The Myths of Finding Your Way

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The Myths of Finding Your Way

-Shannon Casey


Myth 1: Life is Like a Train

I freely chose my career path, so there is no excuse for not sticking with it. That was the tape that played in my head for some days. Then, I stumbled upon a poignant observation from Barbara Brown Taylor: “We’d like life to be a train,” she says, “you know, you get on, pick your destination, and get off—[but] it turns out to be a sailboat.” Her remark was simultaneously a challenge and a comfort for me.

I had always thought of my life’s trajectory in linear terms. According to the dominant narrative of society’s prescribed timeline, I would go to college, graduate with a practical degree, get married, have kids, buy a house, and eventually retire. In time, I learned to question the default nature of this script and its prescribed milestones, but I hadn’t given a second thought to its linearity. If it’s true that life is more like a sailboat than a train, though, then maybe it’s ok—and even normal—to change course after all.

I found a similar sense of comfort in Mary Oliver’s poem “Don’t Worry.” She writes:

Things take the time they take. Don’t
worry.
How many roads did St. Augustine follow
before he became St. Augustine?

Still, I wondered, Is it really ok to travel down many different roads? Isn’t that a waste? Going down a new path would feel like I’m back at square one, starting from scratch. Everyone else would be far ahead of me; I would feel left behind.

“Things take the time they take,” Oliver chimes in reassuringly. “Don’t worry,” she adds—a short imperative echoing the wisdom of Matthew 6:25.

May we give one another and ourselves permission to follow the road where it leads or to choose an entirely new road as our lives unfold. May we allow things to take the time they take. Instead of worrying, may we be at peace.

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