Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Tacking into the Wind

My Uncle Tom talks a lot about tacking into the wind. He likes boats, or at least boat metaphors. When I graduated from college he wrote me a message on a greeting card that I still think about. "The winds are always on the side of the ablest navigator. Sail on." I still get a little emotional reading that quote.

When I graduated from college I was really afraid of my future. Or rather, I was really afraid of having no future. I'd spent my entire life in school, and I did very well on that path. Now, school was over, for now, and I was completely lost. I didn't know what I wanted to be, where I wanted to live, or how I'd survive. I knew I made it through a very tough curriculum with my sanity relatively intact, though I had no idea what I planned to do with this degree I held in my hands. It really was just a piece of paper with my name written in curly writing. I got to graduation and realized that I had spent four years just trying to get to graduation without much thought of what I'd do once I was a graduate. I did the only thing I knew how to do - I put one foot in front of the other and kept going.

Life would be terrific and easy if we just knew where we were (point A) and where we wanted to go (point B) and then just traveled in a straight line from A to B. It doesn't work that way - or at least it never has worked that way for me. I've been traveling around the country, with the extent of my belongings able to fit into a car. I've had one fantastic opportunity after another, though I never really worked to get any of them. I was always working hard to get somewhere and something else, and always ended up in a place and doing things that were so much better than what I had planned. This has always been true. I never once planned any single thing better than the world planned something else for me.

I've spent my life tacking into the wind, trying to be the best darn navigator out there. My greatest experiences have been those not found on the path from A to B, but the path from A to X to G to M to Z. I plan for B, though sometimes it never shows itself or when I get there I find it's not what I wanted after all. M looks like a much nicer place to land, at least for a while.

This is not to say that the plan doesn't matter. It plays a role. I've developed certain skills because I thought they'd help me get to B. And they were very useful for M and Z and everything in between. I try to stay as sharp as possible with my eyes and ears wide open so I can grab a hold of that next gust of wind that I need. The plan prepares me, makes me aware of my surroundings.

The treasures and pleasures in life are found along the zig-zag path we take, not in the point-to-point. I try to always remember that, especially when I'm frustrated or confused or plain lost. There is a wind that will carry us up and over and through - our only job is to make sure we recognize it when it heads our way and be ready to raise up that sail.

The photo above can be found at:

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