This week during an ethics advisory board meeting for a very cool HR technology company, our group was asked: “How do you imagine the unimaginable?” A few mentioned sci-fi. “I think about pioneers,” I said, which of course prompted a few questioning gazes. A few more from you, I’m sure, as you’re reading this letter. Stick with me here.
As I make my way across the US from East to West and South to North, I find myself thinking about them a lot – those early pioneers. The first people that recorded and photographed crossing this country. (Indigenous people “discovered” these places, to be clear.)
Listen to this week’s letter here!
I imagine this group of people that traveled across an ocean on a boat. They bonded through the peril of travel and after landing in some spot on the East Coast, they settled down with this group. Then one day, they made the decision to move on.
What I can’t quite decipher is why. These were people who (in theory) had almost everything they needed – protection, warmth, food. They didn’t know it would be more beautiful on the other side of those mountains or that they would even survive the trek, but they left anyway. Why leave heading toward the complete unknown?
I want to say it was some remarkable bravery, however I imagine it was fueled primarily by some combination of greed, ego, and pride. But most of all, curiosity so great that they could imagine the unimaginable. They were willing to risk it all for an unknown ending even if this curiosity had unintended consequences like their friends dying as they crossed these unpredictable climates. They kept going.
No, I’m not going to make this into some “just keep going” inspirational message. Pioneers did some really messed up things driven by greed and going.
No, I want to talk about why we go in the first place.
I spent most of my life wondering where I would go next. Planning every detail to create what I deemed to be a steady, predictable path. I believed I didn’t have it in me to take the creative route. Van life was unimaginable.
I went on this journey rebelling against that notion. On the days where I thought this plan was all too much, that’s what kept me going: proving everyone wrong, including me. Probably a little ego, too, with a dash of curiosity – could I really do it? Could I break all the rules that helped me survive without breaking my brain? Could I run a successful business while traveling? Could I live on the road?
I’ve answered all of these questions one by one with a resounding yes, but the unintended consequence of this rebellion? A new answer for why I keep going – and it’s not to prove anyone wrong any more.
I keep traveling because it reminds me to stay present. To be where my shoes are.
Every time I overcome a moment that would have overwhelmed me just one year ago by living in the now instead of worrying about unintended consequences, I know exactly why I’m here: to learn to just be here. I couldn’t do that before. I was too busy planning for my future or trying to predict how my failure would impact tomorrow.
Today I value being exactly where I am. This moment, this place – because I know that whether I’m on the road or in an apartment, I have no idea where this life will take me next or how beautiful it might be. That’s one of few things we all have in common: our lives are unpredictable.
Still, there’s some group of people that will choose to plan away life anyway. I hope that’s not you. You may think like I did, that living your life to the fullest means following the plan or always having one, but maybe it’s more important to just be here, now. To ask why that plan matters so much instead of following it blindly. To imagine a life I also thought was so unimaginable: a life lived well anywhere.
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.