Finding Jo: Three Lessons About Following My Dreams

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In December 2018, I moved out of my apartment with my partner and into my mother’s new house. In the year and six months I was there, I learned three vital things about making my goals into my reality.

The first was this: that the process will almost never look the way you think it will.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve been making lists. What to do, what to buy, who to be. I had a list for everything (still do). I had a 15-year plan as a freshman in college. I knew what I was supposed to want, and I planned for it.

Then I graduated college in 2016 and my life still looked nothing like it had in the Plan ™, I’d lost friends during the tumultuous election season, I was working a job I didn’t love, I still wasn’t a famous fiction author like I’d been planning for the past ten years.

No one teaches you how to mourn for a life you never had. No one teaches you that it’s okay to miss something that was never yours.

I quit my job to start my art business and follow my dream, then got a different job and moved in with my mom, because, as it turns out, passion and persistence aren’t the only things you need to run a business.

In the safety of my mom’s shelter, with my dog and then with my dogs, I wrote and created art and learned who I was from scratch. What did I want? What did I need? Who was I, really, outside of what I thought others expected of me?

I didn’t want a house. I didn’t want kids. I didn’t want to get married, though I love my partner. I wanted to travel, to write, to draw, to inspire people to follow their dreams and be fully themselves.

I decided to live in a tiny home.

My family wasn’t surprised. I’ve always been the sibling that would end up in a box under a bridge.

A van, a tiny house on wheels, a trailer, an RV?

I looked for a year, swapping between the options, narrowing them down, reworking my finances, applying for credit cards, calling car companies and getting spammed with thousands of emails from dealers begging me to buy from them (still am).

I scoured Facebook Marketplace and messaged people about their vans and trailers and RVs. I made blueprints of van layouts and tiny houses and considered the pros and cons of having a trailer versus an all-in-one vehicle.

Even with all these options open, I never found what I was looking for, not within driving range. I knew I needed to have someone with me to check out potential buys, because I know precious little about cars, and I didn’t want to dive in too deeply over my head.

This was my second lesson: to ask for help, and then let the people who love me, help me.

This was a lesson I had the hardest time with. I was the one that was okay. I did everything myself. I wanted to do everything myself. Maybe it was my anxiety that gave me that need for control. But I quickly learned that the only way to succeed is if I had other people on my team.

And they were happy to help. My older brother drove with me to potential vans and RV’s, inspected them high and low, helped me barter with dealers, showed me how to be confident in front of men twice my age. Showed me how to walk away.

My mom was an unending source of support (still is). She put up with my messes and my dogs and my dogs’ messes. She made me feel talented and funny and successful even in the beginning. She let me have the space I needed to build myself a new foundation.

I couldn’t have paid for Jo without the two of them to help me. I think much of the media about following your dreams and succeeding in life misses out on this lesson. No one lives in a vacuum. Maybe some people can build their world with only their two hands, but most of us need our support system. Most of us don’t have every expertise and resource we need in order to see our goals to the end.

That’s okay. You don’t have to do it all alone.

I searched and I scoured and I drove through dealerships. My tiny home wasn’t here. Wasn’t here. Wasn’t here.

Sometimes, you just have to take a leap. This was my final lesson.

I wasn’t finding anything within five hundred miles of me. I knew what I wanted, and nothing fit here.

I was laying in bed, days before the new year and the chaos it would bring, a year into staying on my mom’s futon, when I decided to book a one-way ticket to Washington, 2300 miles away from home.

There was some sightseeing too, obviously.

Three days later, my partner called me. His job was taking him to Seattle for a week at the end of January–the same week I’d planned to be there. The! Same! Week! Now I would have the person I needed to look over any vehicle I found there.

Sometimes the Universe lets you know right away if the leap you made was the right one. I felt it in my bones.

But I got a two-way ticket, because, in the end, I’m a planner. My mother always told me to ‘expect the best, but plan for the worst.’

On the way there, I searched for dealerships and private sellers. After my partner got back to the hotel from his job, we’d drive to dealerships–they were all out of my price range, and I wasn’t exactly the ideal loanee.

But I wouldn’t give up, because I was in Washington, and it was Right, and my motorhome was here, I just had to find it. I collected a plastic bottle full of moss from a nearby park.

I can’t resist a good terrarium opportunity.

My partner asked me, “How are you going to get that on to the plane?”

I said, “I’m not going home on a plane.” And I knew it to be true.

The first private seller we visited, I fell in love. The seller was kind, and loved his RV. I loved it, too.

Two mornings later, after the most hectic 48 hours of my life and dropping my partner off at the airport, I began my first drive in Jo–2300 miles home with nothing but a bag full of clothes and a bottle full of moss.

First Walmart Stop :’)

With only days to spare before Lockdown began and I could spend six months renovating my new home in peace.

Sometimes the Universe lets you know right away that the leap you made was the right one.