Crossing Paths With a Gifthorse

Being back in Ohio and around my family reminds me where my roots are from: the Appalachian foothills. As such, a love of folksy, half coherent life sayings is in my blood. Things like “angry as a bog fish in the bayou on Bastille day” or “a hog’s tooth can’t tell a lie” only make sense if you have some hill-blood in you.

Luckily, my family moved on to the city before thankin’ the lord for racin’ fuel and Goodyear tires became a regular part of our family gatherings.

My love of these folksy sayings is in part what drew me to Kim, only Kim loves fancier versions – preferring to call them “quotes” instead of Uncle Jessie’s wisdom. What can I say, I prefer my wisdom dispensed with a chuckle, overalls, and a Busch beer.

However, there is one quote that Kim is fond of that has stuck in my head lately. It’s a quote from Ben Stein, which says:

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.

I like that quote because it’s quasi-folksy, even if it’s coming from fancy-pants Washington DC lawyer. And it has been playing on repeat in my mind ever since the opportunity of getting a job started to seem likely.

When this opportunity came to us, we weren’t looking for jobs. In fact, we have been working hard to work for ourselves on a full-time and permanent basis for a while now. But when a friend of Kim’s sent her the job posting, it seemed like a perfect fit.

We were excited about the opportunity, but also a little hesitant because it would mean, well, working. So, we sat down and did what everyone tells you to do when you are having a hard time making a decision: made a list of pros and cons.

Pros & Cons Crossing Paths With A Gifthorse

My hieroglyphics help to decipher the answer to the question

On the “pro” side of the list was tangible, definable things: give public speeches (this has been on Kim’s wish-list for about a year now). Work outdoors (my dream is still to be a park ranger). Be outdoors more (hiking & camping are 2 of our favorite things). And, let’s be honest: earning a steady paycheck for the first time in nearly two years is pretty damn enticing.

On the “con” side of the list was only one entry: we didn’t want to leave SE Asia.

It’s hard to compare things like gaining a skill and earning a paycheck to something like a want or desire. What we want is what we want – and it rarely listens to logic and reason. So, I can honestly say, more often than not when I looked at the list and saw my laundry list of pros and one entry for cons that about half the time, the cons won out.

I was torn. We had days in between when we gave our last interview to when we were offered the job. As we lay in the sands of Phu Quoc Island, we discussed our options endlessly. “Do we really want to give this up?” one of us would ask the other as we laid under a palm-thatch umbrella, reading our books at 2 in the afternoon, with a fresh fruit juice in our hand, and watching the sunset every night.

Sunset on Phu Quoc Crossing Paths With A Gifthorse

Yes, we left this to come back to the snowy Midwest

I didn’t have any down-home advice I could fall back on. “Don’t look cross-eyed at a mule” and “don’t spit in the wind while peeing uphill” are good, practical pieces of advice, but they don’t provide much direction when trying to make a decision. That’s when Mr. FancyPants’ quote popped into my head.

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.

If I have learned anything over the past few years, it’s that you never know what the future looks like. No amount of planning can write the future, and if you try to stick to a plan too much, you end up missing out on opportunities. Hell, that’s half the reason Kim and I decided to travel in the first place.

So, we made what was really the only decision we could make: we took the job. We were open to opportunities, and one came up that would bring us closer to what we want. Or, put another way (i.e. in hill people-ese) Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Horse Crossing Paths With A Gifthorse

don’t look, don’t look, don’t look!

When it came down to it, all I really needed to know was that accepting the job would ultimately take me closer to where I wanted to be. Yes, being in SE Asia is what I wanted right now, but everything listed under that “pros” column would take me where I wanted to be in months or years from now.

Now, I am normally the biggest second-guesser in the world (just ask Kim about me trying to order off a menu), but I haven’t second-guessed this.  I am excited for something new, to work again – and to spend another summer in the great outdoors.

But the best thing of all? I’ve created my own folksy saying to tell people when they are at their own crossroads. Here goes:

When your gut is trying to tell you something, go eat a sandwich so you can listen to your heart. 

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Author: Brian

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