I'm not quite sure where I came upon this term recently—was either a movie, podcast, or piece of literature I consumed in the last week while living the island life in Maui. Anyway, I like it.
I like it because we're all wayfinders—some of us more proficient at the skill than others—but nevertheless, all wayfinders in our own unique way. It seems to be a simple concept, though I'm not entirely sure it's as simple as it sounds. You see, wayfinding is about knowing where you are presently by knowing where you've been. Beyond that, I believe it's about creating meaningful intentional movement forward in order to propel you where you'd like to go. For those of you who have visited the "basecamp" before, you know that I'm keen on Buddhist teachings and believe that living in the present is where we can find and experience the most freedom. That said, I'm a strong believer in intention-setting and moving forward through life in a meaningful, thoughtful manner. To me, that's the epitome of wayfinding.
Lately, I've pontificated a lot about my purpose and meaning. It seems that's what the springtime thaw is all about, and certainly the time to do it...slow down, find comfort in stillness and silence, and—dare I say—even a little bit of laziness. Nearly four years later, I'm finally learning the meaning of my first tattoo: "move slowly." Better late than never, right? In the process of thinking about purpose and meaning, I've recently pondered the notion of identity. Have you ever thought about who you are? Like, really, who YOU—apart from your work or your significant other—are? In the past, I've so closely connected my identity to my work or humans in my life, and it has never provided for the most fruitful outcome. Sure, fully diving into pursuits of work and people have enabled me to create deep, meaningful results and relationships, but at the same time the results have left me entangled and intertwined with things that don't truly serve my soul. Even so, I've been able to find success—the way I define success, anyway.
Let's stray for a bit and talk about the definition of success, shall we?! For me, success is not measured by a dollar amount in my bank account (clearly, or I wouldn't be working for the U.S. Ski Team...ha ha, but FOR REAL), titles or a corner office, family or children, a house, nice car or the amount of stuff I own. Success, to me, is being true to myself, living my life with an open mind and compassionate servant's heart, transparency, and vulnerability, authentic connections, lifting others' up even—and maybe especially—when they don't treat me the same way, wayfinding with intention and creating something from nothing with a goal to seek constant personal growth in this ever-changing world. Also, empathy. Empathy is important to me. If I can be empathetic, I've tasted success.
So, back to the thought I started...sure, diving in deep and allowing my heart to love big has provided for a lot of success, but, I've also experienced a deep and profound sadness along the journey—largely due to the devil that is expectation and the stories we tell ourselves.
Over the last several years, but most notably in the last year, I've forged a very intimate relationship with another Buddhist concept: impermanence. In doing so, I've learned to let go...of people, experiences, and things. I've accepted this concept into my life so deeply that I am finally able to find gratitude in times of transition. I've lived a large chunk of my life holding on to things, at times getting lost in unnecessary drama, in an effort to live a good story. The thing is, that's not an effortless way to live. It's hard work, and it's been heavy lifting for my big heart. I used to count down the days to an end of vacation and lament about leaving a person or place that meant so much to me. Don't get me wrong, it's still challenging to say "goodbye" to people and places in my life when the time comes, but I'm much more capable of seeing the "good" in "goodbye". Perhaps I've learned this lesson as a result of the seasonal nature of my work, and maybe it's easier for me to leave places because I find appreciation for my Utah home that I never had for the Midwest...and I know I'll be on the road again soon. Either way, I'm finding peace in being present. And that feels damn good.
Sometimes I joke that I'm boring now...less excitable, living life more simply and balanced. Of course, I don't believe that to be true—at the core I'm the same big loving, crazy adventurer—but I just don't really need to be seen or heard as loudly as I once did. I don't need the affirmation of others like I may have during my transition. Living life in Park City can often feel like high school, complete with cliques. Since I'm on the road all winter, I actually have only lived in Salt Lake and Park City about 9 months in the last three years..hard to build and grow relationships when you have no roots.
