I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a truck today which read, “I’d rather be lost in the woods, than found in the city.” There were many other cars on the crowded road with no trees in sight. Earlier in the day, I woke up in Allegheny National Forest, under a tarp which prevented the rain from soaking my blanket and rock pillow. My traveling companions and I were lost for about an hour at one point. Creeks flowed from all directions down into a thick ravine. We hiked along the running water passing moss covered rocks and green foliage growth. We must have followed the wrong creek on the return, but were able to find a gravel road back to the campground before it became dark. Sitting around the fire, we were able to see that the temporary lost feeling was the most authentic of the journey.
Being lost is often a personal introspection into what is working and what is not. Forced to carry everything regardless of what feels right, the advancement toward finding what you are looking for is not easy. People are less likely to judge each other when they are lost. Most thoughts are self-directed and as Larry Smith said, “If only I had.” Smith’s talk is titled, Why you will fail to have a great career. Although not specific to being lost in the woods, the sentiment is the same concerning the journey toward self-actualization. Critical thoughts may lead to the unfair challenge which results in the encroachment of fear. Smith believes many people fail to find and pursue their passion due to fear of looking ridiculous so they come up with excuses. “You’re afraid to try. You’re afraid you may fail.”
Afraid to try. That is quite the accusation. When we fail to act in a life full of freedom, we demonstrate how little we appreciate the gift. And it is all a gift. There is not a single individual who achieved their own life. However, the individual can indeed achieve in life. What is this achievement though? Is it the idea of leaving this world better than the way we found it for our children? Such a noble mission statement, but it may inadvertently lead to a cycle of excuses, as Smith mentions in his talk. I hear people talk of why they cannot do something because of school, because of jobs, because of money, because of family and all the budding relationships in their midst. Of course we should take care of our commitments, but what happens when your child asks for your advice on taking risks to achieve their dreams? If there is going to be growth and progression, we must do more than persist for the sake of “the children.” They will be better off trying to emulate our example rather than being coddled incessantly. Again, there is a balance to it all. A child without parenting and a child with too much parenting is for the most part in some serious trouble.
There are many trails to this life. Some trails are straight edged and it may feel as if you are locked in with a future not entirely certain, but secure enough to believe in the predictability of it all. Like a railroad, you let it take you rather than take it. On the other end of the spectrum are the trails through the thicket of the woods. The part of the woods where the thorn covered branches bloody up your arms and legs. Surprises are commonplace such as when a tree used for support is actually decomposing which causes a fall into a hoard of ticks. Even in this day in age, most people do not know what they are talking about. Too much information is also recipe for deception. Burning off a tick is not the advised technique due to what they tick does with its mouth when it feels the sensation.
Advice, suggestions, tips, and a few other teachings are not meant to define our moves. Their definitions are limited to a slight nudge, a guide of sorts to assist in the understanding of our place in the world. Take it all with a grain of salt. The literal meaning is very often unrealistic, especially when applied to dreams. A self-analysis will always find imperfections and it often seems there are many other people who are doing it better. The “it” does not matter though if we do not know what “it” is that we believe is important. Some people prefer to be on the rails their entire lives. Many feel it necessary, if only for a time, to be on the tracks in order to figure something specific out. The ability to go off trail from time to time is the true test. Can you easily get back on track? Or will you wander through the world forever? Is that track really going somewhere certain? Who is to judge what is the better way? Knowing where you want to go is helpful. Regardless of all that, because nothing makes sense all at once, keep on going because it is the only way you will get there.