The Road Not Taken
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.(~Robert Frost)
Each of us in this thing we call “life” is on a journey.
Sometimes we are motoring along at top speed, no obstacles, pit-stops or detours. Scenery is whizzing by and we are just cruising. Maybe we are working that gas pedal or maybe we are letting Cruise Control take over. Either way, we are moving, moving, moving.
Other times, we chug along, slowly but surely, reserving fuel for a speedier time. Knowing we’re moving slowly, but relieved to be moving at all. Like The Little Engine That Could, we’re doubtful and tired, but at least we are getting somewhere.
And other times we are stopping and starting, stalling and meandering, many lefts and many rights, turns, full-out stops, reversals, three-point turns and, did I already say stalling??
Yes, there are many ways to move (or not move) along the road that is our journey. And no matter what the speed, intensity, miles behind or miles ahead may be, one certainty remains for all of us:
There will be crossroads.
What do I mean by crossroads? Literally a place where roads intersect. Figuratively, a “point at which a vital decision must be made.”
You know what I mean: The place where you need to change up the ride a bit.
Sometimes you will be faced with many crossroads, one after another until you are almost numb and can probably make big decisions in your sleep. Other times there will be long stretches of journey without any crossroads and you may even temporarily have that false sense of arrogance, like you’ve outsmarted The Journey and The Gods of the Crossroads (trust me, you haven’t.)
Regardless of what they look or feel like or how you happen upon them, it is certain they will always be there.
Sometimes your decision will be clear and apparent from miles away. You may not even need to yield at the crossroads, let alone stop. As if you were waiting your entire life (or at least a portion of it) to get to that one.
Then there will be times when you must make a decision. When you cannot do anything – not a freakin’ thing – until you make a decision. And you have NO clue what that decision will be. Sometimes that decision is to do nothing, to delay the decision, to exercise your right to not make a decision. Because you are scared. Or uncertain. Or you really, really don’t know yet. That in and of itself is actually a decision because you are deciding to stay put and to hang for a while.
Right now I am at a crossroads of sorts. After about a year-and-a-half of lots and lots and lots of crossroads, all of which I freakin rocked, my Crossroads Decision-Making Mechanism is telling me it is tired. It needs a rest. A break. A tune-up. And yet, my Now Or Never Mechanism is telling me, as always, to go, go, go. It is concerned less with a plan and focus and more with the constant hum of action.
I talk and think a lot about playing big, about doing more and talking less about doing more. (Too many people talk too much and do too little, in my humble opinion.) I like to do. I don’t like to wait. I’d prefer to take a wrong turn at a crossroads than to be idle there. For me, being idle means being stuck and something about being stuck irks the hell out of me.
But here are the things that make my current crossroads different: I do know what I want. At least when it comes to my professional and writing life, which is where this crossroads issue is rearing its head right now, I do know what I want. And that clarity is a great thing; I know this because I lacked it for a long time.
But beyond that knowing, I know little. Scratch that. I know nothing.
How will I get there?
What’s my plan?
How do I begin to lay the infrastructure?
To leverage my many connections and people who are eager and willing to help me?
Example: I seek a literary (book) agent. I have two books (for starters) to write beyond what I have already written. I have lists of agents who fit the bill. Of those lists I have identified five key ones with whom I have some real and legit connection (e.g., I can name drop with them or they have expressed interest in me in the past). My first step is to reach out to these five and explain where and who I am.
I have not done this.
Example: I have written and published a book, Love Your Mess. For all intents and purposes, the book is DONE and ready to see the light of day. Yet I am not marketing the book. Officially it is for sale, but you wouldn’t know it because I am not promoting it. The thought of having a mistake in the book (like a wrong page number or a typo) literally keeps me up at night. So I am waiting to do the all-out marketing push and instead spending days editing and re-editing and submitting it and re-submitting it. (This is a self-published book so I can swap out files and make changes whenever I want.)
I end up annoyed at all the editing and submitting time this is taking up (well DUH…).
Example: I want to write a regular column in a monthly magazine and/or syndicated in newspapers. I know what the name of this column will be. (In fact, I have a few.) I have some detailed information and ideas on how to go about getting the process of putting myself out there started. (In fact, one of the reasons I wrote and published Love Your Mess was so that I could use it, instead of a standard query letter, as my “calling card” to these publications.)
Have not started this process.
Example: I want to create a program to teach people how to write their way, whether for money or for peace or for their own voice or just to get it all out there. I want people to hire me, in universities, and adult education programs, individually and in corporations, to give them the information and framework that will allow them to do this themselves.
I have done nothing to begin the process of making this happen.
I am happy to be having these “problems.” Last year at this time, I didn’t write regularly and I was scared shitless of my voice. Dude, two years ago at this time, I hadn’t even had my Stop-The-Bus Moment yet! I could barely think honestly about my insecurities, my questions, my imperfections or my questions – let alone write publicly about them!
I know I have come far. I try to remind myself of that all the time.
But I never feel as if it is enough.
Yes, I am at a crossroads.
Did I mention that each crossroads is different? And that The Gods of the Crossroads mix ‘em up well enough so that just when we think we can just breeze through one after another they change things up on us? They raise the stakes and rise (or fall) to meet our ever-changing abilities and limits.
Well, they do and they are smart.
Because the thing I am at right now is a very, very different crossroads than what I have apparently gotten used to.
This isn’t about the “What Is My Purpose” question.
Or the “Do I Leave My Marriage” angst.
I have passed the “Will I Find True Love” intersection (found all kinds of true love, by the way).
The “How Do I Let Go Of People Who Suck Me Dry” crossroads has been passed and conquered.
As has the “Will I Ever Learn How To Say ‘No’ And Say It Properly” patch of road.
Yep, been there, done that, crossed the road and have the Tshirt (or tattoo or previously broken heart or wounded ego or lesson learned to prove it).
Yes, this crossroads is different.
Because right now, I don’t know what the question(s) is/are. I can’t tell what I am even supposed to be deciding about. (Maybe nothing?)
Do I want until my agent and my nationally syndicated column just show up? (Um, I may be waiting a long time, no?)
Do I go and go and go and do and do and do until something clicks? (Trying not to go this route…so much wheel-spinning involved.)
So what is the middle ground? Do I meditate? (Why start now?) Do I focus more on running and not biting my nails and my kids (while making money to pay the bills through my ghostwriting and copywriting) while I wait and see? Do I stop wanting everything to happen right now and just let it unfold? (History shows that’s not my strong suit.)
Ug. Aside from the kids and not biting my nails, none of that sounds good.
So your super-duper-neat-and-tidy-tied-with-a-red-bow lesson for today is this….I have no freakin’ idea what my next move is. I don’t know what the signs are or have been. And if you don’t either at your own crossroads, well, then, take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
Just because I have gotten good (or better) at this crossroads thing doesn’t mean I have any clue what I am doing or what to do now.
And if you don’t either, well, then, I feel ya, my friend.
At least I got that off my chest….