A mentor once told me that the choices I am making today should be aligned like the stem of an arrow that points toward its eventual target, my long-term goals. This appealed to me because it implied an element of control. Control…that is something I often find myself clutching to with white knuckles. All I have to do is plot out short, medium, and long range goals, shoot my arrow and then start making decisions that will help me to connect the dots until, voila! I am on target!!
I strung my bow when I was young…. I was going to be a marine biologist. Then I spent time training, studying, and getting to know those in the field. Nope. Not for me. It was a young arrow, so I was not worried. I restrung my bow with the hopes of being an Environmental Educator and shot my arrow into the world with three years of interning and a degree. Who doesn’t want to play outside for a living? I did… but my job was more politics and paperwork than anything. So I decided to set my bow down and picked up a hammer to build Habitat homes and reflect on what “more” I needed. I let this experience shift my direction into that of a working academic.
This time, I triple strung my bow with classes, construction, and activism. I was going to cast out multiple arrows, just to be safe. Ahh, but the winds of change blew hard during that round. My body let me know that something was wrong- no more wheat, dairy, or alcohol. Meanwhile, a friendship of ten years crumbled and a relationship of three years followed shortly after. Then my advisor left… taking my motivation to continue the pursuit of a published thesis with her. One arrow seemed strong and I threw my hopes into continuing in the sustainable building field. But alas, I had already given away the milk for free and that arrow too fell short of the enviable goal as I was put out to pasture. Quite literally.
So here I stand, my arm sore and my bow worn, but with no other choice, I string another arrow. I want to put hope into the life of farming. Oh, to be able to combine my love of helping people with my passion for cultivation! But this time I am jaded and wary. All I can see is the financial insecurity: working dozens of side jobs, having to re-fill my ulcer medication with my credit card, and continuing to live on food stamps. I am an expert archer but I cannot seem to hit my target.
In the last few months I have had so many of my friends and family say things like “I just can’t keep up with you!” “What are you doing these days anyway?” “I’ve given up trying to figure out what you want to do.” I am sure most people think I am just loving every second of my wild adventures, especially because it seems as though I am actively choosing to restring my bow. I love the experiences that I have had, the people that I have met, and the opportunities put before me. If I could go back, I don’t think I would change anything. Yet as much as I love a good adventure, I have been stringing my bow to find stability and full-fulfillment, not excitement. I did not plan on living this dizzying lifestyle. I feel like I planned to go on a three month road trip that turned into a five year pilgrimage.
I just want to stop moving so I can appreciate the things around me. Imagine being a person that is constantly changing direction; with every new change, you must put forth more effort, heart, and hopes. In the end, I feel like I never have time or energy for the little things in my life that I cherish so much. I want to spend time with my friends and family. I want to make a quilt, ride my bike for pleasure, write letters, cook injera, learn bonsai, have my own chickens, learn how to play the bones, study Spanish, use my kayak, go diving, or maybe even just take an unnecessary nap.
Soon I will be down to one low-wage part-time job that I want so desperately to become a full-time position than does more than just make ends meet. Although I am tired of chasing arrows, I am hedging my bets on this one little arrow- my hopes riding on the tips of its feathers.
As I watch it fly, I will do what I always do, which is try to delight in the journey. I am so thankful I have such supportive and loving people around me to ease the falls and join in on the adventures that inevitably ensue. As always, I know it will be interesting to say the least.