walking away from the past and into the future.
Write about your changes
Imagine a scene from it or write about how you’d like it to play out. Where are you living? What do you do in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings? Who are your friends? What do you spend your days doing? Continue writing for as long as this exercise feels invigorating and exciting. Write scenes, dialogues, lists, and plans. Make the future come alive. Write about how it will feel to be there. Keep your writing somewhere where you will look at it. Add to it as you have new visions and ideas. I have two journals: one by my bed, and one in my computer bag.
Surround yourself with visual reminders of the life you’d like to create
If it’s a new job in a particular field, put objects or images from that field someplace where you’ll see them every day. If it’s a home, find a picture of a house that you love and put it near your front door. It can be anything that reminds you of what you’re moving toward. Because travel is a major theme in my continuing reinvention, I have refrigerator magnets, postcards, magazines, and books around my house that I can see, pick up, and read for inspiration.
When you have a clear vision of your future, break it up into workable tasks
What do you need to do, every day, to create that vision? Look for work? Meet new people? Search for a place to live in a new town or the country? Make it specific. Make a list of everything you need to do and a schedule for when you’ll do it. Then commit to check items off, one day at a time. When Patrick and I were planning on our year-long journey, we had a huge white board in our kitchen. One corner of the white board were my life plans, and one was for his. Sometimes our lists were different, often the same. You don’t have to feel selfish or pressured if your visions don’t always align.
Every day, go back to that vision of you walking toward your future
It’s okay to hit road bumps. When you do, each day, close your eyes and envision yourself walking into the rising sun, toward your dreams, leaving your road bumps behind. Don’t second guess yourself or let others do it. Reconnect with your new life and why you are choosing the future over the past.
“I am still making order out of chaos by reinvention.” – John le Carre
I have reinvented myself at critical times in my life. At low points, I’ve come out the other side changed. It’s hard to begin, but gets easier working through it. The more I visualize, the more I plan, the more I organize, the greater chance I will succeed. It’s true that there is a stigma attached to your crazy vision — friends, family, and co-workers just not understanding, or being fearful you will fail. But, perhaps more often, they are a bit envious. As they witness you confidently moving toward your new life, you may become the catalyst that helps them take the first steps towards a brave new future.
Here are some of the ways I am blessed by change:
- Letting go of fear of what others think
- Teaching my daughter that she can do something now, and something else later
- Learning new skills and abandoning old habits
- Widening my cultural and social circle
- Learning that life is really short — seize the day!
- Planning change is cathartic and great for mental health
- Saying goodbye to “stuff” and traveling light (still working on this)
- Pairing down to relationships and friendships that really matter
- Becoming an inspiration for those thinking of change
Choose courage, Choose happiness, Choose energy.
It’s true that there is a certain security to stay put. To get through. To settle. It has never made me feel good. Learning, growing, laughing, being creative, and looking forward to what comes next is what excites me. Even in my work as an innkeeper for the Tucker House Inn and Harrison House Suites, my job morphs and changes. Every day is different — a chance to meet new guests, learn more about the world, and work with people I really like. My hope is that this might push some of you to take the first step of visualization. What’s the harm? You’ll feel energized. Soon after, you’ll find yourself making lists. Then, figuring out how to make what’s on your list happen. It might take a month, it might take a year — it really doesn’t matter because the journey is more than half the fun.