“And then there’s the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later” Randy Komisar
When you look back on your life, do you ever consider how things have fallen into place (or not fallen into place), that got you where you are today? And do you ever wonder if by listening to your gut, you’re actually following the path you’re meant to be on? Well, I most certainly have a bit of both in play, and I truly feel as though I’ve listened to my gut to get me where I am today. Something inside me started gnawing at me from a young age and I have chosen both consciously and subconsciously to listen to it.
Let me tell you a little bit about that.
My path, it seems, all stemmed from when I was denied admission to the university of my choice. I was dying to attend a hippie coastal university in the Pacific Northwest, but after bombing my SAT’s twice (seriously, whose brain-child idea decided to put so much emphasis on only two subjects of math and English?) the university decided that because I was so crummy at math, that I must be inadequate in all areas of my life and maybe it would be best if I didn’t attend their school. I was crushed.
So I ended up crossing over the mountains, arriving at the doorstep of a university that did accept me, which was tucked among the vast plains where the buffalo used to roam. I delved into line dancing and country music (a genre to this day makes me squirm), and felt so far outside my comfort zone among the parched landscape. I was a mountain girl and an ocean girl, thrown into a sea of rolling hills of golden wheat. I needed salt in my hair, the fresh ocean breeze, the enormity of the mountains looming in the distance. But all I saw was endless sky and billowing grasses. It felt empty, alone and desolate. I truly was a fish out of water.
But it was at that university that I met my roommate, who would eventually accompany me on a backpacking walkabout around Europe, and allow me to move into her family cabin with her in Lake Tahoe. It was in Lake Tahoe that I met my partner of eight years, whom I eventually bought a sailboat with and sailed to the Bahamas. And here I am.
I often wonder where my life would be had my university of choice had accepted me. I may have stuck around the PNW, enjoyed weekends as a member of a ski-in, ski-out cabin in the mountains, I may have met a nice pale-skinned mountain man, popped out a few kids, found a stable job, and perhaps spent some quality time with my mom before she left this planet. But instead, I followed this strange gut-guidance. Something I like to simply call "my path."
From my utterly epic my-life-is-your-vacation lifestyle, I ended up following my new partner from Lake Tahoe to Buffalo, NY. Why, you ask? Well, to this day I don’t even know. I suppose I imagined the entirety of the US was just as magical as the West Coast. I’m here to vouch, it’s not. If you’re ever asked to move from Lake Tahoe to Buffalo, I’d suggest thinking long and hard about the repercussions of this decision. But I had no idea what was out there. I was bright-eyed to the world.
It was there that I first started getting an uneasy, unsettled feeling my gut. Perhaps it was partly attributed to the fact that I was living in Buffalo, but I just knew that something MORE was out there. I started dreaming of tropical locales. I have no idea why, as I had barely traveled anywhere tropical in my life.
I would sit in my sterile office on the 16th floor at a law firm, answering endless phone calls as a pion front desk clerk (aka switchboard operator), staring at my tropical background screensaver. Great use of my four-year university business degree, I may add. I drank coconut flavored coffee (who came up with that one? terrible idea) and I would visualize sitting in a seaside hut surrounded by towering coconut palms, staring at the pounding surf. I can remember to this day the exact images I visualized. My partner and I were both hearing this siren's call, and thank goodness I wasn't alone. I would have certainly felt like the crazy one, but we enabled each other.
One day I got so fed up with answering the switchboard that I quit my job. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I hit a breaking point and knew I just couldn't answer one more phone call opening with a series of partners' names, 1000 times per day. The next week there was an interview for flight attendant openings in Cleveland, a few hours’ drive away. I got the job, and before I knew it I was working among the clouds.
After a year of living out of a suitcase and spending more nights in hotel rooms than my own bed, I decided to look for other options. But one final use of my free flight benefits was in order. We scrounged up our spare pennies and arranged to charter cruise on a friend of a friend’s sailboat in the Andaman Sea in Thailand. After that trip, I was hooked. The gnawing in my stomach seemed to repress itself once I put it out into the universe that I was going to buy a sailboat and sail off into the sunset.
My partner and I began saving up via our aptly named "Sailboat Fund". What started with a flower pot with magazine cutouts of tropical anchorages that we threw spare change into, turned into a bank account. Before we knew it, we were going to be ready to purchase a sailboat.
When we made our big exit from Buffalo, we ended up getting sidelined for a few years back in Tahoe, making a few extra bucks in the service industry, and purchased a home. We got comfy, settled in, and let our sailboat dreams fall to the wayside. The gnawing feeling returned. We couldn’t ignore it, so despite protests from our families as to why we were moving yet again, we packed up everything and headed east, but this time for lower latitudes. We put our finger on the map and ended up in Charleston, SC. It was there that we met Pegasus, our 32’ Endeavour sailboat. And she was lovely.
We spent a year outfitting her for our adventure to the Caribbean. When we set out from the safety of Charleston Harbour one December day, the butterflies in my stomach were like nothing I had felt before - both exhilarating, and frightful. We were setting out into the unknown, but I knew with all of my heart it was the course I was destined to take.
A lot has happened since that moment that I cast the lines from the dock that fateful day, too much for a blog post, but obviously we all know where I ended up.
As I sit at my computer desk, overlooking the various ranges of turquoise and deep blues from my house in the Bahamas, I wonder where I’m headed next. That gnawing feeling returns from time to time. If I don’t listen, it gets worse. It’s pulled me around to various islands within the Bahamas, and now I’m sitting in a construction-site half-built house for some unknown reason. Perhaps one day it will all be clear.
So the question remains, are you on the right path? I truly believe there is something bigger than us, directing and guiding us in subtle and unsuspecting ways. I don’t particularly like moving and uprooting, but if I don’t listen to the signs that something has to change, I’ll pay for it with imbalance, depression, anxiety and lack of propulsion. All I know is that right now I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, but that could very well change tomorrow.
We are meant to be fully engaged in this creative process of life. When we are balanced and fully engaged in our life's purpose, the pieces fall into place, the doors open, and the pathway illuminates.
And so, dear reader, in those moments where you feel discontent, with that lingering unsettled feeling, go ahead and a big, deep listen. See if you can decipher what it's trying to tell you. Take a moment to tune in. Do you currently feel like you're on the right path? Do you feel content in most areas of your life, or are you dying for a change? If you chose the latter, what can you do to establish that change? It might not mean running off on your husband and children and going and traveling the world solo. It might just mean switching jobs, taking that retreat you've been considering, or picking up a new hobby. Who knows, that new hobby might lead to your new career.
Just do me a favor, if you're not already...listen. Your path is calling.