A Few Words on Existence and the Onward March of Time

by Anne Dorko

I am tucked away in the corner of a coffee shop: observing, thinking, writing.

I don’t know how many times they’ll let me get away with starting my stories this way. It seems to begin here most days.

It used to be a café and bakery in the early hours before work. Over the weekend it was the popular chain near the house by the theater. Then came the road trip and it was anywhere I could find with free wi-fi and decent refill prices. After that it was a new city, a new café that never closed, and I could write through most of the night before realizing how long I’d been there.

The inevitability of this scene is probably the most consistent part of my life:

Hunched over a keyboard, squinting at a screen, desperately trying to communicate all of the ideas and words and stories bursting inside of my skull, clawing at the notion I can change someone’s life with my words.

This is who I am.

Anne Dorko reflection self portrait

I am tired most of the time, but I can’t sleep. It’s not full-fledged insomnia. I don’t think I’m flying around the world instigating my own cult to take down the world’s economy as we know it.

Though, it has been a strange time of my life.

What shaped me to be this way? Was it the homeschooling? My brief foray into public high school before testing out early? Being diagnosed with severe anxiety? Cramming four years of college into two? Growing up in a family of eleven?

The famous question of nature versus nurture. Why am I who I am?

Anne Dorko family photo

Attempting to summarize my life glosses over important nuances and finer details that give depth to the way I’ve learned to deal with different situations. I’ll tell you the highlights, anyways.

I am motivated, a go-getter. I am lazy, a procrastinator.

I asked to learn violin when I was turning three and played for about 12 years. I started my first business when I was maybe six years old — and never stopped starting businesses. I was ten when we adopted five girls, growing our family from four children to nine.

I am self-confident, an optimist. I am anxious, a cynic.

I was impressive as a child. Always learning, exploring, displaying creativity, individuality and wisdom beyond my years. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree when I was 18. I was already earning a decent salary as web developer, living in my own apartment, and generally overshooting Successful by normal world standards.

But it was a time of economic disaster. Companies were dying out by the dozen. I was laid off my dream job before I could even legally drink for the first time.

It was one of my first lessons in the idea that even the best things are temporary. Maybe even especially the best things are temporary.

It was one of my first lessons that the prescribed way of doing things is not foolproof.

There were other salaried jobs, and the freelancing: photography gigs, writing gigs, design gigs, and whatever else I could do that people would pay me for.

Then wanderlust set in.

Anne Dorko USA roadtrip 2012

In 2012, I quit everything I knew, got rid of almost everything I owned, packed my necessities into my car and drove away without much of a plan. My partner and I left to see all 48 contiguous states in an indefinitely long road trip. We did it in 7 months.

It was glorious.

I met some of the best people who are in my life today.

Nothing has been the same since. I can’t even pretend to sit still. I try everything, learn everything, experience everything. I moved from San Diego to Austin in 2013.

I’ve met a lot of new people. I’ve learned a lot of new perspective.

I’ve begun to embrace my nature to be all in or all out. I’m either doing something with everything I have or not even attempting to fake it. I don’t have time for anything else.

I want to share what it feels like to be alive.

I want to teach people to be alive.

What now? By 2014 I met a new travel partner, a creative collaborator, someone who would push me beyond my comfort zone. (A comfort zone that many would argue was already pretty wide.) She was exactly what I needed to keep me growing at an exponential rate.

Because of her, I have been able to take my game to the next level. I have never been more excited.

We leave for indefinite travel overseas in mid-June.

Anne Dorko: Not an owl

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I was 20 years old, sitting in a long conference room answering this question to an interviewer at a company I’d been referred to after being laid off by my dream job.

I was 20 years old without a goddamn clue as to where life would take me over the upcoming years.

I was 20 years old saying words I thought they wanted to hear from me, words I expected the world needed me to say, words I didn’t know weren’t required from me to make me a valuable human being.

“I see myself working at a company like this, hopefully having grown my skills as a web developer and building innovative solutions like the ones you make here.”

I was 20 years old and had no idea the things I’d get to see, the people I’d get to meet, the actual skills I’d develop and the amount of personal growth I’d attain.

I was 20 years old with no grasp on the things that were actually important to me.

Anne & Cheri Dorko

I was an adorable 20-year-old, though.

In 5 years from now I imagine I’ll be sitting in another café writing another contemplative post about how young and naive I was at 25.

I was 25 years old with had no idea what the world was about to show me, I’ll write.

I was 25 years old pretending I knew what was important to me, I’ll say.

I was 25 years old thinking I’d gotten it all figured it out, I’ll laugh.

Anne Dorko self portrait parking lot

I am a force of nature. I am a game changer. I make people think twice about the way they perceive the world. I create things. I make a difference somewhere, somehow.

I am ridiculous. I am calculated. I am rash.

It’s okay if I’m not always right. It’s okay if I get hurt in the process. It’s okay if I mess things up. It’s okay if some days all I do is lay in a lump under the covers because the weight of the world is suffocating me. It’s okay if I have no more than $5 in the bank sometimes.

Because at the end of the day I am alive, and all I have is to make that count.

First published May 21, 2014

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