The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.
~ Mary Oliver ~
The journey begins anew.
Just about 4 months ago, I found myself suddenly unemployed, a casualty of a struggling economy.  I was not disheartened by this development, as I had been exceptionally unhappy in my government job, as I had been unhappy in previous positions I had held within corporate and government structures.  I admit, I was a bit depressed, as losing a job is something that struck a raw place in my soul.  I have a very strong work ethic – having begun my career at the age of 8 years old in a family that resembled an ant colony instead of a family – and held ‘being employed’ in very high esteem.  So one might be able to imagine the hit that my self-esteem took.
At first.
The first month was rough.  I had to scramble to figure out ways to survive, and received a series of wake up calls that led me to believe that (1) it was time to reconsider what I determined ’employment’, and (2) that, at 51, I was not high on anyone’s list of employable people.  There is an invisible but wholly real bias in the community of employers that seems to state that anyone past the age of 45 is undesirable for reasons that perhaps only they know.  People I know who are around my age (some younger, some older) are some of the most honest, vibrant people I know.   After undergoing more than 100 interviews, I sat myself down and thought it through.
I had always considered myself creative and innovative.  So I knew I could find an answer to this seeming dilemma.  And perhaps the first step was to redefine what I considered this matter to be.  Was it a dilemma, or was it an answer to a question that lurked in the deepest recesses of my mind?  The more I thought about it, the more it appeared to be an answer to my unasked questions.
Who am I today?
What do I want to be doing with my life?
What is my path from here forward?
Finally giving voice to those questions was an epiphanal and liberating moment for me.  I realized that past processes were no longer valid for me.  I had journeyed far in 51 years, and was no longer the same person I was even 7 years prior. I had been trying to force an old way of thinking into a brand new container.  And it just wasn’t working.  For several days, I pondered this puzzle, slowly learning that it wasn’t really a puzzle at all, but a clear picture of the journey I needed and wanted to be on now.  It didn’t involve working for someone else.  It involved working for me, under my own philosophies and wisdom, and to quit trying to live up to nearly impossible standards set by current corporations and businesses.  It involved me realizing that working for someone else was really just a form of being addicted to the drug called “approval.”  From childhood, I sought approval from so many others, I didn’t truly have my own identity.  That was the biggest wake up call of my life so far.  Realizing I was still doing that old song and dance routine called ‘seeking approval from others,’ an extension of having sought approval from first my family, then friends, and then companies.  No WONDER I felt so dissatisfied with my life!  No one can provide me that nurturing Truth that I need and seek.
As a younger man, I dabbled in the metaphysical.  I believed then (as I do now) that there are forces beyond our understanding, beyond the ability of our limited human senses, that exist within and beyond our world.  I’m not talking religion here.  I’m talking non-sciences; things that have not or cannot be proven by current science as we know it.  Some call it “god” or a “higher power.”  I consider it the ever-changing energy of the universe, the same source from which life on Earth has sprung, and continues to evolve.  To my mind, it’s infinite, but the more we learn every day, the more we begin to see that it might very well be finite.  Yet ‘finite’, for my definition, means things that are currently beyond quantification by humans.  Recently, I had an opportunity to sit with a regional shaman, a transgender man who had embarked on a journey of shamanism.  During that time, we performed a meditative trance designed to answer questions for each person.    My question: What is my path from here forward?  The answer stunned me.  Without delineating the details, suffice it to say that I got an answer that I already knew, but had not trusted within myself enough to pursue it.  Yet, there it was, clear as a mountain lake in summer.  At that moment I knew – knew – what my next step was to be.
I would pursue shamanic studies.
It was such an obvious next step, one that I had been preparing for my entire life.  All the studying, coaching, training, and applying I had done would now take me to the next part of the journey.  In my exuberance, I sent out several queries, and the responses were all positive, which, to me, indicated that I was indeed headed upon the right path for me at the moment.  And so, I say it again:
The journey begins anew.
There is no feeling of insecurity or doubt.  There is only assuredness, a sacred trust in myself and my ability to intuitively read the signs.  Every fiber of my being tells me this is right.  And so I humbly accept the journey.  I hope to transcribe some of it here for others to draw their own bits of wisdom or education from.
Thank you for being on this journey with me.