Of Merry Go Rounds and Meandering

What I think my life should look like

What I think my life should look like

I’ve wrestled with these thoughts for so long now, I’m not sure how well I can untangle them.  But, I’ll do my best because I’m awfully disheveled inside, with all this twisting and turning.

It comes down to this: I don’t curate well.

Oh, I can curate.  I can put together a killer collection of books or a fun gallery well.  I’m quite passable as a curator.  It’s just that I don’t curate well.  The totality of the real, messy  Me doesn’t fit into a neat, well-defined square.

It’s not for lack of wanting to, mind you.  How I long to fit into one of those concise labels.  A writer.  A maker.  A traveler.  It hardly even matters what the label is, so long as it's neatly described and easily digested by others.

You see, I hear all the clamor about curating.  I look around at all the people who are sending this one edited version of themselves into the world.  Yes, I think.  That is what I want!

So, I try on all manner of different containers, searching for the one that holds all of me.  But, no matter what title I try on or which part of myself I try to project, I can’t manage to stay contained inside it.  I simply cannot help but color outside of the lines.

Here, let me show you what it looks like.

What my life inadvertently becomes when I insist on pursuing this myth of linear progression

What my life inadvertently becomes when I insist on pursuing this myth of linear progression

Getting on the Merry Go Round

I have this desire to be easily defined and quickly comprehended.  So, I look to labels and titles as the solution.  I try one out.  I choose a label and begin to live inside of it.  This, my new calling in life, is what I will exclusively project into the world.

It all goes pretty well for a while.  I enjoy the clarity these new confines give me.  Everything is uncomplicated and well ordered.  I’m able to make great strides of progress because I can clearly see what I need to do next.

I congratulate myself on finally, after all those missteps and false starts, finding my one true purpose in life.  I am productive and I am happy.

Until, I’m not anymore.

I try to ignore this realization.  I remind myself that any avocation has its share of drudgery, and that is no reason to abandon it.  I trudge on dutifully.  I feel no particular joy, but continue, out of obligation.  The trouble is, it’s not the drudgery that makes me start to feel antsy.  It is the inner-knowing that this one label no longer fits. 

In time, niggling doubts become towering truths.  There is no denying that this new container is beginning to pinch.  I squash myself in all the more vehemently, remonstrating all the while at what a bad job I’m doing at fitting.  I squish and I prod, attempting to stay obediently within the confines of my chosen label.

But, the harder I try, the more cramped I feel.  The container starts to bend out of shape.  I become more and more misshapen, until I no longer resemble that thing I’m trying to be at all.  That’s trouble enough.  Add to it the discomfort of knowing how far this narrow version of Me is from my own, Expansive truth.

Jammed in the confines of this one container, my insides get tangled and mangled.  Everything I manage to produce comes out as shriveled husks of what I had intended.  I look at the gap between where I know I need to go, and where I’m headed now, and I begin to despair.

I fall silent.

I retreat.

Then comes the shame.  I’ve failed.  Again.  I chose wrong.  Again.

Under the weight of all that disappointment and shame, I know what I have to do.  But, facing the prospect of it is daunting.  I dread admitting, once again, that this one label doesn’t fit.

When the discomfort of persisting overcomes the fear of making that announcement, I finally out myself.  But, in an effort to buffer the pain of the admission, I quickly choose a new self.  I harbor hopes that no one will notice my fickleness if they don’t realize all the things I’ve done before.  I vigilantly embrace this new definition of self, meticulously eschewing all former passions (at least, in my public presentation).

And, off we go again.

The Trouble with the Merry Go Round

Each time I step onto this ride again, I think I’ve finally found the one path that I can walk on forever.  This is it!  At long last, I have arrived at my one true calling. 

This part is thrilling.  I learn.  I grow.  I understand new truths and I develop new skills.  I am alive with the energy of it all.  This is, quite literally, vital for me.

But, in time, that path that seemed so unerringly straightforward begins to curve.  Imperceptibly at first.  But, curve it most certainly does.  I find myself, inevitably, in a stifling endless looping.  Once I’ve made enough rounds in this new version of myself, all subsequent revolutions only serve to wind me into tighter and tighter knots.  This becomes a death spiral for my creative soul.

Stepping off the Merry Go Round

This is where I find myself, yet again.  After six months of constraining myself to writing exclusively of our wanders, my insides are a mangled mess.  It wasn’t the travel writing that was the problem.  It is the trudging on once I knew I needed to move on.  I had stayed past my expiration date and I was paying the creative cost.

Only, I’m not willing to pay it anymore.  I am summoning up my courage.  I will not apologize for the path I have already traveled.  But, neither will I hide behind another label.  I will follow my path without judgment for its many bends and twists.

What my life wants to look like, with freedom for messy, nonlinear cyclical growth. 

What my life wants to look like, with freedom for messy, nonlinear cyclical growth. 

Life Outside the Merry Go Round

In this process, it seems to me, that there are few absolutes.  I’m not entirely sure how universal any of this is.  My boundless desire to extrapolate tempts me to create some sort of Manifesto or Credo with this fresh self awareness.  Doesn’t that feel enticing—declaring my freedom from labels forever more?  But, that goes beyond the point, not to mention far outstripping what I know at the moment.  So, I will resist.  I recognize that I am simply learning new truths.  Many of these are only partially formed proto-ideas still incubating in the recesses of my mind.  I will offer you, instead, this far humbler list of proclamations.

On Walking My Path: What I Know for Now

Who I am is not static.

I become and change and grow all the time.

I don’t need to be just one sliver of myself.  Even online.

I am not too much if I am all of me.

It is not that one particular label doesn’t fit.  It is that any one label is insufficient.

It is not in the act of choosing a title that I went wrong.  It was the artificial power that I embued it with where I went wrong.  I gave it sway to make me afraid to abandon it when needed.

I do not need to define myself differently.  I need to do less defining at all.

At times, I need to delve deeply and exclusively into one part of myself.  At other times, I need my spoon in a dozen different pots.  Constraints can be both a boon and a bane, depending on how, and when, I apply them.

Activities and interests swell and diminish in their importance to me.  Sometimes those changes feel cyclical, while, other times, it seems that I’m only moving on to the next thing.

Avocations are not set in stone.  They need not be permanent.

The place of Beginning is very fertile ground for me.

Changing directions is an act of expansion, not failure.

The View from the Path at the Moment

Prognostication has proven both futile and frustrating for me.  So, I’ll refrain.  I’ll tell you only the small sliver of path that I can see up ahead.

I know, right now, that I need to be making with my hands.  I’m powerfully drawn to both that process, as well as the community that accompanies it.  So, I will fall headlong into that.  In the process, will this turn into a craft blog?  Perhaps.  For a time.  Or, maybe I’ll find that I only need to be making, but don’t feel the same drive to write about that making.  Perhaps there will be a dozen different parts of me that I feel drawn to share.  I don’t know for certain what comes next. 

I’m willing to wander this winding path of mine to see where it leads.If it feels compelling to you, I’ll love to have you along for the meandering.