For twenty-three and a half years I have done what I wanted to do. I have made my choices and chose, for the most part, wisely (matters of the heart not-withstanding–former lovers to the death of my dad are where my regrets lie.) I followed a passion and a desire. Even when I made the hard choice to migrate to an office-based job, I still did it on my own terms and in line with my own values. Now, three years and a few months into it, I can’t help but wonder what is next. My itchy feet have returned. That is hard and it is normal for me. This time, it feels different though.
A friend suggested a book, The Path Made Clear, by Oprah. “It is available on Audible,” she had said. “You could listen to it on my phone or something,” knowing one, I don’t have Audible and two; I was unlikely to get or buy it. Luckily for me, in line with my values, it was also available used from a Goodwill store in Florida. The postal carrier brought it today.
The small, square, hardcover, self-help book is the exact kind of thing I should have gotten on Audible, or at least taken her up on the offer. I clearly recognize it as something that aggravates me, if not just because now I have one more thing in my life. Or maybe it was the pithy quotes and typical associated pictures. At least it was used. I suspect I will read it then leave it in the Noble third floor kitchen for another lost, wayward soul to read. The funny part is that people generally don’t come to NOLS for lack of clarity of vision or because they don’t know how to pursue their passion. NOLS is the kind of place that only those who are following a calling, vision, or passion make their way too. On the other end of it though, when it comes time, it is the kind of place that can be hard to leave. It is also the kind of place that people use as a stepping-stone or a launch pad to something new. Maybe someone up there will find a use for it.
I was baking a loaf of sourdough bread, an oat cornmeal variety, when it arrived. I cut the package open, recycled the packing slip, and stuck the tyvek envelope into a bin with others. I cracked the binding and leaned against the counter. “Follow your passion,” “do what excites you,” “be you.” “If you are scared of something, that means you probably should go for it.” ”Doubt and fear.” “God has a purpose for you. “ “You have a purpose for you.” “Your purpose may change; it will change.”
I have lived in liminal space. I have felt the pull of one thing against the pull of another. I have lived in the loss of what was and the uncertainty of what is to become. That space haunted me before, during, and after my transition into an office-based job. It was there when I left wilderness therapy. And now I feel it again. Except the path isn’t clear. Those times there was an obvious next step: move from wilderness therapy to NOLS and from full-time fieldwork into a program supervisor position. They were kind of no-brainers.
Today, leaning up against my counter, flipping through the inspirational quotes and self-help vignettes, I feel unmotivated. “Be your best self.” “Find your own way.” “. . . the real issue is trusting yourself. Trusting yourself that you’re going to make the right choices.” In these phrases I fail to see my next steps. I highlight a few sentences and laugh at the irony: “pay attention to what makes you feel energized, connected and stimulated. Follow your intuition, do what you love and you will do more than succeed. You will soar.” The irony is that I have been doing that. I did that. And it worked. I followed my heart and it has led me here. I did it well, am still doing it well, and can’t help but feel uninspired in it all. Love brought me here. Passion and doing what made me feel energized brought me here today. Finding my own way, forging my own path, that is what brought me to sitting at this table, in this room I made, in this house I bought, in this town I found. I have privilege and l have the love and support of my family, so it hasn’t entirely been on my own, but I am here none-the-less.
Much like those in Oprah’s vignettes, I feel uncertain as to what is next. For 16 years of my life I frequently asked the question, and was asked the question “what’s next?” It always seems that there has to be a next. What if there doesn’t have to be a next? What if where I am is where I am supposed to be? Is that OK? I am not scared, nor do I think I will not make the right choices. But I do wonder, as the book says: “your purpose may change; it will change;” is my change coming?” My purposes of inspiration and education still feel relevant. They are still buoyed by my values and tenets that are core to my being. It is different now that I work in an office; my audience has changed–no longer is it just students, but it is still relevant.
There is a contentedness and a satisfaction in my path that lies under my outward sadness that manifests from a loneliness. Those two things consistently bubble to the surface now. I lived my dream for so long, it only seems fair to let these feelings come through, to sit with them, and see what they have to teach. They make me think of being in liminal space on an emotional level. It is a liminal space in a way of thinking more than a way of doing or place of being.
Changing what I am doing may not be as important as changing how I think about what I am doing. I have been restless, I have been a wanderer, and I have been a rootless, shifting mover. But now I have found a place that is me, and am evolving the person that is me.
I haven’t finished the book yet; it sits awaiting a nighttime moment. In many ways, it has delineated my path, not my forward one, but the one I took to get where I am. That is inspiring and reassuring. So maybe the path is being made clear. I keep doing what I am doing until I need to do something else, until the whispers hint at a new direction and a new purpose or a new way to live my purpose.
Maybe I just needed a reminder of all that.