I headed west with a different understanding of myself, even if the answers weren’t as clear as I thought they would be; but no matter what answers I had thought I would find but still had not, I learned things that would impact my next steps. On a fundamental level I Iearned the essence of who I am doesn’t just disappear because something I had chosen to define myself by had; I learned scheduled freedom is far from freedom at all; and I also learned my expectations, something I thought I had intentionally neglected to pack, had traveled with me and were very different from the reality.
I had expectations of waking up each morning, popping the hatch of the car, sitting with my legs draped over the back end, drinking a cup of coffee, relaxing, breathing the cool crisp air… Instead what I got was an aching back from sleeping at odd angles, sore elbows from driving, and a mind that jittered under withdrawals from overstimulation. I was stressed about what I should be doing and experiencing, and expectation of clarity was only met with more questions. What is it I want to do? What direction do I want to head? What in this moment would be enough for me and me alone? What would I say to myself if I took the time to listen?
From the foundation of these questions I began to form a shape not completely clear but clearer than a haze I had embarked in. By asking and allowing myself to just listen, even in hours and miles of silence, I could try on answers for a time, play with them, and move on to another if it didn’t fit right or explore deeper if it did. I silenced my playlists and let the music of my mind fill space and time.
I headed west with this one thought in my head: I could literally do anything for as long as I wanted. I was free to be me, whatever that meant and whatever that looked like.
By freeing myself from expectations I began to see and understand what I enjoyed and what defined me, not what looked cool, enjoyable, or what I should do. And it started with a breath; I began by asking myself where it was I wanted to breathe. After many of those hours I heard a faint whisper — the alpine air, a place of my heart with its familiar looming evergreens, shadowed moss, and the smell of high altitude plants roasting in the summer sun.
As the miles and days passed I continued to listen freely and soon location developed into an idea of what I would be surrounded by. What I would be surrounded by turned into the activities that fulfilled me; from there I allowed myself the freedom to create a vision of what I wanted each day to look like, and then each week, then each month… Over time, with enough miles and enough time spent listening maybe one day I would find the answer to the greater one– my greater vision for myself in this lifetime.
For now, still at the monthly vision stage, that means freeing myself from living for the weekends. It means waking up to a trail run in my backyard, living the seasons at the base of a ski mountain, and entertaining the idea that afternoons are for social adventures rather than drowning on corporate hamster wheels. It means releasing myself from enjoying things because of others and learning to pursue those that I enjoy. Period. There are thousands of things others enjoy which I had enjoyed well enough but enough wasn’t enough anymore.
It means understanding that the relationship between internal answers and external ones is not unidirectional. It is bidirectional. I could spend my whole life looking inside myself and never make it outside, or always look outside and neglect within. I had spent the past 7 years looking inside when what I needed was more outside, in the world, surrounded by the environment I love. And I had just spent the past month looking outside when I needed to simultaneously look within.
In the middle of May, I pulled over on the side of the road and cried my eyes out, emotionally surrendering to uncertainty of the road ahead. It was now my time to listen. The life I had created up until now started out of necessity– graduate to start a career to support myself to seem successful. It was heartless and confining to an idea of what seemed the right path, but I failed to listen to my own right and wrong. The longer I failed to listen the weaker the voice became until I couldn’t hear it at all. But now I could, I would, and I had to. I could no longer afford to work to die. I could only afford to live each moment with pride, to do something everyday that made me proud.
From this freedom, both internal and external, pride became my motto. What would make me proud to accomplish today? Am I proud of the work I have just completed, of the mountain I have just climbed, of the relationship I have just grown? No one else mattered in this conversation— not my parents, not my friends, not my sibling — only me. My life exists because of me; as the person responsible for my sense of purpose, love, and direction I may not know the greatness this freedom allows me just yet but I can begin to move beyond nowhere to somewhere by living a life I am proud of, in this day, in this hour, in this moment.
So I turned off the back country road, winding through nowhere and pointed my car straight to somewhere. Guided by one thought in my head, I headed straight west to destination alpine knowing: Freedom is the power to accomplish great things; today I am proud to do…..