Have you ever had that feeling, your heading home, and you zone out, you are just a passive passenger along for the ride in your own body?
Suddenly, you’re at your destination, and you don’t quite remember all the details on how you got there. Some specifics sure; you stopped at that red light, the music playing in the background; when it was catchy. But for the most part the journey was a haze as you thought about your day gone by, the day coming tomorrow, the weekend coming up, or, nothing much at all.
When this happens to me I often think of a quote, that, while I have never actually read any of Ursula K Le Guin’s work (something I mean to rectify), has always stuck with me:
“It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it’s the journey that matters in the end.” (Ursula K Le Guin, 1969 The Left Hand of Darkness)
When the daily rush of normal life came crashing to a halt in mid-March, I had this exact same feeling. Don’t get me wrong, the place where I find myself is an absolute paradise; married to the man of my dreams, beautiful home, adorable puppy, the most amazing circle of family and friends a person could ask for and a great job. I know how fortunate I am, there are no complaints here, only an attempt at growth.
As I adapted to this new normal, I felt a shift, an awakening within me of imaginings and interests that I had forgotten. Curiosities, that have been left in a pile at the edge of the desk and then, slowly, over the years, scooped into boxes and placed in the dusty corners of my mind.
I am a dreamy kind of wanderer, I always have been. Happy to float from place to place with no real goal other than to see where it leads. At least, I used to be.
I never really had a clear answer for that age old chestnut; “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I clearly remember being confused about this question at one particular family gathering. How was I, at the age of ten, supposed to know what I was going to do with my life? I was ten, what did I know of the world? I pointed that out and received an uncomfortable silence from my adult audience and a pat on the head, followed by, “You really need to give it some thought.” So, I settled on Vet. It was easy, I love animals and it appeared that Vet was a lofty enough goal that it would elicit sounds of approval from the gathered adults.
My true, secret goals were vague; to travel, to go on adventures, to fall madly in love. But society loves clarity, loves direct and clear goals, an end in sight, in a straight line. At least, that is what I was taught:
- Graduate high school
- Go on to Post-Secondary studies
- Meet Significant other
- Graduate Post-Secondary studies
- Land the job of your dreams in your chosen field, immediately
- Get married
- Buy house
- Have kids
There is nothing wrong with any of these goals. In fact, I ticked a fair number off that list, but I did them the windy way, the way that worked for me. Much to the chagrin of my straight edged and very direct Mother.
I enjoyed pulling on threads of interest and seeing what was at the end of them. Something that I used to constantly apply to my life. I’d see something of interest, wander over, experience it and either wander back or see where it took me. Some would call that aimless drifting, I was taught that society would call that lost, but, in the wise words of Tolkien “Not all those who wander are lost…” (Tolkien,1977, p. 202) I may not have a clear end goal and I may be taking a winding and roaming route, but for me at least, that was fulfilling.
Somewhere though, I took a wrong turn. I pulled on a thread of curiosity and found myself stuck in the mud. Which is the danger inherent in any decision.
Other people’s truths became my own, the imagined yard-stick by which society measures life’s milestones somehow found its way into my inner sanctum. I had checked off some of the markers, yes, but it wasn’t enough. There were more to check off and time was short, the yard-stick only goes to thirty and I was well beyond that. My curiosity became a hindrance, my desire to walk to the next corner and see what was there became a weakness. I lost sight of the journey and tried to force myself into a mindset that has never truly been my own. To see the goal with clarity and walk straight at it pursuing it at all costs. Never mind the emotional toll of not being true to myself. Never mind the destructive effects of obsessing over the future and trying to see what was coming, while all the time standing still. Because no matter how much you hammer at it, a square peg is never going to fit into a round hole.
Would I go back and change that decision? No. I believe that every choice has value, whether it leads to success or failure. It is what we do with the lessons we have learned that are important. Even if it takes a while for the lesson to really sink in.
And so, it was in this constant state of frustration, that I ran head first into the huge stop sign that this global pandemic has placed in the way.
Out of something truly scary, truly terrible and wrought with uncertainty and fear for the future, I have found my breath, and I know that I am absolutely lucky to be in this position. This forced pause from the daily routine has allowed me to take stock of the destination I find myself at. After years of hazy travelling, it has allowed me to recognize that I have, actually, achieved all the goals that I held close to my heart growing up. I have traveled, I have been on so many adventures and I have fallen madly, ecstatically in love. I am right where I want to be.
Sure, I succumbed to the perceived pressures of everyday society, that yard-stick has poked holes in my unwavering belief that everything will in fact be OK; that I am enough, that it is the journey and not just the goal that matters.
I feel my curiosity returning, new goals have arisen from the dusty corners of my mind; can I learn to write effectively and do it well? Can I learn to draw well, sew the clothes that I daydream about, can I learn to write music? In the simplest terms, can I be creative? Something that didn’t fit the narrative given to me by the rigid hallways of the education system I grew up in, or the narrow focus of my mother’s self-hating view of me.
I see new possibilities and new winding paths to charge headlong down. I will gather the tools that will help me focus, learn and grow. Over the next few posts, I’ll explore what it means to me, to awaken and reassert my weird and quirky self. How I am teaching myself to ignore the ingrained negative self-perceptions and silence those voices that tell me to conform.
I didn’t graduate high-school on time with my peers, choosing instead to change all my subjects halfway through my final years; I picked my post-secondary studies out of a coffee cup filled many choices and I’ve never had a clear goal of what my career should look like, other than it should have many twists and turns, filled with interesting experiences.
I am in my mid-late thirties and according to those external perceived pressures, I should be done and set on my path. And yet, I’ve achieved everything I have ever set my mind to by taking the road less traveled and enjoying each winding route. I’d like to reclaim that mindset.
So, now the blinkers are off, the fog has been blown away and I am awake again. We get one shot at this amazing journey called life and I’m not going to allow myself to fall back on old habits. I’ll gather tools to my side, I’ll inflict my terrible writing and rambling thoughts on anyone who will willingly (or coerced) read it, I’m looking at you fellow classmates! And I’ll see where this new path leads!
Care to join me on my wanderings? Maybe we’ll find something magical!
Calla Wahlquist (2018, January 24th.) A Life in Quotes: Ursula K Le Guin. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/24/a-life-in-quotes-ursula-k-le-guin
Tolkien, J. R. R (1977) The Fellowship of the Ring. The Folio Society. (p. 202). (Original work published in 1954 by George Allen & Unwin).
An exercise in self-reflection – What this moment means to me. #personal growth #self-reflection https://bit.ly/2ys2Vg6Tweet
For Facebook – I wrote a blog post on what this moment in time means to me and how I am working towards personal growth. Freeing myself from perceived social pressures about life and how we measure our value and success on this journey. An exercise in self-reflection-what this moment means to me. https://bit.ly/2ys2Vg6