How many of us, at some early point in our lives, have stood wide-eyed in a preschool classroom to see some version of the phrase “be yourself” on a bright colored wall? Looking back on my kinder-years, I think this is quite a lofty request to make of a 5 or 6-year-old. If you ask me, it takes a lot of courage to be yourself. And, when your version of greatness doesn’t look like everyone else’s – when you have to let go of everyone else’s approval to have your own – well, that takes even more courage.
What happens when it’s not that easy? What happens when “being myself” means walking down a path that no one seems to have been down before, when the perfect song lyrics to match my connundrum just haven’t been written yet? How can I be sure in these moments that I won’t end up traveling my heart’s path with regret as my only companion?
Well, to be honest, I couldn’t be so sure when I woke up this morning. Tossing and turning at 6:30 a.m. it felt like regret was wagging its tail at my bedside, begging to go on a walk. So, I enlisted a friend for some help. I told him of my wavering stance on taking a stand for “myself” in the middle of impending decisions and transitions. He shared a great little story with me…
He told me that he used to think of life as a railroad track – his older brother’s train car was the one in front of his, and his brother’s life – his brother’s path – would be the one he would walk. He felt he could easily predict his future – when he would get married, when he would get a job, when he would get a house – based on where his brother’s life had taken him. Then, in the process of some soul searching, he had a revelation and called a friend to share it:
“I’ve always thought I would have to take my brother’s path,” he told his friend. “Now I’m seeing that there is no one path – there are so many – I can take any of them!”
His friend responded simply: “There are no paths.”
I was awestruck.
With that story, I realized that where faith exists, regret struggles to get enough oxygen. There are no paths. There is no right way. There is just one way or the other way. However, when we know in our hearts which way is the “right” one for us, it can be darn scary when that means taking the road less traveled … or worse, un-traveled.
Trusting that I’ll be carried down that unpaved road is where I can get really stuck. I think one of the hardest things to do in life is to trust – trust that we won’t end up homeless if we try to make it as a musician, trust that we know more than we think we do when the world is telling us we’re wrong. Perhaps when we’re standing at the fork in road, we can have faith that destiny is not laid out for us, but that wherever we are being led, we will be taken care of. Perhaps instead of anticipating balancing on one tine of a baffling “fork”, we can expect to be cradled by a big spoon – no matter which path is ours, we will be supported on all sides, with infinite directions to continue walking in.