I used to care when I wasn't invited to social gatherings. Friends with everyone and ever-popular growing up, I had never really experienced what it felt like to be left out. (Except for when I was new to ski racing and wore all of my brother's hand-me-downs...but my charming personality and quick wit would quickly win all the rich ski kids over.) And, as a single woman—who is a bit odd—new to Park City (one of these things is not like the others), I'd often be forgotten. A pariah in a sea of happy married wealthy couples with babies on the way. Honestly, it hurt my feelings to be forgotten. Sometimes it still does, but mostly I'm able to separate my emotion from the things I can not control. To be comfortable with who you are apart from anyone else is not easy when you're thrust into a new environment. These days, I'm more comfortable in my skin, perhaps? One of my mentors, Beatrix Ost, has this motto: "In your body is a good place to be". It's true. In fact, it's the best place to because, where we are at this very moment, is freeing. When I reflect on life three years ago, it seems like worlds away. My married life seems like an alternate universe. Life changes so fast, and if we don't find balance in ourselves then it's easy to get wrapped up in the fast-paced chaos and spiral into an oblivion. I'm not sure most people see the difference in who I am today, but I feel it from the depth of my core.
My mind is quieter; the chatter has subsided, mostly. I'm keen to meet others' with an appropriate energy level that enables me to connect in a more meaningful way. It's true that most people couldn't connect or relate to my former self...and—dare I utter these words, but—it was, at times, "too much." I get it now. It's not that I didn't get it then...it's just that I didn't really care what they thought. I wanted to live life big, wild and untamed. Fair enough. When you go through a transition as big as divorce and moving across the country, effectively to pursue your own dreams and passions apart from anyone or anything else, it's one big, wild, untamed—and scary—adventure. Most people don't understand that level of transition because they never experience even one of those changes in an entire lifetime. It's foreign and it's different, and different is scary. People don't exactly find change to be a comfy notion. And, that's ok. It doesn't make me or them any better or worse...it just, well, makes us different. To realize and find beauty in our differences is a gift that I'm blessed to know and practice.
When we transform our thoughts about a sad or a bad situation from negative to positive, it's much easier to find the "good" in the "goodbyes" and lessons we need to learn as we seek personal growth. Sometimes our darkest teachers are the best, most effective teachers. I'm thankful for my first true love—a strawberry blonde Irishman with the gift of gab who was deceptively charming and drove me absolutely nuts but taught me my first poignant lesson in impermanence and heartbreak. I am grateful for my ex-husband. Actually, I'm most thankful for him. He taught me very profound lessons about life, love, and codependency. He taught me that even though two people seem perfect on paper, reality often tells a different story. He turned my life upside down and made me reconsider everything I thought to be true about love and marriage. I'm thankful for my involuntary exit from Ethnotek, the company I co-owned which I poured my whole being into—though brutal at the time, I was meant to learn from it. The list goes on and on. The one thread that weaves all of these experiences together is that I absolutely got lost in them. I lost myself and my identity in them. Since then, many challenging experiences in my life have been so because of a habit I acquired during my young adult life to dive fully into things and people. I only knew one pace: blazing fast. Add to that the fact that I was accustomed to getting what I wanted in life—partly because I was privileged by the standards of most, but mostly because I put the hard work into it and it paid off—and you can imagine it was difficult for me when things didn't work out like I had mapped them out in my head.
The path each of us takes isn't the same...and for me, it's most often not the easy route. It is clearer than ever before, mostly because I'm focused more on where I am right now and less concerned with the unknown. I've gotten lost along the way, both literally and figuratively, but I've always managed to find my way back, learning poignant lessons in the on the journey. Recent struggles in my personal and professional lives—which, in my industry, are often quite entangled—have taught me incredible lessons that I am more grateful for than words could begin to convey. I've learned that it's okay to say "no"...in fact it's better to say "no" if it means you can't give someone or something enough of yourself to the point they are not able to fully experience your magic. I've learned that I'm not anyone else's possession...and that's the way it should be. I'm not yours. I'm mine. I've always known this, which is why relationships have been a challenge for me in the past...but now I truly understand it and feel it. Codependency is not for me. I'm an individual, and I'm best when I'm known as "Megan" rather than "[insert dude's name]'s girlfriend" (side note: I do like the term "partner" and think it is much more grown up). I am me, first. It's like the mantra I uttered on the mat in Minneapolis at Modo Yoga that one day when I realized I needed to live life solo for a while..."ME BEFORE US." I've found freedom right here where I am at this moment.
