Going Backwards Is Good Enough

I took last week off to recoup after Pride month. Okay, I’ll be honest. It’s not that I actually took the week off, I just didn’t work my normal schedule or do any training so it *felt* like I was on vacation. I don’t think that counts, but not taking a break is a topic for another letter. 

There’s just something that feels comforting and reliable about logging into my computer everyday. It’s one of the few spaces in my life where I have control over what’s going on.

I want to know what to expect. Before I set out on this journey, I couldn’t fathom doing van life without knowing as much as possible about what might go wrong. I tried to make rules and rigor in a life that’s inherently unpredictable.Now when people ask what I wish I knew before going into van life, my answer is consistently “less.” I was taught to value that reliability of trying to know everything. Plan. Predict. Avoid the bad thing. Keep moving forward without issues. 

Then last weekend happened. 

A friend joined me to go camping in Idaho. On our way out of town, we decided to off-road and find a quiet place where we could record a video for my blog. “There’s a river down here,” he proudly exclaimed as we talked at the entrance. Now I know those were what we call “famous last words.”

Our vehicles made it about a half mile down the road before arriving at a wooden bridge that wasn’t wide enough for a pickup truck, let alone my massive van. The road approaching it wasn’t wide enough to turn around, either. 

I panicked. Called myself stupid. “I never should have been here. I should have known,” I thought. As we started to evaluate a million different options, some of which included cutting down trees and trying a 1,000 point turnaround, I accepted none of them would work. The road was simply not wide enough. I was stuck. 

Covered in sap and sweat with my hands on my hips trying to imagine some option I hadn’t considered yet,  I heard the hum of ATVs. As we talked through the situation with the riders who admired the predicament with a slight laugh, eventually I had to back up to get out of the way. There was no other way for these ATVs to get through. 

Then it hit me. I could go backwards. To be clear, it wasn’t exactly a 50-foot backup. This was a half mile of bumpy, sandy, tree-lined ATV roads with no barriers and a 7-foot drop that I was about to drive a 15-foot long van down, backwards. But I did it and my nervous system got a full workout. This is one stress test I don’t want to do ever again. 

Once I calmed down, it hit me. All of this was so stressful because living a life where you most value reliability and knowing everything will tell you that the only way is forward. But in a life well lived? Any direction will do. 

Success and a life well lived aren’t so binary. It’s not forward or backward, it’s movement. It’s chasing happiness. Listening harder to the parts inside you that scream for something different. Doing the thing, even when you’re scared. That dirt road filled with doubt is far less traveled, but it will take you somewhere. Somewhere where you can hear yourself. A road where you learn to say no to what isn’t good for you. A road where you create momentum for creating a better life. 

Even if you have to start by going backwards. 

Weekly Letters

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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