It’s been five years since I left the corporate world and entered my self-prescribed 3rd Act. At the time, I thought I’d planned my journey quite well, yet looking back, it has been five years of unexpected twists and turns, accomplishments and loss, growth and setbacks. My battle with breast cancer and the death of both my parents counterbalanced with a new career in coaching and the exploration of my own voice in the writing world. It’s been a wild ride and I sit here today in a completely different place than I ever envisioned. With the pandemic forcing us to slow down, I’ve had more time to reflect on the concept of journeys.
As children, our journeys were mainly controlled by adults – parents, teachers, family members. It’s a necessary structure. We needed to learn how to be in the world, how to make choices, how to live with consequences, all within a safe environment. Our gradual progression into adulthood required that we learn to choose our own journeys. Going to college, getting a job, committing to relationships, having children – all part of our chosen path. Paths that are never straight, often a challenge and always surprising.
Yet, sometimes we look up from the path and realize we’ve lost sight of our destination, lost control of our narrative, maybe even lost an important part of ourselves. We find ourselves stuck in a job that no longer gives us purpose. We are in a relationship that no longer brings us joy. We are no longer choosing our journeys but floating along because it’s easy, comfortable and safe. I know this was true for me the last few years of my job.
What holds us back from making new choices once we realize a particular journey is no longer serving us? Most of us would answer fear. I don’t have the solution to conquering fear but I can offer my journey of working through it and coming out the other side.
When I chose the tagline for my blog, Never Lost. Just Exploring. I didn’t realize it would become my North Star during times I was lost in fear. Leaving my corporate job and buying a one-way ticket to Barcelona allowed me to explore what I truly wanted to do with my life. Sitting in hospital rooms waiting for my dad and then my mom to die allowed me to face the fear of losing them while exploring what I could offer as comfort and peace at the end. Hearing the words, you have cancer, and wondering how I would find the strength to tell my family allowed me to face that fear and explore how their love and support could give me courage during treatment.
These were journeys I hadn’t intended to take, yet they taught me to stay fully present and explore the arc of the experience. That exploration helped broaden my concept of journeys, viewing them more like stories, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And I realized we are actually quite good at navigating journeys because we are moving through their natural arc all the time.
The big ones – Birth, life, death. School, career, retirement. The small ones – Waking up, working, going to sleep. Starting dinner, cooking, cleaning up. The conscious ones like planned vacations and the relatively unconscious ones like doing laundry.
Looking at our lives and the multitude of journeys we choose can give us an appreciation for all we have and all we do. I’ve learned to be more conscious of beginnings, middles and ends, knowing that without an ending, a new beginning may not be allowed to enter my life. I’m grateful for taking the risk to end my corporate job so I could make room to explore a whole new career. I’ve learned to accept where I am in the journey of my 3rd act and explore new opportunities, saying yes to new writing groups and even a recent theater performance! I’ve learned to have faith in my ability to make conscious choices and stay present in my life.
2020 was to be my year of travel and for the first time in fifteen years I won’t be on an adventurous trip with my cousin this summer. Instead, I’m joining the rest of the world on the pandemic journey whose arc has just begun. I will sit in the midst of ambiguity, be present enough to bear witness to all that is unfolding and trust that this journey, like all others, will have an end. Along the way, I will continue to make conscious choices in how I show up and know that I am never lost, just exploring.
I’m curious. What journeys are you choosing in your life?