I’m going off script a little on this one. But I did have a conversation while albie fishing with a couple of friends a while back about some of this which is where the first half came from.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
I see and hear this quote from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring used all the time. I’ve never read the book or seen the movie(s) so I have no idea in what context it was originally intended but I have at times hijacked it to describe and/or explain parts of my own journey. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that “wander” refers to making (not finding) your own path and “lost” to mean not standing with the flock. In short, without engaging in socio-political discussion which seems to be all the rage right now, it's about a balance between being yourself or being like everyone else. Defending that balance is something I once struggled with. It’s just too tedious and ultimately meaningless to maintain.
I just turned fifty. The idea of wandering a little more and finding new places and getting lost in the old ones is more important now. The sand in the hourglass is not as infinite as it once seemed. This thought came to me while looking at my daughter’s math homework. In her geometry book was a graph with values listed on the Y-axis and time on the X-axis. I looked at it and I saw material things on the vertical and experiences on the horizontal. Plotting my life on that imaginary graph and forecasting the rest of it I saw a vertical existence. Despite all the bullshit I write about here like, “In these backwaters life happens…,” I didn’t see as much volume on the horizontal axis as there should be.
Ultimately we all live on the vertical axis. I get it. But I’m no longer convinced it’s the only way or the best way. Part of my daily routine is looking for new posts and material from people I admire for the way they live their lives. They are people who live a little more, or sometimes fully, on the horizontal axis as opposed to the vertical. I do this to seek inspiration and to remind myself there is another way. Ironically I wrote about them as a group in general two years ago as I completed another circle around the sun. I have added another to the list.
I recently started reading and following a blog written by my friend Holly’s daughter Samantha. She started sohoma to document her personal journey as she navigates changes in her life and makes her own path. Her story hits close to home for a couple of reasons.
The first is that while I don’t know Sam other than through a few messages, I have known her family for almost as long as I can remember. Sam’s grandparents were friends of my parents. Her mom and I were teammates on our high school ski team. Holly trained and raced with tenacity that I applied to my own skiing and carried her example of leadership with me as I became a leader of the team. One of her aunts, who happened to be on the US Nordic Team, spent ten minutes with me before the state meet qualification my freshman year working on my transition from the single-step double pole to single sticking out of the starting gate. Those ten minutes defined my skiing career and realistically may have been responsible for getting me to college. I spent two summers life guarding and teaching swimming lessons with another of her aunts and received the basis of my knowledge of American literature and the lyrics of Jackson Browne and the Eagles from her. Sam’s uncle was one of my swimming students and later in life a colleague in the construction industry. Her dad was also an industry colleague and we sat together on an education committee for a contractor’s group in Maine. I mention all of this because these people and the experiences with them are contained on the horizontal indices of my life’s graph. Because I know the character of Sam’s family and where she came from, I know she’s going to get to the other side just fine.
Secondly, and basically inside the wheelhouse is that I was exactly where she is at right now. I was the same age, living under the same circumstances and in the same city. I won’t try to paraphrase her story or interject my own here other than to say those were some of the hardest times of my life yet some of the best. A time I learned the most about myself, about life, about what is important and about what is not. It was a time that I truly lived on the horizontal axis. Reading Sam's blog has been a good reminder. If only I had a fly rod back then...
So to Sam, I say be yourself, learn from this time, struggle with it but above all else embrace it. You are not lost.
And should our paths cross at some point,
beers are on me.
And to my mom, sister and the 5 other people who read my blog, if you haven’t already followed the links to some of her posts, check out Sam’s blog at sohoma or https://sohoma.wordpress.com/.
Start at the beginning and follow her story. It's a good one.
North River, MA
12 October 2015