One of my favorite metaphors for life is that it’s like a walk in the mountains: sometimes you’re going up, sometimes you’re going down.
To take it a couple steps further: sometimes it’s actually hard to tell if you’re going up or down, much less what’s coming next. Sometimes we’re surprised by our progress, when we catch a view of where we came from, and sometimes we’re bummed out when we see how far we still have to go. And it’s fun to play with perspectives and context, too: Is going uphill exhausting, or a sign of things improving? Is going downhill easy on the lungs, or hard on the knees?
I could go on and on with this (and believe me, I often do!) but the beauty of this analogy is that it always comes back to two critical points:
In life, as on a hike, we are always on the path. And no matter where we are, the thing to do is … keep walking.
Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of my life is like that stretch of a hike where you believe you’re going some place cool, and you’re making good progress, but at the moment you can’t see a damn thing, it’s cold, you’re tired, and the whole thing just feels like a slog. Of course, the same thing applies: Even when the magic isn’t there, you just gotta keep walking.
Right now, I could list quite a set of worries, fears, and resentments – and, believe me, I’m tempted! But let’s just say that they all fall in the areas of women, work and money, and the common theme is a fear that stuff isn’t going to work out for me. I’m making a lot of changes in my life, and I believe they are for the better, but change is scary, and there are many things I don’t know about my immediate future.
In other words, I’m kind of in a viewless woods, starting to wonder if I missed a turn or went too far. Not enjoying myself too much. Regretting a lot of previous turns. Wondering if I will ever make it to wherever the hell I’m going.
And you know what the thing to do is? That’s right: Keep walking. Do the little things. Just show up at the new job Monday and see what’s going on. Show up at the other new job Tuesday and learn some more stuff. Figure out how they fit together … whenever. Dip into savings as needed in the meantime. Ask for help. Tell people the uncomfortable things you need to tell them. Have some faith, and do one thing at a time.
One of my favorite mottos from hiking, which also applies to life, is this: If you think you’re lost, or screwed up, or you’re just not sure where you’re going, keep going about five minutes, and you’ll find the answer. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me on the trail: I think I missed the turn, I get worried, I walk five minutes, and there it is.
I am trying to have faith that, right now in my life, I am just a few minutes short of the turn. Because at times like this, when I can’t see where I’m going, I think I’ve screwed up, and the weather is crap and threatening worse, there sure isn’t much magic, at least to my eyes.
And while it isn’t very romantic or inspiring, I guess I’m just gonna have to keep walking. I am, after all, still on the path.