People who have known me for any length of time would know me as a person who took the well-traveled road. I have always had a plan and knew where I was going. My road was characterized by familiarity, consistency and predictability. I could foresee the end from the beginning. There were no switchbacks, and the hills were not particularly arduous to climb. It was laid with a foundation of integrity, morality and dependability. The guardrails created by the expectation to do the “right” thing corralled me and eliminated the option to veer off and discover any other path. The well-traveled, paved road I walked offered me security in knowing what the next day would be. It eliminated stress caused by the unknown; however, it also eliminated the excitement in discovering something new. At the heart of this girl is an adventurous spirit that has been hiding under the burden of responsibilities and expectations.
Somehow, somewhere along the 1600 mile cross-country trip, this well-traveled road that I have always lived became less satisfying. Any plan that I came here with evaporated into thin air. This has caused me to realize that life is not about arriving at an “end”. And it isn’t about things going “according to plan”. In contrast, it is a never-ending journey; and the joy is found in the unexpected things that happen along the way.
About a week ago, I took my camera with me on my walk to the Stones River Battlefield. The images I captured that day illustrate many of the thoughts I have had about how one lives life. Rather, how this one has lived her life.
As I walked, I came to this unpaved path and was intrigued. I stood and looked for quite awhile contemplating how it parallels my life now. Everything about this unpaved path was unknown. The terrain… the wildlife… the time it would take to walk it. It clearly had been walked before but not often. The fence marked a boundary and yet there was still room to go in different directions, none of which were wrong, just different. This is much like my life in Tennessee. I certainly am not the first woman to ever pick up and move, but it is not a road many take. Everything here is unknown, unfamiliar and undiscovered. I see myself in this picture, walking down a path where the thought of being focused on some far off life goal that must be accomplished seems so ridiculous because what I have around me,right now, is so wonderful that I want to take my time and experience it all.
As I have embraced letting go of my “plans” and settled into the idea of the adventure of today, I have developed some of the most precious relationships and experiences I have ever had. At the time, the situation I found myself in may have seemed happenstance; but as I continue to walk this unpaved path, I see that no one in my life has been just a random meeting. The moments, conversations, times spent together define my experience in Tennessee and are like markers placed on my path that says, “I was here”.
It is true that the unpaved path will be filled with stressful moments and times of uncertainty, but it will also be filled with triumphs over challenges and surprises. The unpaved path will bring seasons of change; each season showing me different shades of myself. Some are vibrant and alive and others being areas that need to die so growth can come.
I wish that I could say that somehow I learned to be content in the moment but it wasn’t something I learned. It was something that seemed to come to me. Perhaps it is a result of being in a place where everything is new and unfamiliar. I am not sure. What I am sure of is that I am truly enjoying not knowing what is coming next and not trying to figure it all out. A new history is being written, and it is beautiful.