How I'm doing 6.5 months in
It has been more than six months since my last full-time job ended. I have struggled, learned, grown, despaired, connected with others and more over this period. I have treated some of the time as a luxury for relaxation, recharging and contemplation but have also at moments been lost in shame, felt adrift or simply wished a job would parachute in from the sky to pay me and tell me what to do. But when I look back over this period in the aggregate, I am upbeat about what I have taken away from it and the commitment I have maintained to seek out what I value and where I want to go next.
These dueling tensions are tough to contend with and I imagine are not unfamiliar to others. Feeling committed to the journey ahead one minute and inferiority the next. Gratitude and excitement for insights now followed by self-doubt soon later. Why do I remain on this rollercoaster rather? I discovered a passage by Thoreau years ago that set my heart on fire and continues to drive me today whenever I see it,
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
I remember ten years ago affixing those lines to the back of my bedroom door and here I am now in my 36th year still holding onto it. If anything reinforces Thoreau’s call it is merely the passage of time. The simple fact that I am now ten years closer to the end of my time here.
While Thoreau’s passage underscores the desire I feel to live deliberately, it does not call out how agonizing the search can be. In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown uses the the same metaphor as Thoreau but also highlights the vexing duality of the wilderness,
"Theologians, writers, musicians and poets have always used the wilderness as a metaphor. To represent everything from a vast and dangerous environment where we’re forced to navigate trials, to a refuge of nature and beauty where we seek space for contemplation. What all wilderness metaphors have in common are the notions of solitude, vulnerability and an emotional, spiritual or physical quest.
Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness, an untamed, unpredictable place, of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking. A place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it or we can’t control what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging and it is the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. The special courage it takes to experience true belonging is not just about braving the wilderness it's about becoming the wilderness. It's about breaking down the walls abandoning our ideological bunkers and living from our 'wild heart' rather than from our 'weary heart'”
Brown’s wilderness is the environment I choose to inhabit. For much of my life I have been a wilderness wanderer and yet what I would say about the past 6.5 months is at times I have had to wander deeper into it than I am accustomed. What I have found in here has been both madness and gratitude. One with emotional and fiscal challenges but also a space for contemplation and solitude.
A concept I came across more than three years ago and has dogged me since became clear a little more than two months ago after hours of reading, writing and reflection. I do not believe this would have happened as quickly if I did not have the time on my hands I do now. Having unearthed this new thread reminds me that space and time are precious things we rarely afford ourselves in today’s hurried world.
Should you venture deeper into your own wilderness? It’s not for me to say you should but what I will offer is that few people do. While you are certain to encounter things that are unnerving, you are also likely to find promise and opportunities few will.
Go Forth Boldly
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference"