Creating Your Own Path
When I returned to my writing life in January of 2018 I was at a very low point. I had returned to my hometown of Chicago after quitting my assistant professorship at Bastyr University in June of 2017, burned out, exhausted, out of gas, faith, love, joy, and direction. I was taking a self-ordered sabbatical, a hibernation from my life; I moved in with my mom in the suburban hinterlands of Chicago and hunkered down, way down.
In January I had an annual physical and the results scared me into life change. I needed an overhaul, and I knew it. Deep inside, I felt my soul scream “Enough!” It wanted me to pick myself up, re-discover the faith I have carried with me all my life, faith in the self, given me by God and the universe, and commit to finding my right livelihood. I knew I could not do that work without getting well first. So, I changed my diet, re-started my exercise routine, and wrote myself a manifesto. I also started reading three books without which my journey would not have been possible…
1. Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell
2. Soul Coaching: 28 Days to Discover Your Authentic Self, by Denise Linn
3. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker Palmer
These books inspired me, rejuvenated me, and helped me envision the path I would begin to walk, the path I am still walking today. No matter what your journey looks like, I believe they would be excellent guides if you are at a place in your life where you are open to and recognizing the need for change.
I want to share an epiphany I had on March 21, 2018, about three months into my journey. I share it because when I look around on August 8, 2020, I see a world in desperate need of individuals who are ready to rise up to the call of their soul. If not now, when? If we are to right this world, each of us, every one of us needs to “right” ourselves first. We need to change the game, the rules, the boundaries, the framework, the goals, and objectives. And I believe that begins in each of us asking ourselves why we are really here and what we have to offer the planet and each other.
We are each a genius in our own way; I always believed this, but Michael Meade showed me that I am not alone in this belief. There is an inner genius crouching inside, we need to invite it out to play. Whatever our world looks like after this pandemic and its side-effects, the only guarantee is that it will look different. I am not glad for all the death and ruin we are in the midst of, but I am glad for the opportunity to change all that is wrong, all that was wrong, before the pandemic… the injustice, racism, climate change, violence, waste, apathy, indifference to the plight of human beings, animals, the earth itself. Stepping into that world armed with your inner genius aligned and flourishing ensures you will be ready to act in whatever way best serves everyone. I think that’s important, more than important, necessary, to create a better world than the one that is already gone…
3/21/18, An Epiphany… I can’t be Love if I can’t Move through Fear!
Yesterday I came face-to-face with my shadow, that part of me that wants to make life “easy” by choosing yet another pre-defined path. Not that the “pre-defined” path means the work is easy. Not at all! Choosing to do PhD studies at Ohio State, and then choosing to teach at Bastyr University were choices that led to hard work. But once that choice was made, seeing the “path” was easy, knowing what to do next, in step-by-step fashion was easy. But the work… the work was more than hard — it was gut-wrenching, mind-numbing, all-encompassing, and stress-producing. All my life I have chosen that pre-defined path, whether a job, a degree, or a life partner, and, and after each choice, I’ve been left unsatisfied, exhausted, and still wanting…
I believe NOW is the time to change that pattern. The saying goes something like, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” Now is the time to reverse the process — to choose the difficult path with the “easy” work. What does this mean?
It means I must stop choosing the easy, pre-defined path — the education, the job, the organization — and create the path myself. The pre-defined path is seductive, initially, it quiets my mind, but then sucks the FUN straight out of my life because the work is so hard it’s crippling. The path I create myself will require me to move forward without knowing exactly where I’m headed, how the road will twist and turn, where it will be circuitous, and when it will lead to a treasure.
This path scares me, and my left brain, but frees my heart to soar. It will make me live in faith, aligned with my soul, and it will require consistent, regular connection inward. I will choose my steps, one by one, no roadmap to rely upon, no one to tell me who I am and what to do. It is truly a pilgrimage to become myself, so, of course, it does not come with a perfectly sculpted job, or a fellowship, or a network, or the ideal company to work for. I must piece it together, bit by bit, like a work of art, a book… a life.
This path will be hard to walk, challenging, because no one has ever followed it before me, or ever will again. This journey is mine alone to travel, but the rewards, I trust, boundless. The uniting of my heart and my mind, my avocation and my vocation to discover work that is easily done because it is done with joy, and almost seems to create itself, as I become… myself.
It’s been more than two years since I realized that I needed to choose the difficult path with the “easy” work. I have been walking that path ever since. I cannot say it has been easy, in the sense that everything came without effort. But I am happy and I am at peace, most days. I have reclaimed parts of myself that were lost for decades. I am doing work that makes me feel good. I believe I am in a better place to offer the world the best of me. And I feel myself becoming more myself every day. Most crucial, I know I am making the journey I was meant to make. I am on the right road. I cannot see the turns ahead, but I trust they are as right as the road I am on. I can move forward with faith in my heart, and the knowledge that wherever I am led, it is where I’m meant to be because I am traveling in love, not in fear.