In the mood for some light meditation? (Just a warning that I’m not trained, so this might put you to sleep, or you might end up dancing naked on your desk). Close your eyes, relax (but somehow keep reading). You’re in a warm, dark place and there is just a whisper of wind brushing across your face. Everything is calm and quiet, and the feeling threading through your veins, just below your skin, is one of curiosity…energy and anticipation.
Now, open your eyes. You’re in the middle of a forest, and the leaf-strewn path beneath your feet has come to a fork in the road, inviting you to travel down two separate paths. On your right the light is dimmer and more mysterious. Fireflies are dancing in the depths and the shadows beckon intriguingly. To the left the light gets brighter, fiercer. You can feel a steady heat emulating towards you. Which way will you go?
Choose Your Own Adventure books were a steady part of my childhood. I loved the game of chance you took every time a new decision was made. Would your character be chased through the forest by angry, evil animals? Or made queen of a castle made of glass and mist?
You could cheat and skip to the end to see what would happen, help yourself to make the “right” choice, but what fun is there in that? Isn’t the joy in the journey? The heady lure of the unknown. The sweet sting of regret. The aching power of success.
I truly believe that there is no right path. That either way you turn will bring you moments drenched with happiness, and those weighed down by sorrow. My life thus far has had it’s share of unexpected twists. Things that I would have sworn as a naive adolescent that I would never do or try, and then found myself thoroughly engaged in years later…and loving.
I never wanted to live in a big city. I grew up in a mid-sized town, like one big ol’ suburb stretching further west from the Mississippi every year. It was filled with strip malls and business parks and chain restaurants. Everything was family friendly and you were bound to find a new elementary school around every bend. It always felt happily secluded, yet just quirky enough to have it’s own individual personality. You could send your kids out to play until dusk without worrying that they wouldn’t make it home. And then you could go have dinner at a family-owned italian restaurant tucked away in some cool, old neighborhood, and enjoy handmade pastas and jugs of wine. It was unintimidating, and I liked that. I was drawn to places where I wouldn’t get lost and didn’t have to be scared.
Then, when I was 23, I decided to move to Chicago. Suddenly, I had to navigate the El train (going the wrong direction and having to backtrack more than once). I had to flag cabs with authority, standing in the street with my arm up high, making sure the light of the cab was ON not OFF to know it was available (then you earn the right to scoff at people who are waving exuberantly at cabs without their light on and think “amateurs”). I even bought a bike and rode to and from my office, a 12 mile roundtrip commute, on streets with bike lanes (desperately hoping I wouldn’t end up on YouTube as one of those riders who gets bashed by an unsuspecting car door).
Apparently, all my trials of big city life revolved around transportation. But, in practically no time at all, I conquered those fears and realized that this big city held so much spark and excitement and energy. I found little BYOB thai restaurants and took ballet classes in the city park. We lived so close to the baseball stadium that, on warm days with the window open, we could hear cheers from the crowd. And even though I got lost a thousand times, or hated life again and again while freezing my ass off waiting for the bus in below-zero temps, the original intimidation melted away, leaving behind only a burning ember of adventure.
Other things I thought I did or didn’t like? Did or didn’t want? Would or would not do?
I wanted to marry Michael Jackson
I wanted to name my first son Tristan Atreyu
I didn’t want to travel for my job
I didn’t like good beer
I thought I’d never dress up for Halloween again
I thought my older sister would hate me forever
I figured red, pleather pants were flattering
I couldn’t stand the taste of mushrooms
I thought an overly dramatic, emotional guy was my “type”
I thought fashion was an Abercrombie tee & K-Swiss shoes
The idea that there is a “wrong” path to choose is abhorrent to me. Just like the idea that there is only one soulmate for every person feels so wrong and sad. As if you could accidentally miss the one and only person in life that could make you happy?! I just don’t believe that is true. No matter what path you choose, there will be people along the way that can enter into your world and make it shimmer. And, if you’re lucky, there might be more than one.
I’ve brushed up against a few soulmates in my life so far. Each rare and earth shattering in their own way.
They will build you up, and break you down. Blaze with passion or offer you peace. Give you a thousand things, and withhold a thousand more. Support you, challenge you, laugh with you until your body hurts from the shaking, cry with you until you’re sure that your broken spirit will never recover. And then they’ll pull you in and surround you with a warmth so complete that it feels like you’ve never felt the sun until that very moment.
They’ll spark something inside of you that becomes a living, breathing thing—bringing a new sense of wonder to every inhale, and an unknown terror with every breath that escapes from your lips. And they will understand when the things you said you wanted, swore you could never live without…change.
My husband, while not the most prosaic man ever made, said something once that has resonated with me forever after.
“How can you promise someone forever? The best that you can hope for, is that when you change, you’ll change together.”
Because we WILL change, and our lives WILL differ greatly from what we first thought. And things we were once afraid of, in the end, will bring us joy and laughter and wonderment. It would be naive to expect that plans laid so early on would never have hiccups, would never force you to rethink your route. But if you can accept those things and be flexible with change, you’ll open yourself up to so many amazing things you never before knew existed.
I’m no motivational speaker or expert on how to live your life—but I’m truly grateful for the divergent path my own life adventure has taken so far, and I’m pretty excited to see what the next chapter holds…Plus, I’m REALLY glad my kid’s name isn’t Tristan Atreyu (though I’ve still got mad love for you Brad).