What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whither we will walk? I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we are very liable from heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. We would fain take that walk, never yet taken by us through this actual world, which is perfectly symbolical of the path which we love to travel in the interior and ideal world; and sometimes, no doubt, we find it difficult to choose our direction, because it does not yet exist distinctly in our idea.
For the last two years, I have stumbled through a series of events leaving me feeling lost and confused. It seems to be a common experience for most people in their mid-twenties, but that doesn’t make it any easier to survive or understand. I had low self-esteem, which was somewhat new to me; made destructive decisions that affected myself and those around me; and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and cared very little about what that meant.
I had morphed back into my 16-year-old I-don’t-give-a-damn self, but this time it was inexcusable.
Rather than bask in this state of limbo - which I came to loathe more than the month of February - I tried various things to bring purpose back to my life. I developed new habits that made me feel good like yoga and cooking, and I extrapolated, or at least tried to quit, things that made me feel bad like smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol.
I tried to zen out and find peace, and when that didn’t work, I went out and drank too much and smoked too many cigarettes, which kept this cyclical process going like the never ending story.
I twisted and turned, searching for a path different from the ones I’d traveled on before. I wanted something unique and exciting, but I wasn’t sure what that was or how to get it. I thought about switching careers, going back to school; I dated a number of guys - most of whom didn’t make it past date 3 because there was always something missing; and I constantly tried to change my look and my lifestyle.
I’m not sure if it was disillusionment or enlightenment that inspired me to stop. Maybe it was a mixture of both, or just sheer exhaustion. Regardless, something made me realize that perhaps I was going about this the wrong way. Perhaps instead of putting myself out there and actively searching for something without knowing its shape or meaning, I should pull back in, go inside myself and figure out once again who I am and what I want from life.
This took a great deal of patience and time spent in solitude. Reevaluating your life, especially when it is in a state of chaos, is not an easy task. It does not leave you feeling good about yourself, and before anything is resolved it causes an internal conflict by forcing you to question everything you say and do - most of which you have already justified in your mind, convincing yourself that it works for you.
If it disrespects you or anyone else, it doesn’t. Trust me.
This time of self-reflection required patience and forgiveness - both of which I find challenging. You see, I am an adventurer. I like for things to be vibrant, stimulating and intense - I seek out thrills and excitement. Though I consider myself an insightful person, spending hours contemplating my life and where it is going, especially when it seems stagnant, is a tedious and somewhat frustrating task. Thankfully, I am persistent and was tired of incessantly trying things that quickly withered.
So when everyone else went out, I stayed in, climbed into bed, pulled out my journal and wrote. First, I admitted to myself that life doesn’t always move at the pace you want it to and that some things take time to develop. Then after what seemed like hours of contemplation, I wrote down the things I was willing to wait for, the things I wanted most in life that I wouldn’t compromise.
I wrote about the dreams I tossed under the rug several months after graduation when I realized the “real world” isn’t quite as exciting or welcoming as I thought it would be. I wrote about the love I stopped believing in after the third heartbreak I barely thought I would survive. I wrote about the person I wanted to be, even if it took years to develop.
I removed all the toxins that infected my life, including ones that I had become numb to, and I chose to care again.
It wasn’t long before things started falling into place and life started guiding me again. Through surrender to the unknown and a strong foundation, I came to rediscover the beauty of taking life one step at a time and appreciating the process, the evolution.
I let down my guard and opened myself up to experience everything the world had to offer, and within weeks I met someone who has since turned my world upside down, leading my in a direction I never knew existed. He has taken me places and shown me things that I thought were only a figment of my imagination. He has made me a believer again - of life, of hope and of dreams having the potential to become a reality.
We walked in so pure and bright a light, gilding the withered grass and leaves, so softly and serenely bright, I thought I had never bathed in such golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of Elysium, and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman driving us home at evening.
I’m not sure what the future holds for us, or for myself. I’m not sure if this will last or if it will fade into the background, along with previous loves. But I know one thing for certain - this is something special that will change my life forever. It is taking me down a path I couldn’t see before, and there is an unavoidable light shining up ahead.
So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.
- excerpts from “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau http://www.bartleby.com/28/15.html