I was out walking the dog the other day taking a stroll around the park. I was feeling rather peaceful basking in the winter sun and the crispness of the day regardless of the fact that I was also carrying a bag of dog poop (One disadvantage of the dog which I omitted from my last post). I was walking along the tarmac path, crossing the paths of fellow dog walkers, parents and children, who whilst walking in different directions, at different speeds, for different reasons also stuck to the same tarmac path winding its way around the park.
I came to a particular section where the path snaked off in various directions along with a dirt trail leading up a hill into the trees and bushes. I stayed on the tarmac path. But as I wandered on I recalled that when I was a youth I would spend hours in this same park playing hide and seek. My friends and I would tear around the park, galloping up those hills, crashing through bushes, getting snared by brambles and covered in mud, all red-faced and exhilarated. Without a care that our clothes would be filthy or that we’d be tired afterwards, or have to walk the long way home after running far from the path.
I realised that the tarmac path symbolised the ‘life path’ I have often felt I should follow -checking off key life events step by step – University education. Check. Sensible Job. Check. Mortgage. Married marital status. Kids – one and two. I managed the first two of these by the age of 24. But then I seemed to stagnate. I lived in London so a mortgage was out of the question. Marriage? I’ve not been close (but I have some cracking stories to tell). I had a sensible job, great holidays and a super pension plan for when I retired so that was enough, right? Wrong. I stubbornly fought it for some time but eventually I listened, and despite the fear of the unknown, the fear of failing, of being odd, I stepped off the ‘right’ path and took a gamble. I took 6 months out of my sensible adult life and got bitten, dirty, incredibly sweaty, uncomfortable and exhilarated and inspired in India and S E Asia. I then came back to my family and unchecked the sensible job box and chose to be a yoga teacher.
For me, the miserable moments, the times I felt lost and disappointed by life and by people in my life, were steps I needed to take and that eventually led me to look at my life and make some changes. Now I’m not suggesting we all ignore the tarmac path in the park and the ‘do not walk on the grass’ signs and start trampling carelessly through the undergrowth but perhaps we can learn to view the wrong turns, the times we get caked in mud, rained on and beaten down, as opportunities to examine our lives, our path, our choices. And remember that there is always more than one path ahead.