“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” . – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is a fascinating journey. It is always changing and leading us down many different paths, some of which are planned and others that are unexpected. Regardless of whether you like change or not, life is never meant to stay the same. It is impossible. However, how you react to the change is what truly matters.

Last weekend it was a beautiful fall day and I wanted to spend an afternoon with my thirteen year old son outside. We could have done the normal standby mother-son activities like go on a bike ride or walk the dog but this time I wanted to do something a little bit different. I had recently tried a trail running class and truly enjoyed the new challenge. Since my son Max had expressed an interest in running, I thought maybe we should try a mother-son trail run.

We chose Theodore Wirth Regional Park located on the edge of Minneapolis and Golden Valley, which has an extensive labyrinth of running, mountain biking and hiking trails. Max had been there this summer during a biking camp and loved doing a run along one of the challenging, hilly mountain bike trails within the park.  I had never run there before so thought it sounded fun. When we arrived at our destination, I felt pretty on top of the world. I love to run and have been a runner all of my adult life. Although I no longer run long distance, I still run year-round even in the cold and feel relatively fit and in shape. My son however is new to running and I was secretly curious to see how he’d do. Would he be able to keep up with me? Would I leave him behind in the dust?

We got out of the car, laced up our shoes and did a few quick stretches before heading off into the woods. The trail we were originally planning to take was closed due to the torrential rain we had over the past couple of days. We would have to take a different path. As we ran into the forest, I looked around me and in every direction there was a different trail. I had no idea where they went, how long they were or which path to take. My carefree teenage son looked at me with a smile and took off running down one of the trails. “Come on mom! he said. “Follow me“. And off he bolted into the woods.

I ran as fast as I could up the trail huffing and puffing thinking how wrong I had been about me being the one who was in shape. Before I knew it my long-legged 6’1” son Max was off like a lightening bolt and gone. I desperately tried to keep up, calling out his name but to no answer. I tend to be rather directionally challenged so my first fear was I’d get lost and my next fear was he would get lost. I yelled out his name in vain. I tried not to get frantic with worry. It was just me, all alone in the thickness of the woods, with paths leading in every direction. I had no idea which way to go.


Suddenly I realized the irony of the situation. How similar this experience of running, and being lost in the forest is to how I feel right now in my life. I stopped dead in my tracks, startled by my own discovery. I looked around me completely lost in the middle of the woods with at least five different paths to choose from but not knowing at all which path to take.

Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

Over the last few years, my life has began to really change as my children are growing up and my role as a mother is shifting. I haven’t had a similar change in well over 14 years when I decided to leave my job in corporate sales behind and start a family. Being a full-time, stay at home mom with two little kids at the time was exhausting work but in my opinion the most rewarding job I’ve ever done. Once the kids were out of diapers and in school, my life opened up a bit more and almost eight years ago I began writing this blog. With the blog, an entire new path appeared with amazing opportunities and friendships. I have loved writing my blog and will continue to do so until I no longer have anything to say (which will be never!).

Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

Sophia and Max in Austria

However, now my life is changing once again. My children are both in middle school and I had to say goodbye to their wonderful elementary school where I have been a big part of the community for over eight years. I volunteered there a ton and that tight knit community of parents, teachers, staff and children was a huge part of my life. I never realized the sadness I’d feel with leaving that community all behind and the emptiness of that leaving that strong connection. It actually rather caught me by surprise as I didn’t realize how incredibly important community is to me. Finally it dawned on me that I was turning the page on my old life and a new chapter of life was ahead.

Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?”  – Soledad O’Brien

For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about our paths in life and how they present us with an enormous opportunity for growth and change. While following a new path can be very exciting, it also can be quite scary and takes a lot of courage and faith in yourself. Despite my truly adventurous spirit, I tend to be less adventurous and open to change when I’m here at home in Minneapolis. To be quite honest, change terrifies me and usually fills me with fear and anxiety.

For someone who has climbed Kilimanjaro with a bunch of strangers, flew to India for four days to do a social good project, and has spent a week living with a family who spoke no English in Guatemala and Honduras, I often surprise and even shock myself by my inability to take chances and accept change from my daily life at home. Honestly it bewilders me but it is something I am working hard at accepting. Although it is not always easy to pick a new path to follow, it is through trial and error as well as taking chances that we grow. Taking that first step into an unknown path will be hard and take a lot of strength, courage and openness to try out something new. There will be mistakes along the way, I may fail but in the end it will be worth it.

Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

Now it is trying to figure out which path in the forest to take. Which one should I try first?

Thank you so much Tina for inspiring me to join in on the Lens-Artists Challenge: Path. 

 

P.S. In case you are wondering, I finally caught up to my son a half an hour later. He was waiting for me with a big, proud smile at the parking lot and wondering where I’d been.

41 comments

  1. I have to admit I was expecting a story about how you eventually met up with your son!
    Keep doing what you are doing and as you know, opportunities will present themselves when you least expect them!

    1. Ha, I went back and added a “P.S. Note at the end! That I found Max waiting in the parking lot with a big smile on his face wondering where I was! I think I got so caught up in writing the post that I forgot to finish the story! 🙂 Thanks Marilyn for the kind words of wisdom. Sometimes the world feels so scary and big which surprises me given my adventurous nature. I get too set in my ways at home! 🙂

  2. I could relate to this on so many levels, Nicole! Everyone thinks of me as brave and adventuresome, but I have the same paralysis sometimes about my life choices in the U.S. Like you, I have also found the transitions between the kids’ and my own life stages to be difficult at times, and as a result, I’ve changed careers three times! To extend the commiseration a little further, I remember when I first ran a 10K with all my kids after I’d trained for it for months. They were teenagers, and I knew my very athletic daughter would dust me, and I figured my sporty younger son would, too, but I was psychologically crushed when my oldest son, a complete non-runner who had not trained for one second, finished ahead of me!

    I happen to be totally at loose ends again in my life right now, so too bad you are so far away or we could sit down with a nice bottle of wine and figure things out together! 🙂

    1. I am so glad Lexi that I’m not alone! I am my worst critic and am very very hard on myself. The transition this year back to school has been really hard and I think that combined with Paul’s neck issues for the past six months has really left me soul searching. I never once regret leaving my career behind but now I’m feeling lonely and out of sorts. I especially miss my community! So I’ve been trying a lot of different and new things. I’ve started volunteering at a new school this fall, one that 90 % are from non-English speaking families. I LOVE it. I just love being with kids and helping them learn to read. I’m working with a first grade class and the kids are Somali, some from India, some from Mexico and the rest are African Americans. they are in first grade and just learning to read. They are so behind my kids at that age so it has been a real eye opening experience for me as the school is in the same urban district. I am also going to help a little girl from Africa who only speaks French and see if my old French speaking skills can be put to use. It has helped me find purpose and feel good about my days. So I will see how this goes and if there is a potential to do more. I have a few other random ideas up my sleeve and am glad I’ve stopped feeling so down and lost and started instead to take a few chances. Yes, I truly wish we were closer. I know we would connect instantly! Glad to also hear I’m not alone on being beat out by the kids! 🙂 Take care Lexi and I really really appreciate your friendship. P.S. yes you are the woman who flew to Madagascar to go sailing! Wonder why we both adhere to risk taking while traveling while not at home? Maybe it is at home we get too set in our ways! 🙂

    2. You changed careers three times?! Wow. What did you do each time? I was in corporate sales for years but it never fulfilled me and then I quit to have kids. I’ve been doing my blog and volunteer work for the past 14 years but now I’m ready to work again part time. Just not sure what yet and how to even go about writing a resume again! It will take some effort! 🙂

      1. I went from corporate finance to freelance financial writing to college writing professor! Got a Master’s degree in between the last two while the kids were babies and toddlers. Still thinking about next phase! 🙂

      2. Wow that is cool! 🙂 It sure makes life more interesting when we can try out different careers and paths! So glad we have that option!

  3. Funny how adventures around the world are not scary to me either but changes at home are not something I like either. I am getting a little better at adjusting to change and the unexpected, travel teaches me to have patience with myself and the bumps in the road. Cheers to new paths!

    1. Thanks Cathy! Yes a lot of fellow adventurous have responded in a similar way so I feel much better! 🙂 Thanks for your continual support.

