“Life is a journey not a destination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Over the past few days we had an epic downfall of snow, with ridiculously cold temperatures in the -20℃ range. In total, I believe it dumped 35cm of snow. To get an idea of what that means, after shovelling our driveway we had a snow pile as tall as my son, meaning approximately 5 feet tall. At one point I was driving and could not see the defintion of where the road was, because everything was covered in a huge blanket of snow.
As has become custom, I bundled up to pick up my son from school. As I walked down the sidewalk to the park that I normally traverse, I noticed that the usual pathway I take had been covered in snow, and new paths had been forged by people who had travelled the path before me. So I followed a new route. In some places the path was clear, but difficult to navigate, because of the sheer amount of snow. In other more high traffic zones, a path was not only visible but was easier to walk for the path had been packed down by footprints before me. There were other parts of my walk where I literally had to forge my own path. As I walked, I saw how this really is a metaphor for where I find myself in life.
There have been times in my life when I have travelled well worn paths and they have gotten me where I needed and wanted to go. Because they were worn I trusted them to get me somewhere and they were rather easy to traverse and follow. At other times in my life I have found less travelled roads, that were marked out but not as easy to navigate, because they were not as well worn, for there were huge amount of snow that had not yet been packed down by traffic. The snow was still loose and required bigger more arduous steps. Then there have been times that I have had to carve my own path, because I could not see a path marked out to get me where I wanted to go. I find myself on one of those paths right now. I can see all the other paths marked out, but they would take me to places that I have already explored, and are not where I want to travel anymore.
When I say that paths cannot take me where I want to go, there is no clear sense right now of where I want to be, just a sense of not wanting to go down paths that I have already travelled. Those previous paths served me well, but there is now something more I want, a hunger for something different and deeper, and I know that the well traversed paths will not get me there. As a result, it feels a bit like I am meandering; making new paths in the snow with no clear direction other than not wanting to be where I have been, but wanting something else. Sometimes I can navigate this arduous solo journey well. Other times I am overcome with loneliness, for this is not a journey for those who are faint of heart. It is hard carving your own path. It is hard not knowing exactly where you are going, or if you’re even walking in the right direction. And it is overwhelming to have left the well-travelled path where you were supported by those who were travelling the road with you. Every so often I catch someone who’s also carving their own route, and we stop and nod at each other for the courage and bravery we both know this journey takes. We encourage one another to keep going. But often times both of us are not certain about where we’re headed, all we are clear on is our need to try out new paths and learn and grow as we do.
There are times that I resent this journey. There are times I desperately want to know it’ll be worth it, or what it is that I am headed toward. That’s when I stop. As my son and I walked home he stopped several times at self-proclaimed “checkpoints”. My sons play video games and often after the 30 minute timer has rung, they say, “Mom, I’ve just gotta find a checkpoint before I exit the game.” We all need checkpoints. This is where progress made is saved, before continuing on. It is when I stop that I can take a look at how far I’ve come, or how many times I’ve circled back or assess that I cannot keep up the pace, or that I can look ahead and get a vague idea of what may come. It is also a time to assess whether this is indeed the path I want to be on, or what I need in order to keep going. At one point in our walk we stopped by some beautiful snow covered trees, and because we stopped for a break, we could see that there were small drops of water falling from the tree. We could feel the warmth of the sun on our faces. We rested our legs, and melted into the snow. It was like an oasis in the desert. It was a touch of heaven on earth. The snow was melting, the warmth was refreshing and breathed new life into both of us. In that moment we had no idea how long the warmth would last, or how much of this snow would melt, but in the moment it was enough to fill us with what we needed for the remainder of the journey home.
I am curious…what paths are you traversing? What are you learning along the way? Where are you headed? And if you were to stop for a checkpoint, what might that give you? Sometimes I wonder if there is far more value to those checkpoints than what we give them credit for. What do you think?