"Me before us" is not selfish. Or maybe it is, but not necessarily in a negative way. Learning how to love me before others was, without question, vital in finding peace where I am in this present moment. To be true to yourself, gentle with yourself, patient with yourself and understanding with yourself is to find true freedom. I needed to find it before I could truly love another human. And, that's what the last few years have taught me. I'm accepting of my flaws. I'm imperfect, and I make mistakes. And that's OK. Because I'm human. And the beautiful thing is, you are human too. And we're all traveling through this fucked up, amazing, weird, wonderful adventure together. We're all finding our way, navigating through this beautiful mess. I'm more aware than ever. I know that I'm still affected by energy more than most humans. Full moons make me crazy. My period makes me chaotic, and for some odd reason I still can't understand, it always seems to surprise me with each month it comes to pay a visit (and no—it's not because I think I may be pregnant...thank God). Yes, I'm admitting it. I hated when my ex would call me out, but it's true...the hormones make me a little cuckoo. Mostly in my brain, but sometimes externally as well. All I have to say about that is that I'd like to see dudes on their period. Ha, that'd be pure gold. I'm curious, not to be confused with nosy. I care. A lot. I love. Deeply. However, before I once loved too freely. Now it's reserved for the most special things and ones. As it should be. I am genuine, even though many don't believe so at first. I'm just a human like you, after all. And, humanity is beautiful.
We are not meant to be each other's everything. As I watch young couples canoodle on the plane, I cringe a little bit. I try to appreciate it for them even though it's not for me, but I still cringe. I want to be loved, but that does not mean I want to be worshiped. I struggle with the idea of spending all of my time with one human and planning my life around their schedule. Obviously, it hasn't worked for me in the past. At the same time, living "wild and free" doesn't necessarily mean living a life alone as a solo traveling wanderer. I now believe true freedom can be achieved in partnership with someone who fully understands the importance of individuality and independence. That's what true love is. Maybe it's not what I once thought it was...maybe it's not earth-shatteringly big at every moment like I thought it was supposed to be. Like the movies told us it was supposed to be (except for The Lobster, of course - which you should all watch). I know this to be true: it's not jealous or possessive or codependent. It's not resentful. There is a hefty amount of respect, space to breathe and be and time to hit the "pause" button because it's not perfect and we're not actually wired to be with one human 24/7 (which is OK, by the way, contrary to popular belief). There's understanding. Kindness and softness. At this moment, I'm happy and thankful. Even, and especially, for the dark teachers...for sometimes they guide us to the brightest lights.
And now, I must put my computer down and wayfind myself outside to the big, ol' sunshine, sand and salty water...
Before I jet to paradise, here are three exercises for you, if you wish to partake in personal growth and reflection: 1) Ponder the notion of "identity". Who are you? What makes you tick and gets you excited? What do you believe? 2) Think about your definition of success, and—if you're up for it—share your thoughts in the comments section below, and 2) Write about an object that's meaningful to you...just sit down and write, and see where it takes you. What have you experienced with this object? What live has this object lived? Who gave this object to you, or where did you get it? Stuff like that. I can't take credit for this exercise, as I snagged it from Tim Ferriss' recent podcast "How to be Creative Like a Motherfucker" featuring Cheryl Strayed, writer of "Wild". I highly recommend giving that one a listen, by the way. Really good stuff.
For the record, I'll put #3 into practice for one of my upcoming blog posts.
Until then, journey on, my fellow wayfinders...
Post Script: Sometimes I share tunes I like...most recently I've been digging Marian Hill, Tei Shi, and Jessie Reyez. Also, I like the following related words to "wayfinding": "wayfarer" and "wanderlust". Yes, there's a theme.