The Path Untravelled
Sixteen and impressionable. Filled with wonder at the world at large. I had dreams, big dreams, and a thirst for adventure.
“But what about a real job?” she said, more than asked.
I often reflect on those six words. Words that changed my path. Words that struck at that impressionable young heart, so filled with desire to live creatively.
I know now that those words were more to do with her judgements and fears for herself, than they were to my capacity, my talent, my future. But at the time, they were scorched into my mind; feeding those dark feelings; poisoning that place of longing and courage and invincibility that comes with clarity of purpose and a clear vision.
Sometimes I imagine what my life would be now, had I chased those dreams. Would I be traversing the stage? Would I have birthed novels? Written songs? Would I be living a gypsy life, travelling from place to place, singing for my supper? Or teaching others to love words and music?
I will never know, I suppose. No ‘Sliding Doors’ moment for this poet’s soul.
It took me years to realise that it was THAT moment. The moment I allowed doubt into my heart, letting it undermine my own good sense. And the problem with doubt is that it always grows. And grows. And grows.
I am grateful, though, that these were not the only or last words to enter that place in me.
Isn’t it a wondrous thing, that just because something has knitted itself together, doesn’t mean we can’t unravel it and start anew?
For me, my turning point may have looked like me standing up in front of a group of people and declaring “I will no longer choose to be invisible”; but really, it was the moment before, in that quiet place, when I stood up to that doubt, the belief that being myself wasn’t enough, and chose that I would no longer be afraid.
And my journey has continued from there…
Writing about fashion (which I love and see as an artistic form of self-expression). Reading words that inspire me. Listening to music that encourages my heart. Learning to play the ukulele. Making up nonsense songs about everything. Being bold and speaking up. Standing in my courage when the butterflies get going. Making faces. Encouraging others as often and as best I can. Karaoke. Embracing my (fairly all-encompassing) inner geek. Blowing raspberries at my inner critic. Getting grumpy and owning it. Declaring that, yes, I can be a bossy know-it-all (Hermione style), and embracing this. Deciding that I can do whatever I set my mind to. Trusting. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road. Riding rollercoasters. Wearing hats (seriously, if you want to be visible…). Falling down and getting up again. Sometimes with crutches.
What I know is this: it is easy to live with regret for the paths untravelled. But I’ve realised that this is the kind of “easy” that really owns those inverted commas, and those commas are filled with suffering.
It is true that some days, if you’ve put one foot in front of the other, successively through the day, you’ve done very well indeed. Other days feel like you’ve landed triumphantly atop the highest peak. And then there are the days when you feel as if you’ve been dashed into the deepest canyon imaginable.
Here’s what I also know: what is legitimately easier on the psyche and soul is to start somewhere, anywhere, on your dreams.
I read an incredibly moving and thought-provoking response to the question of suicide recently. The line that really spoke to me was this: “…to simply assume you are done tomorrow because you are done today is a mistake. a factual mistake, an error, a critical miscalculation.”
Because no matter our regrets; no matter the paths untravelled; no matter that we can never know, for certain, what’s going to happen next… we still have a choice.
In this moment.
To choose the next step. The next breath. The next opportunity. The next dream we’re going to chase.
Because it’s never too late. And we get to choose whether that is terrifying or liberating.
Jonathan Swift wrote, “may you live all the days of your life”.
I hope this for you.