Last week, we took our first real family vacation. We stayed in a beautiful cabin nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains on Lake Adger. There were no itineraries, no list of people to visit.
I wasn't used to the quiet, but I quickly fell in love with it. Every morning, I'd wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and woodpeckers pecking and I'd wrap a throw around me, grab some coffee and head to the back porch.
Other times, I'd walk down to the dock and curl up in the lone red chair to watch the fog curlicue through the mountains. The pictures don't do it justice-the views, the sounds, the crispness of the air. More specifically, the way it all made me feel on the inside.
I welcomed 29 last Wednesday by heading to Little Bradley Falls. It was described as a local treasure in Mill Spring, NC where we stayed. No landmarks, no map, no clear path; just a few colorful blazes dotted here and there throughout to tentatively guide you. Before we began, I wasn't sure the boys could handle it. It's a little over 2 hours in each direction and a bit sketchy in some spots, but they exceeded my expectations. We hiked through the mountains, balanced on logs across rushing waters, climbed over boulders and passed old ruins.
Minutes prior to reaching the spot, I had begun to worry that we were going in the wrong direction. Then I heard the powerful gushing and I took off running while the boys followed close behind. I burst through the trees and there before me, was this magnificent waterfall.
As we sat down to eat lunch, I thought about how the trail is a good life metaphor. You're never quite sure you've found the right place, until it's standing before you. It's that feeling of immense relief and joy when you know you've finally made it.
The last several months have felt like a feat of Olympic proportions. I won't hash out all of the gritty details here, but I will say that for far too long, I allowed things said and done (or not said and done) to chip away at me. I allowed these experiences to drain me of my confidence, allowed it all to make me question myself more times than I care to count. The worst part was that I stopped writing, stopped doing all of the the things I loved, because it took so much energy to focus on keeping other's happy. And for who? To what end?
I've spent many days lately feeling lost, letting other's have too much sway over my emotions, make me second-guess the gut instinct that has served me well all these years.
This stops now.
The beautiful thing about life is that you (and only you) get to dictate how you're going to live your life and by what standards. ONLY YOU. Not your well-meaning friend or your loving parents or your siblings (if you have some, that is) or even your significant other. Because here's the thing; they all love you and they all want to see you succeed and be happy, but their judgment is often skewed by their own life experiences, by the way they view the world around them, by their decision-making skills. And while that may be very fine for them and serve them well, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will be very fine for you or serve you well, too. You are you and they are them. It's that simple.
This is the secret no one really shares. Are you ready?
Deep down inside, maybe even WAY deep down where you have never really gone before, you have the answers already. You know who you are and what your passion is and whether you should take Path A or Path B. You do know even if you don't think you do. Most of the time, that unsure feeling is not within us, it's around us. It's worrying what our parents will say or what others' might think or how everyone else will feel. You worry about hurting their feelings simply because other's won't always understand right away why you need to live your life a certain way. Worst case scenario, they never understand and that's on them, NOT YOU. But 99% of the time, everyone eventually does. Do you think when at 18 years old, I told my family I was moving to KANSAS, that they were like, "Oh, okay. Well have fun!" NO. Everyone was full of objections and doubt. My parents told me I would never make it out there. Not because they didn't love me or want me to be happy, but because they were scared. They did not view the world as a place of adventure. They viewed it as dangerous and they didn't want their teenage daughter moving halfway across the country only to disappear or end up on some unsolved mystery show. I didn't get it then. I get it now.
But. And yet.
I had to go. I had to live my life on my own terms. This still rings true today. I temporarily forgot that over these last several months, but not anymore. Say this with me: "I'm not going to take even one more step in a direction that doesn't make me happy. I will no longer exhaust myself or worry myself about that which does not serve in the pursuit of true happiness." Say this so often that you can never forget again. Don't get caught up in thinking it's all so complicated, because it's not. You simply need a quiet place and a little time and you'll dig up your answers within.
Trust me, I had a lot of time to sit with my own thoughts. To figure it all out. I did the hard part for you. ;)
I want to live. I want to have grand adventures with all of the best people. I want to laugh more than I cry. I want to show my boys what chasing down your dreams and passions really looks like.
Never again do I want to wake up and say, "What's the point of all of this?" The point is me. The point is you.
I mean, look at these handsome faces. I want to be the best for them.
I want to be the best for myself, too. I want to continue to build a life that I can be proud of and excited by. One that makes me feel that same immense joy as when I reached that Waterfall. I'm going to carry all that I learned at our week in the cabin with me, always.
This life is good.
29, I'm happy to meet you. Let's make this the best year yet!