Friday, September 19, 2014

A Walk on the Beach

As I spent some much-needed and long overdue time on the peninsula today, I had a serious epiphany: Life is like a walk on the beach.

Now, before you groan and tune out on me, let me explain.

My life has seen some drastic and unexpected changes over the past five years that often had me despairing over where I had gone wrong. It seemed that I had lost direction and purpose and was merely drifting aimlessly along, simply existing from one day to the next. I was

But today, it hit me: I have not been lost at all. My life was like this walk on the beach.

So many of us approach life like a marathon down the sand. Eyes on the prize, we concentrate all on energies on crossing that finish line on the distant horizon. We ignore or curse any distractions along the way that might slow down our progress, intent on the “getting there” and forgetting about the journey.

That’s where I was five years ago, focused on the end game. I measured success by the ultimate outcome – promotion, raises, evaluations- and had forgotten about the journey, which is not about the prizes, but rather is about ourselves.

Today, as I made my way down the beach, I had no end goal. That allowed me to stop and experience all that I found along the way. The metaphor really struck me when I began to find and collect shells. Now, many people do this, don’t get me wrong. But the shells that I was seeking out and harvesting were the tiniest, most perfect little turret shells, the ones that most people don’t even see a they crunch their way over the sand in search of the distant rainbow. And now, as I moved slowly down the sand, watching my steps, those dainty prizes literally ANNOUNCED themselves for me to find.

When we stop focusing on the finish line, and take time to examine the details of the journey, we find ourselves steeped in a world of wonder that makes us ask why were in such a hurry in the first place.
In life, the finish line is often out of sight, somewhere down the sand – perhaps miles away or maybe just around the next bend. When we blind ourselves to the journey and just push through to the end, we miss out on the small, miraculous events that could help sustain us for the long haul.

I could be bitter about losing my job, or about being “stuck” in a community where my job prospects are crippled, but instead, as I realized today, it has given me new sight. No longer chained to the process of impressing students and colleagues with my abilities in order to achieve tenure, I am free to investigate and develop the talents and interests I choose. Working from home, on my own schedule, allows me the flexibility and freedom to make the most of my journey, whether that means having lunch with a dear friend, being entertained by our menagerie of pets, baking a special pie for my husband, or taking the morning to rejuvenate at Presque Isle. These are the minute shells that I discover on my walk on the beach.

Though my finish line lies somewhere out of sight down the sand, it matters not how far, for my details will sustain me. It gives me time to appreciate sharing funny videos with my husband, or to chat about dreams with my best friend, or to take the weekend off to spend visiting with my parents.

On the beach, one encounters many possible paths. Some are solid, while others are comprised of shifting sand. Obstacles lie in the way, some large, some miniscule. We see both life and death at the shore’s edge, with the dividing line between them often murky. It is an ecosystem of existence where the elements must interact to be sustained. And sometimes, you must change direction in order to truly see what has been before you all along. It is the metaphor of life.

And by focusing on my journey, on my true self rather than on the goals, I have discovered that the opportunities for success are now presenting themselves to me freely. No longer desperate to get there NOW, my beach walk is revealing exciting new pathways to extend my journey.

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