Friday, October 19, 2012

The path less traveled

When I told everyone that we were moving to the country in 2002 to grow our own food organically, they all looked at me with a puzzled expression, and then finally asked, "Did you grow up on a farm?" When I said no, they'd ask how I knew how to raise animals and do all the things I wanted to do. When I told them I'd read books, they'd ask, "Well, what if you make a mistake?" At the time, I didn't think we'd make any mistakes. It seemed pretty simply and straight-forward. But of course, we did make mistakes -- lots of them. Plenty of people have told me that they wouldn't have been surprised to see us turn tail and run back to the suburbs. But we kept going forward -- even after I realized that mistakes were inevitable.

Was I afraid of making more mistakes? Of course! But no one ever reaches their goals if they don't face their fears and push past them. I push past a variety of fears every day. Rarely do I speak in public and not feel like I'm going to throw up or pass out at some point either before or during the presentation. But I just keep talking. And every single time I step on an airplane to go somewhere, I see the plane crashing, but I get on that plane anyway and remind myself that statistically I'm more likely to die driving to the airport. I know other published authors who could take their careers to another level if they would push past their fears of public speaking or flying, but they don't do it.

We all love our comfort zone. That's why it is our comfort zone! And I certainly am not a stranger to taking the easy way out. I was reminded of that last month when I was at Monticello, speaking at the Heritage Harvest Festival. On Friday, I rode the shuttle bus back and forth between the visitor center and the mansion. On Saturday, the line for the bus was rather long, and it was a beautiful day, so I decided to walk up the mountain. I didn't get very far before I realized why the vast majority of people were taking the shuttle bus. Walking up a mountain is hard!

But it also presented me with some great opportunities. I was able to see beautiful flowers in the woods that no one on the bus would see. And I realized that it really boils down to this -- if you simply do what everyone else is doing, then your experience of life will be similar to everyone else. The path less traveled is usually more challenging, but it is not impossible.

When walking up the mountain at Monticello, there were benches along the path where I could sit down if I was tired. And in our day to day lives, we usually have opportunities to sit down, even if just for a few minutes, to catch our breath, reflect on where we've been, and look at where we're going. If you don't like what you see up ahead, whether it looks too hard, or the ultimate goal doesn't look good enough, you can turn back or take a different route. But one thing you must realize is that you are the one responsible for the journey, whether the sun is shining or the rain is falling or the wind is threatening to knock you down.

When we're faced with challenges, we may be tempted to give up or turn back, or we may increase our resolve to reach our goals. As my second book is being released, and I'm on contract writing my third, I'm also watching two very important people in my life dieing as I am going through my own change of life, which are all constant reminders of my mortality. And the voice in my head keeps telling me to hurry up! Life is the ultimate race, but few of us ever know when we're getting close to the finish line. I'm determined to continue stepping out of my comfort zone. I know where I want to go, and the path is not well traveled, but I'm okay with that. As Robert Frost said, "I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

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