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Yoga Berra said, “When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.”
Robert Frost wrote about two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and how he wished he could have traveled them both. Our lives are kind of like walking down a road. Sometimes the road is smoothly paved for us and sometimes there are rocks and cracks.
Sometimes we’re guided down the road by our parents, fear, or just the idea what we have to keep going in this direction because that’s the only road we’ve seen, so we make like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and follow it hoping that it will take us to safety.
Or sometimes there are no roads.
When I was little I had my life planned out.
I was going to go to George Washington High School and I was going to be on the pep squad. I would then go on to college, most likely at Spellman, where I would learn to speak fluent French, Spanish and Italian.
See, I was going to be the first female Secretary General of the United Nations and in the past all the Secretary Generals had always spoken multiple languages. Or at least that’s what my 10 year-old self remembered from the tour of the UN.
My plans were like a path laid out in front of me. I knew exactly the road to walk to get to my goal of becoming the Secretary General.
Clearly, that didn’t happen and instead, I choose to meander off the path and into an area that was undefined. And it all started with one small step and one giant leap of faith.
And this little city that you may have heard of – Paris.
In keeping with my young girl dreams I studied Spanish and, though not completely fluent, found that languages really were a gift for me. So I decided I’d also learn French because why not?
Lots of living and life happened in between and then one day there I was at the airport with a one-way ticket to Paris.
Not only was I completely off the beaten path, but I was deep in the wild uncharted territory of life. And I was scared shitless.
Yet, walking away from the planned path for my life was the best thing I ever did. It changed me permanently leaving a lasting impression like a butterfly tattoo on a teenage ankle.
I did not have a plan when I left other than to live and experience, and to see and to feel. There was no goal in mind other than to grow and just have life experiences. The feeling of just being without anything extra attached to it, no goal or expectation, felt like freedom. It felt the way birds must feel when they fly high into the air with nothing but the clouds around them.
It felt like life.
But, we get older and wiser and with kids it’s not always possible to just throw on a back pack, stuff some traveler’s checks in your pocket, and hop a flight to anywhere.
Yet there are still things that we can do to feel that sense of freedom, of excitement and mystery in our everyday lives. We can feel freedom and that je ne sais quoi by just daring to be a little uncomfortable, or maybe even scared shitless, and to try new things by taking a tiny step off the usual paths we walk down. Things like…
Doing Something You Never Want to Do Alone
For me, it’s going to the movies. I’ve never wanted to go to a movie alone. I don’t know what weird phobia that is, but I’ve always imagined that going to the movies alone would be a really lonely experience. And yet when you’re at the movies it’s not like you talk to anyone anyway.
In reality, these types of feelings are usually fear. Fear that someone will see us at the movies alone and think, “Wow, what’s wrong with her?” I mean, I traveled the world alone at a very young age knowing no one there and yet I couldn’t get my butt to the movies alone? Life is nothing if not ironic, n’est pas?
When we push ourselves to do things that are outside of our comfort zone, we create a space for possibility. We give ourselves permission to experience life.
Taking The Stairs – Doing Something Uncomfortable
I recently went to a retreat for my life coach certificate program. When we registered we had the option to have single or double rooms. Normally, I’m the type who would pay extra for a private room because I don’t want to be sharing a room with a stranger. I mean a stranger is someone who I wouldn’t know. Someone who could be, well, strange.
But, I really want to meet and connect with other women who are like me and how on Earth am I going to make new friends and connections if I don’t step outside of my comfort zone? So, I got the double room. And then I spent the days leading up to the retreat kicking myself and even as I was checking into the hotel considering whether it was too late to get the solo room.
I didn’t end up getting a solo room and, instead, had a great roomie and a fun night of talking and laughter. I got what I wanted – connection. I also opened my world up more and gave myself a little more freedom to just live and to be. And all by taking a tiny step off the usual path I walk down.
No matter how old I get I will never stop being curious about the world and wanting to try new things. There is just so much out there to experience and yet we often miss out on things that we would really enjoy because we don’t make like Nike and just do it. Classes are a great way to expand our minds and open up more space in our lives.
It could be anything from a language class to a dance class, a cooking class, or learning how to fix your own brakes.
I am participating in two programs this year and my mind and heart have been blown wide open. For the first time in a really long time, I feel the same sense of excitement, bewilderment and endless possibility that I did when I stepped off the airplane in Paris when I was 18.
You don’t have to travel the world with a hiking backpack to find yourself or to renew your zest for life. You can just open your mind, feel the fear of trying something new, take a step off the comfort of the path, and run barefoot into the woods of life.
If you don’t like the road you’re walking at, start paving another one. – Dolly Parton