Ten years ago, I did something stupid. Totally crazy. At least that’s what the voices in my head told me.
But there were other voices in there too — the voices that encourage you to be brave, to go for what you want, to chase your dreams.
You know what I’m talking about. I know you do.
But more about you later. First, let’s talk about me.
My Escape from New York
“LaGuardia”, I said as I climbed into the taxi. I had sold or donated almost all of my belongings, and packed the rest into a backpack and a suitcase. In my pocket was something I had never bought before.
A one-way ticket.
A month earlier, I had given notice at work. By most measures, it was a good job. I was an IT guy for a big university. Good hours. Dental coverage. Seven weeks of vacation per year. And when things were slow, we played video games with the boss.
I gave all that up.
Before I climbed into the taxi, I also gave up the keys to my apartment. Let me tell you something about New Yorkers. If you find a good, rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan, then you never leave. You stay. For at least 80 years.
But I didn’t stay. I gave up my beautiful apartment overlooking a park. I gave up my cushy desk job with dental. I gave it all up and moved to Florida.
I wasn’t retiring. I was chasing a dream.
The Countdown to Zero
I remember it was a Sunday. But not just any Sunday. When I arrived at the airport in Florida, there was a huge digital sign that said:
Days Until the Superbowl: 0
I had arrived on Superbowl Sunday, 2004. I smiled, not because I was a football fan (sorry folks, it’s just not my thing), but because I had arrived. Literally and figuratively.
To me, the zero on that counter meant, “The countdown is over.” In other words, I was no longer counting down the days until I could start living my dream. That day, that Super Sunday in 2004, was when I stopped counting and started living.
The 2014 Superbowl is this Sunday. As I look back on the ten years since the 2004 Superbowl, I can’t say that it’s been an easy decade. I can’t say that I don’t sometimes miss my cushy job, or my rent-stabilized apartment.
But I can say that I have no regrets. I chased my dream. And if you haven’t already done so, then I think you should do the same.
I Love My Life!
I wake up every morning, punch my fists straight toward the sky, and say “I love my life!” I’m not kidding. I do this. (You should too, even if you have to fake it till you make it.)
I love my life because I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m doing what I love. I’m living my dream.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all dreamy. I work incredibly hard. Much harder than I did in New York City. I don’t get to take 7 weeks off ever year. I’m lucky if I get 7 days off!
And I certainly don’t get dental.
But I do get to help thousands of people to discover the healing power of qigong and tai chi. Today, people literally say the words, “You saved my life” to me.
That didn’t happen too often when I was an IT guy.
Providence Moves Too
“I mean, I’m so grateful that you moved here…but why…um…Florida?”
I like to tell her that I moved here to meet my soul mate and marry her. Hey, it’s true!
Of course, I didn’t know that I would meet her. But I did know something important. Years earlier, I had read this quote by W. H. Murray (sometimes attributed to Goethe instead):
I never dreamed that I would marry a beautiful Venezuelan acupuncturist with a Japanese name. (Click here to read more about her.) It wasn’t part of the plan.
Except that it was. Because the plan was to chase my dreams, including the ones that I didn’t know about yet.
Change is Good.
So why did I choose Florida?
Because I knew that I had to shake things up. I was comfortable in New York. Complacent even. I knew I needed to make some changes if I was going to chase my dreams.
For a New Yorker like me, Florida represented just about the biggest change imaginable. The culture, the weather, the food, the politics — everything is different down here.
And that’s what I signed up for.
I didn’t pick Florida at random. My parents had retired down here already. That was my entry point.
My other entry point was acupuncture. I had been practicing qigong for almost a decade by that time, and I wanted to learn more. Since qigong is a branch of Chinese medicine just like acupuncture, I did what lots of people do when they want to reinvent themselves.
I went to grad school.
That’s where I met my wife. A few years later, we opened a wellness center here in Gainesville — a hybrid of half Tai Chi studio, and half acupuncture clinic. And the rest is history.
Find Your Mission
Obviously, the title of this article is a joke. I’m not seriously saying that you should move to Florida and open a Tai Chi studio in order to chase your dream.
But you may need to move to YOUR version of Florida.
In other words, you may need to shake things up a bit. Sometimes, that’s the only way to find your mission in life.
I didn’t have it all figured out when I decided to move here. At that time, I couldn’t see my mission clearly yet. I had a vision, but it was fuzzy.
But I saw something else perfectly clearly. I saw that my job as an IT guy was definitely NOT my mission. It was comfortable. It was lucrative. But it wasn’t my mission.
Admitting that to myself was the first step. After that, things started to fall into place. Providence started to move.
So what’s your mission? What’s your equivalent to moving to Florida, or opening the Flowing Zen studio? What is your dream?
If you’re already living your dream, then you rock. And since you’re such a rock star, I’d like to invite you to post a comment below to inspire other readers to do the same thing. Because the more people there are living their dreams, the better this world will be for everyone.