Down around the corner
A half a mile from here
You see them old trains runnin’
And you watch them disappear
Where would you be now
Where pistons keep on churnin’
And the wheels go ’round and ’round
And the steel rails are cold and hard
For the miles that they go down
Where would you be right now
Where would you be now
-The Doobie Brothers, Long Train Runnin
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” -John Steinbeck
Each and every one of us is on a journey. A journey away from where we have been, towards some kind of unknown future. In this we are the same. No matter how organized, well intentioned or thoughtful you are about planning the course you want your life to take, the truth is none of us really knows how our life will unfold. We have plans, wishes, desires, dreams and many of us have plotted out a course to achieve all those things. But life often has a different idea about where you’re going doesn’t it? Life seems to direct us all over the map, throwing up obstacles and curve balls and even sending us in what appears to be the opposite direction from our goals.
When I was in my 20’s, I had my life very clearly planned out. In fact, most of it was set out in my mind as a teenager. I was more than a little bit Type A and a bit of an over-achiever, but still far from a perfectionist thank goodness. I knew what I wanted and I was adamant that I be one of those people that accomplished everything that they set out to do, instead of someone who just talks about things but never gets around to doing them. The truth is, I was rather effective with this approach to life. I fell in love, started a career in Environmental Science, bought a house and a car, got married, travelled to exotic locations, got a dog, and was pregnant with my first child all before the age of 30. I had accomplished everything I set out to do in record time. Some call this success. But I wasn’t completely satisfied, and I was only moderately happy. The key thing that never sat right with me was that the road to get there was really difficult, and somehow I always felt that if I was on the right path, I would find more ease in the process. If I am completely honest, it was a real slog. I was exhausted and drained and getting where I was going felt like an up-hill climb against the grain. I had proven to myself that whatever you put your mind and focus on you can achieve, but what had I put my mind and focus on? I was completely focussed on all the typical milestones that society has deemed worthy goals. I put all my attention and focus on the things I thought I was supposed to do. Things I knew people would approve of and encourage and praise. I was following the path of millions who came before me and I was looking for external gratification and approval instead of following my own passions and dreams. In doing so, I landed precisely where I aimed. The middle. I was completely successful at landing right smack dab in the middle of mainstream mediocrity, and it was a slog to get there. I had created a perfectly average, middle-class, working for a pay-check lifestyle. Life was ok. Life was beige. I had very few lows, but I had almost no highs. Every day was just “meh”. Rise and grind, sleep, repeat. I was taking very few risks and as a result, was completely un-inspired! I feel exceptionally blessed that I had a wake-up call in my early 30’s. The road I was on came to a screeching halt when my first son was born. Not to be cliché, but it truly opened my eyes! I think it saved me from a fate too many experience. The all too common mid-life crises. At 30 I looked at my life and all my accomplishments and said “what now?” Is this really all there is? Is this really what I’ve been working so hard for? I was bored and stressed out all at the same time. Something was seriously amiss.
So here’s what I’ve learned since. The more you try to control every experience in your life, the smaller and more mundane your life becomes. Control is based in fear. The fear that if you let go and leave it up to anyone or anything else, all hell will break loose. When you live like this, the energy and passion and purpose you are here to fulfill gets sucked out of your experiences and life becomes an endless series of to-do lists. Life only started to get interesting for me when I started to let go. I mean really let go. It was an act of loving kindness towards myself when I began to surrender to the twisting, turning, strangely winding road of life with trust and faith instead of trying to control every twist and turn. This has been exceptionally difficult for me at times, but oh so necessary. The word surrender has always had terrible connotations to me. It was something that the weak did when they had no more fight in them by waving their white flag and giving up, whereby ending up a prisoner in someone else’s kingdom. The feisty warrior woman in me was repulsed by this idea. I’d rather die fighting than surrender! But life isn’t an action movie and I’m not on a battle field. The truth is, I’d rather live than die fighting. I had to re-define surrender for myself. I realized that my definition was holding me back. Surrender really means letting go of the need to control every situation, and by doing so, releasing all of the resistance you create as a result. I was a ball of tension and I needed to let that shit go!
So, I gave up! I gave up my average, mediocre, safe little life in the middle. I started living with passion. I started taking risks, I started focussing on things that really mattered to me, whether people approved and praised it or not. I gave up on average and started shooting for the moon, so even if I fall short, I’ll land among the stars. When I started doing this, an amazing thing happened. My life started creating itself. I no longer had to force things into place by exhausting myself trying to control everything. As I took one step towards my goals, things just started to unfold and one positive experience led me to the next. This is what people mean when they say follow your bliss. You have to let go and trust and move in the direction of your enthusiasm and excitement. This is where the magic happens and the momentum begins to pick up. This is where strange twists and turns you could never have planned out lead you to the most incredible people, situations and opportunities. The second I begin to tightly clutch at life or try to make things happen instead of allowing them to unfold, all the obstacles show up and life gets really difficult again. This is not to say that life will ever be easy, but there is a big difference between physical exhaustion from the hussle, and mental and emotional exhaustion from just trying to get through your un-inspiring day with no flow whatsoever. I’m still learning and growing, but I know I am moving in the right direction. Life truly is a journey after all, and there really is no destination. I know now, that you never really get there. We are all just travellers passing through and having experiences at every stop. So trust in the journey. Let go, surrender, and allow this crazy train to take you on the ride of your life. The life you are supposed to lead.
VINTAGE: Hat, blouse, vest, jackets, backpack (I’ve had since I was 17. It came to Europe with me), wrist warmers, rings and pipe.