Last month we featured the ‘blaze a trail’ bandana and Jenni wrote some beautiful words around that phrase. I was meant to write a post, but got busy blazing a trail to Vermont and New Hampshire! I visited friends on the Appalachian Trail; one I hiked with last year during my thru-hike, and the other is hiking this year. It felt so good to visit the woods and lakes of the northern Appalachian mountains. it’s been a year since I hiked for five months in those mountains and while visiting I was still thinking about that phrase ‘blaze a trail’. So here are my thoughts, a bit late.
My father has started sharing articles, magazine editorials and interviews with people described as ‘late bloomers’: authors that don’t start writing until they are middle-aged, actors that didn’t get their first roll until they had pursued and left an unfulfilling career in accounting. Overall these people have been met with success late in life. There were many doubts in their mind before their shining moment but they put in the work, dug in their heels and made their dreams come true. It took them time but it was worth it. The same can happen to me, my father seems to be saying through the words of others. His intentions are wonderfully sincere.
But the articles leave a sour taste in my mouth. Parental judgment can be a heavy thing to carry, and what I hear in my head when my father shares an article is, “Look! Even though you haven’t done anything with yourself or your life during your twenties, there is still hope! These other people have been successful.” He’s worried about my livelihood and what will happen to me when he’s no longer around — that’s love for a child and I’m grateful to have it shared with me.
As we grow up, the judgement or criticism we may have felt from our parents is no longer their problem, it’s ours. Part of being an independent person in this world is taking ownership of the dialogue in your head and heart.
My life is not what my parents ever would have envisioned, but they don’t tell me what to do and they certainly don’t outwardly criticize me. They are supportive and loving always. I think the articles bother me because they tap into something I’m already wrestling with:
What have I done with my life? What will I do with my life? When will I find THE thing that’s meant to bring my happiness and stability?
Recently I drove up to Vermont to visit a friend from my Appalachian Trail hike (2018). He’s working for the Green Mountain Club as a caretaker of a shelter and tenting area on the A.T. He’s a bit younger than me and it was always a joke how ‘old’ I was amongst our group of hiking friends. So when he learned that I will turn 30 years old next month, he asked how i would rate the past decade of my life.
Tough question. I still don’t think I want to put a number on that – but my answer to him was “Your twenties suck”. It’s a tough decade: college and all the academic and social obstacles, picking your studies which allegedly determine the course of the rest of your life, which is a course of life you need to kind of have chosen by the time you graduate. Then, post-college life, which I argue is the hardest. You’ve got to live on your own, hold down a job and if that job isn’t your dream job, well then you’re going to have to fit your dreams into your minimal free time and hope they come true. The clock is ticking.
I’ve not found the ONE thing that makes my life click into place, but I’m beginning to think that’s a dangerous premise. The idea that time is wasted in your life if you are not yet ‘living your dream’, well, that’s a scam.
My instagram feed last year was full of weddings, and this year it’s full of babies and shiny new family vacations. I visited another friend while traveling recently and he’s getting close to reaching the ten year mark in his career. At times I am jealous of the people that followed a plan trail by the majority of people (in a well-to-do socioeconomic status, definitely not a majority in the world). They seem to have known what to do — like I missed something.
But I don’t think that’s the case. One thing to come from my bumpy twenties decade is a great sense of my self, my heart and the kind of trail I want to blaze. I didn’t miss anything, I saw the options my friends chose and I didn’t want that kind of life. There is nothing wrong with the lives of my friends; they are happy and that brings me great joy. I’ve blazed my own trail and though it may be happening later in life than most, I know the path I’m walking and I’m excited to see where it goes.
blaze your own trail