Earlier in the week, at the end of the post in which I pondered whether that was any such thing as a “right” turn for me, I said:
“The next step is to learn to trust myself to make the choice, and to trust that I can handle whatever that choice brings. (Trust is my word of the year this year for a reason.) Ah, the next big hurdle.”
Once upon a time, I trusted myself implicitly. I trusted that I could handle anything. I trusted the path that unfolded before me. I trusted my inner compass to steer me where I needed to go. I felt like the world really could be my oyster.
Somewhere along the way, it seems I misplaced it. As 2010 ended, and I looked at why so much of what I’d wanted to happen in the year hadn’t materialized, I realized it was because I didn’t have trust. I didn’t trust that if I took a leap, the proverbial net would appear. I didn’t trust in my ability to handle all the challenges of leaving the status quo behind. I doubted whether I could trust my inner compass.
For the first time in my life, I doubted my inner compass!
What madness is this?
It’s the same inner compass that guided my college friends and I into and through unfamiliar areas in our college town and surrounding environs, even when I’d never been to that part of the county. Seriously, it was as though I had a GPS embedded in my chest. It’s the same one that has, on occasion, guided my family on trips when detours forced us off the usual route. It’s the same one that has gotten me back to the road I need to be on any time I’ve been distracted and made a wrong turn. It’s the same one that can recall park trail maps for ever park I’ve visited, that is instinctively aware of where I am in relation to the cardinal directions at all times.
These are the instances most literal in nature… The ones that pertain to driving and walking.
My inner compass locked onto the idea of college in kindergarten. I got there, and I did well, academically. I graduated with honors. My inner compass fought my logical mind for my major, and won out. I chose English Literature, and I don’t regret it. I don’t regret choosing my first and longest lasting academic love, even if, perhaps in this economy, it hasn’t proven to be the most profitable degree. (Then again, many of my classmates in other fields are questioning the profitability of theirs, too, so I am at least in good company.)
It led me out of a fear-based faith in a church where inequality, hatred, and intolerance were frequently preached as gospel and into an open field, with a more open heart, mind, and spirit and respect for all faiths.
It led me to every real, true friend I’ve ever had.
It informs my photography and my writing.
It frequently leads me to just the right bit of sage wisdom at just the right time.
Every now and then, it leads me to my Self, that inner wellspring of wisdom that some people, and perhaps the culture at large, would wish I would never give the time of day. (Examples can be found here, here, and, yes, most recently, here.)
When I forget, it helps me remember.
In the act of writing this, I feel like I am waking up from this nightmare I’ve been living in for so long. I started breathing much more deeply and evenly.
Where had the doubts come from in the first place?
For one, from asking advice from my family, people who–though well-intentioned–have never been where I want to go. Many of them cling to the status quo without complaint, and others out of fear of the unknown future that awaits hidden around the curve in the road past which they can’t see. Some have been too busy–and it certainly was this way for my grandparents’ generation–surviving, putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, and clothes on their backs to consider the wider world and the possibilities that lay in it. In this respect, I know I am very lucky.
Prevailing culture has become increasingly fear-filled as well. Every time you turn on the news in the morning or pick up a newspaper, you’ll find fear-mongering stories about unemployment, dreams dashed, politics, and so on.
However, when enough people who are near and dear to you tell you that what you want is the unattainable pie in the sky, or that it’s foolhardy or ruinous, that there is nothing better than standing in the shoes you are wearing that don’t quite fit, the doubt begins to creep in. When the culture you live in reinforces this line of thinking, the doubt begins to creep in. If you don’t recognize it for what it is–another person’s fear, not your own–and pull it out by the roots, it grows and spreads. I wasn’t even keenly aware of it for the longest time.
Then, there were my own fears–the ones that are definitely mine, not really originating with any external source–which my family and culture unwittingly preyed upon.
I have, for most of my life, as a holdover from my time spent married to Academia, feared failure. I never failed a class. Failure is a largely unknown entity for me. From kindergarten through earning my Bachelor’s degree, I can count on one hand the number of tests and projects I failed. Failure has often felt like the end of the line, as though there’s nowhere good to go from there. Intellectually, I know that’s not true. Emotionally, though, it’s going to take some time to convince myself, as what I’m considering now does carry the risk of failure in a way nothing I’ve ever done before has.
Also, for the first time in my life, I find myself without a definitive plan and goal. I am afraid of the unknown, and there is so much I don’t know. I have a collection of dreams, talents and ideas, as well as a financial cushion, but it’s not like the kindergarten-to-college path where I knew from the outset exactly what I wanted and exactly how to get there.
What I’m facing now–moving and trying to find my occupational calling, finding who I am at the core and where I’m meant to be–is more like driving in pitch black darkness, alone, on an unfamiliar winding country road, where the only light comes from a few stars and my headlights. I can’t see where it goes. I can’t see all the curves and dips in front of me. This is where I need my inner compass more than ever, and need to trust in it, but instead I’ve been consulting others that have never even driven this exact road. No one else could. No map exists that documents every curve and intersection. It’s a road that exists just for me, that has to be discovered and charted one curve, one dip, one pothole, one rock, and one obstacle at a time. This, I’m beginning to think, is life, in its purest essence and deepest living.
So, all this said, where am I with Trust?
Trust and I are gradually getting reacquainted.
First in the smaller scale, like sitting here with no real plan of what to write other than the overarching subject–trust–and trusting that what needed to come through would come. Sure enough, it did. Exactly what I needed to hear, exactly what I needed to write, came through. Other examples: trusting my eye while wielding my camera, trusting myself to wander aimlessly around town, and trusting myself enough to open up to possibilities again.
Later, who knows all the wonderful places Trust and I could go, or what we could see?