  4. Something will present itself as long as you remain open. Something will call you with such a strong voice that the fears won’t stop you. You probably already know what it is but won’t admit it to yourself. OMG who knows where that came from Nicole! Sometimes words come into my head and I have no idea why. Sorry if I’ve been presumptuous. I do know that you are smart and intelligent and caring and that you’ll figure it out eventually. But don’t try to rush it. Good luck.
    Alison xox

    1. Alison, I adore you and LOVE all the words and comments you say! I love your words of wisdom here. I’ve been really truly struggling the past six months. It all started with Paul’s neck injury and the fear of the future. It is scary how fast time is going and soon the kids will be out of the house. I realized also it is time for a change. I have a few ideas on paths and you are right, it is taking a leap of faith and just trying something new. Thank you sooooooo much for your continual support!
      Nicole

    2. I am going back through my comments and re-read yours again. I love it so much. Yes, I’m trying to open my mind and heart to opportunities. I am afraid of change. I’m also nervous about what a monumental task it seems to find a new path as I haven’t officially worked in 14 years and my resume is way out of date. I know it will take a lot of patience and effort and networking and I will find it and get there. It just makes me filled with anxiety but I’ve learned to take it day by day. 🙂

      1. I think we all get anxious about change. Maybe it won’t start out as getting a job, or more education, or anything conventional like that. Maybe all your years of travel and blogging and social good will play a part somehow. You have amazing experience and it should count!
        A.

  5. It sounds to me like you are doing a lot of very useful things. And you have time to figure it out. Don’t be so tough on yourself Nicole. You’re lovely 😃😃

  6. I can totally relate to what you are saying Nicole. I can leap off cliffs, cycle at high altitude, sit at the top of waterfalls and scale rock cliffs. But in life changes in jobs and roles does not come so easy. I wish you well as you explore new paths. My biggest learning is that even if an initial path chosen isn’t quite right you can always alter course. There is no right or wrong.

    1. Thanks so much Sue! I’ve received so many comments saying that other adventurous travelers feel the same way. I guess changes at home are much harder than risks we take temporarily as travelers. But yes there is no right or wrong and we are so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and take chances. 🙂

  7. Great post. It shows that you can do and undertake many unique, challenging, and diverse jobs and travels ~ always pursuing something new, but still get surprised and a bit shaken about the real changes within family and friends that happen as we move forward in life. I don’t there can be much preparation which I think can be paralyzing, but it sounds like you are taking it in perfect stride ~ keep true to yourself and the paths ahead will choose you.

    1. Thanks so much for the lovely comment. I especially like the “be true to yourself” words of wisdom. In the past I always did so many jobs I didn’t like but had to just to make ends meet when I was young. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to take chances and to reinvent ourselves. So many people around the world don’t have that luxury. 🙂

  8. I loved the story, the deeper meanings, and of course the finale when Max was – of course – patiently waiting w/the big smile!
    Sometimes we veer off the map, but we learn a lot and sometimes gain new skills- sometimes skills like looking inward!
    Tonight I had dinner with two great friends who drove five hours to attend the art reception for the ongoing museum show; one of those friends and i went on a trek w/her sister and took a wrong turn in the cloud forest over a year ago.. we were way off the trail while looking for botanicals/etc on their property…(she’s a botanist/landscape artist/artist.) my friend and i kept our sense of humor, and the sister still does not think it’s funny at all. i stated tonight that i’d much rather be semi lost in the cloud forest instead of being in a packed shopping mall – any day!

    1. Thanks Lisa! Yes I’d rather be lost in a cloud forest anytime. Thanks for all your support. Hope you are doing well! 🙂

  9. For me I think it is the fear that holds me back, fear of the unknown, fear of ridicule, fear of making a mistake. Looking back, some of my fondest memories have been of those created by me taking risks. But it is so difficult, isn’t it? I too believe the key is to remain open and present and that light will show you the way. Great post Nicole!

    1. Yes I’m with you LuAnn. I have a strong fear of change. I always view it as scary even if it is good or there is not much I can do to control it. But it is when you take those chances in life, that yes those are usually some of the best times ever or the best way to learn. It is funny how so many of us don’t think twice about taking chances about travel but when it is something with our day to day life we hold back.

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