Last month, Harmony over at Creating My Kaleidoscope, offered a challenge to design your own Kaleidoscope. In short, the challenge is to discuss what you see when you look at your future through your kaleidoscope and how you’ll get there. Since I’m a planner and a schemer, I love this idea, but I also love the imagery she’s created. There is a big difference between a telescope and a kaleidoscope. The telescope allows us to see things that are far away close up. Through the telescope, we can see details as if we were right there. Through the kaleidoscope, you see something that isn’t really there. Most kaleidoscopes show just color and shape and when you turn it, those colors and shapes dance and change and create something that wasn’t there before. In some kaleidoscopes, you can actually see what is on the other end of it, but through a distorted, fragmented lens. You might be able to see a face. Sometimes 30 images of the same face. And sometimes, when you turn it, the face disappears completely.
The future isn’t predictable. If I had looked through that telescope ten years ago and found myself working in economics and as a personal finance blogger living in Alaska with three kids, I would have been sure it was the wrong telescope! But isn’t that wonderful? When I first started dating, I immediately realized what a ridiculous game the whole thing was. I had a great time, but I also realized how great it would be to just know who I would marry. If it wasn’t this guy, I didn’t have to bother with him anymore. But then I realized it was a kaleidoscope, not a telescope. I COULD CHOOSE. The fates hadn’t already decided one day that my soul mate was out there and I had to find him. I had the opportunity to decide who that soul mate was going to be! This changed everything.
Life isn’t about being stuck where you are. It’s about looking around where you find yourself and looking through the kaleidoscope to see the possibilities. It requires creativity and imagination. The kaleidoscope isn’t going to provide you a specific end-goal. It won’t clearly show you your future. The kaleidoscope allows you to ignore reality a bit and put your eye up to something wonderful, magical, and transforming. With one turn of the hand, you realize your whole situation can change.
Eventually, we realize someone else can turn the kaleidoscope, too. Life is also full of funny turns and surprises. Some of these aren’t ideal. But they all have one thing in common: we find ourselves looking at an entirely new image of our current and future lives. We never saw ourselves there. And then it’s time to look through the kaleidoscope again to see where we could go from this NEW image.
LOOKING THROUGH OUR KALEIDOSCOPE:
When trying to look through a telescope, we calculate where we’ll be financially and when and what that allows us to do. This is a good exercise and we recently ran through all of these recalculations ourselves. But when I started looking at rolling 4-year periods in my life, I realized even more how unpredictable the future really is. I’m grateful for this unpredictability. Looking through the kaleidoscope allows me to ignore the numbers for a bit. I can ignore the conservative calculations, the amortization schedules, the compound interest calculator, and I can craft possibilities.
Image 1: Mr. T and I live in this house. All three of our kids are off at school and we sit down to discuss the day’s work. We run a small business. It doesn’t make a whole bunch, but it pays the bills and allows us to travel with the kids. We divide the tasks, turn on some music, and we work side-by-side for a few hours. Most of the time, we only work in the mornings 5 days a week. When lunch time rolls around, we move into the kitchen. I chop vegetables. Mr. T toasts the bread. And we get to eat together. After lunch, we go for a long, brisk walk ending up at the elementary school to pick up the kids and walk home. We travel every time the kids have a few days off school and for long periods in the summertime.
Image 2: Mr. T no longer works full time. We run small side projects for fun, but mostly live off of my income working the same job I do now. Somehow we manage to move to the UK legally (again, a kaleidoscope doesn’t require all the realities). We live in a small village in a small house. The kids attend the local school and I wait with the other mums outside the schoolyard before school lets out. We mostly ride our bikes or walk around the village. On weekends, if we stay at home, we take the train to church. Other weekends, we travel around. Cornwall one weekend. Cardiff the next.
Image 3: We’re financially independent. We’ve stuck stateside, but live close to cousins. Our kids go to school together. Mr. T and I spend our days creating without a worry of income. Because we’re both able to be home, we get to be the ones to drive the kids to their activities, attend all of their games and performances, and focus on helping during homework time. Our house is the hangout because we’ve got popsicles in the garage freezer and space to play. Summers and school holidays are spent jet-setting all over.
When I look through my Kaleidoscope, there are so many possibilities. We live all over the globe, our income situations are varied, and each one is totally different. However, specific themes start to emerge. I see the same colors/shapes in each of them and these become the goals:
- More freedom. Time and location-independent.
- More time with the kids. Each image has Mr. T and I able to be there before and after school for our kids.
- Travel. Showing my kids the world and being there when they see it is a constant.
- We spend our time creating. Mr. T and I are certifiable “project people.” We can’t spend a weekend doing nothing. If we had our days to ourselves, there would be so many possibilities to explore! We would create and experiment.
Throwing as much money as we can toward freedom allows our future image to become clearer. Seeing where we actually end up will be exciting!
What do you see in your Kaleidoscope?