The surprising empowerment of walking old paths in new ways
A little advice on walking backwards:
Walk forwards... Except in the other direction.
Stick with me.
For longer than I care to calculate now I have had an overwhelming, ironically stifling fear of taking backwards steps. Not in the “step on a crack you break your back” sense, but in the sense that in working to move forward, up, diagonally, North East of countries, North West of the world, I have been absolutely terrified of taking any actions which look similar to those I have taken when unhappy, or those of a life and time I no longer identify with in the same way.
Today, after 15 years of walking my little Jack Russel Terrier one of two (to three, in adventurous years) tracks – a different fear, of large dogs, lead me to turn around... and a different courage lead me to take the second track – backwards. It was the same track we’d always taken ,except I began the loop on the usual home run. Rather than putting one foot behind the other watching the initial plan grow further and further away, I walked forwards, reversing our usual route.
As I stopped in awe – I think my words were “well sh*t” - of the sun setting over the hills I’d seen approximately … a lot, multiplied by 15 years … my mind started ticking over. I had a new energy, there was a new angle to this same track I’d taken. I propose this is also true of life.
In another limbo stage I’m finding myself falling into similar part time jobs as the last time I re-jigged my life. Amongst rejecting work I’m not passionate about, I fall into what I’m good at; communicating with children. Some have suggested it’s a sign but I maintain that being good at something isn’t a reason to dedicate your life to it. Loving something is. And I care about education and I care about the formative years but I don’t want to be a teacher and I know this. Today I saw kids I’d worked with when they were shy little pre-schoolers not letting mum leave for work. They were now running around the playground, full of confidence and friendship and I was completely taken aback. My shock lead to complete despair – where the heck had the past several years of my life gone – they had grown so much and I was in the same casual job with no solid answer to “what are you doing with your life”?
I had a new energy, there was a new angle to this same track I’d taken. I propose that this is also true of life.
I started to put some puzzle pieces together. In every job I’ve taken on recently, I’ve been asked back immediately and called “fabulous”. Really quoting, not just gloating... definitely rhyming.. (what good timing?) I’ve been grateful for the accolades but a little dismissive, at least in my thoughts. My voice finds: "Oh thank you that's so kind that really means a lot". While my mind finds: "yes yes I'm good at this this is not news to me I want to be [cue my various passions]ing)". So why am I being called fabulous all the time? I took it upon myself to analyse this, because self-analysis is the double edged sword of free time... and I came up with this: Because I’m on the right path. I might be visiting a destination I’ve visited before but I’m coming at it from a completely different direction. It's important not to fall into old habits or situations if they don't serve us. But sometimes it's these very things which can act as a marker for our growth. Progress is so frequently followed by a dreaded feeling of failure. New jobs mean massive learning curves mean feeling like an idiot or a fraud in your apparent field of expertise. We are quick to move the goal posts. But if we're playing a game we've played before it can pay to remind yourself that you know the field now and you can just go straight to scoring points without the angst. Flying from Canada to Australia is as much travelling as doing the opposite. It’s all moving, and so long as you’re facing the direction you’re heading, you’re still moving forward.
This is not losing sight of the end goal. It’s seeing what’s directly in front of you and running so hard at it you have no choice but to rebound even closer to the final destination. Give your brain a new way to work. Give it some nutritional variety. If, like me, you wake up with a list of things to do in a particular order, try reversing it. Perhaps you start the day with the thing you usually do to reward yourself at the end. Unless it’s wine. Maybe not wine. But just flip it around. See what happens. Walking backwards can be a beautiful way to move forward.