“There is a magnificent intensity in life that comes when we are not in control but are only reacting, living, surviving. I am not a religious man per se…but for me, to go to sea is to get a glimpse of the face of God. At sea I am reminded of my insignificance-of all men’s insignificance. It is a wonderful feeling to be so humbled.”
― Steven Callahan, Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
For as long as I can remember, my life was set to a certain schedule. Like a ladder you climb, you reach for each rung as it set for you to achieve the next milestone. Whether it’s completing school in proper succession, attaining a coveted internship and then being hired to your job you can always see what that next step is ahead, predictable and sure. Once set on a career path, you expected to meet certain expectations yielding promotions and perhaps even awards. It was the succession of graduating college, setting off my to internship in Seattle that led me to a writer/producer job in Michigan and then landing me at a top network in Chicago. I worked hard at that ladder but even though the job was creative and high paced, I never felt that sensation of fulfillment. Even with the promotions to Senior positions at a young age and an accolades like Emmy awards, I never felt that sense being “top of my game”. There were always more rungs to climb, schedules to meet and the pressure of society to keep reaching higher up the ladder. You can never make enough money, work enough hours or stress about keeping up with your peer group.
When I married and started a family, I cast aside the corporate world for a more fulfilling role of being a mother. Even with marriage and parenthood, there are still rungs to climb, milestones to reach, and the never-ending carousels of schedules, appointments, and important events. Each day gets filled up fast, sometimes I couldn’t even keep pace. Playing beat the clock game while sometimes exhilarating, left me weary and exhausted.
I knew in my soul there had to be more. I have always been a seeker, but uncovering who I am and where I belong and what my purpose is leaves me often perplexed. Two years ago, I started my own Paddleboard company www.standuppaddleclub.com trying to share what makes me feel most inspired: being on the water, practicing mindfulness, health/wellness and personal empowerment. In that company’s inception and creation I stretched myself by taking a leap of faith financially, mentally, spiritually and physically.
Just as I got up and running, and two years into a somewhat successful and promising business, our family relocated to Great Guana Cay. I was really excited to go to a place that should be the Shangri-La for paddle boarding with the shimmering blue waters, ample sunshine, tourist industry and plenty of time to play on the water. But the day I arrived, I learned I could not teach my classes here according to Bahamian law. I am not a Bahamian citizen so therefore, I cannot run a business here, how ironic. It seemed like a cruel joke. It was the perfect “next step” for me. The ladder I was climbing quickly became… truncated.
I began to feel “adrift”. Here on the island there is no schedule to keep (except for the ever changing ferry schedule) there are no appointments, errands to run, classes to attend. Nothing to make you feel anchored or rooted the way my prior life was set up to be. Where I was once teaching pilates classes, getting certified to teach paddle board yoga, volunteering at the school, carting wolfgang to the various practices, lessons and games, throwing fun themed parties, running from store to store, appointment to appointment to the polar opposite of absolute “free time”. Most people would think…”Wow! What a luxury, time to spare no shuffling off to places and people to see.” But in fact it is quite a lonely place. You begin to think and ponder who am I, if I don’t have all the schedules to keep and a business to run? What is to become of me if all that I identified with is now awash? Who am I if I am not doing the “mom hustle”? It’s like having a jigsaw puzzle nearly finished and all the pieces get scattered about.
I find that when you strip away the crazy chaos of American life, you have to do soul searching and look to your inner guidance to fill the spaces where a hurried and stressed life brokered your days. Long beach walks, star gazing, floating in the salt water, attending yoga groups and grass root organizing community activities start to replace that get up and go- take no prisoners lifestyle. You start to connect with nature, timing your schedules to the tides, the wind and temperatures. You start to create a rhythm that is more simpatico with nature timings not society’s timeline.
I take my time drinking my coffee in the morning savoring each luscious sip. I look out to the vast ocean somedays it is turbulent and roaring, other days calm, and translucent. I feel present. I can’t think about next steps or what the future is for my kid’s education. I can’t worry about new class offerings for my company. I can’t worry about our past, did we make right designs when selling our house or changing schools for my son? What is done is done. I only have now. There is no past and the future is a big question mark. I am required in this expansion of time to be fully present and self reliance to connect and be aware of my surroundings.
I recently joined a walking club with some women who have been a part of the island culture for many years, they are wise to the ways of island living and when I walk with them I glean insight to new patterns of living. While on a hike with some of my friends on Guana Cay, one of the gals told a great story about self-reliance and presence. She told me of a story of her youth where her father would take her and her brothers and sisters on a “get lost” Sunday drive. They would pile into the car and take a drive with no certain destination. Each crossroad they came to, one child would pick left, right or straight. They each took a turn navigating their way. The drive took turns and curves and the kids needed to be fully present and aware of their choices and the navigation points as they spontaneously drove through the countryside. When it was time to turn back, the kids had to use their inner GPS to navigate the car and the family back home. If they weren’t paying attention or acutely present in the scenery and surroundings they wouldn’t find their way home.
I think this a perfect metaphor with living life not on a pre-determined schedule. You have to be open to possibility, you can wake up to opportunities that if you were too hyper focused on the “next thing” on your schedule you might have missed. By living on the island, where you have freedom with time rather than see it as a commodity, I invite spontaneous outings and welcome stretches of time where I can take long walks and connect with the beauty of nature. You can tap into your inner GPS and examine who and why you are. You can access your authentic self by seeing your response to life rather associating your identity with a pre-determined destination. You cannot be lost if you stay present and mindful.
I just recently finished Michelle Obama’s eloquently written memoir ” Becoming”. She unfolds her life in a way where she never knew what her true destiny was, she wasn’t stuck in a box where she was supposed to fit according to society. She allowed her self an evolution into her own purpose always depending on her inner compass to find her true north. While she had obstacles and challenges, she was still able to create a life filled with community, love and purpose. She stated that people used to ask her, ” what will you become when you grow up?” and through her book she was able to show her life is a gentle unfolding and becoming. She needn’t always follow the direct path, the next pre-determined rung on the ladder. Life is not about your destination. In this way we are always truly becoming.
I no longer know which direction my life will take, in the first time in my life I am adrift. There are no pre-determined next steps for our family. We don’t know how long we will live on a rock, we don’t know where Wolfi’s next school will be, where he will graduate from, what city or country we will live in for that matter. What I do know is that I have my inner guidance system and after many right left or straight turns, I will end up where I am destined to be. I won’t be adrift if I chart a course that always coincides with the compass of my heart, mind and soul.
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” -Michelle Obama in “Becoming”