Wednesday, September 13, 2017

One Wild & Precious Life

Statue near the municipal albergue
Astorga, Spain
At this time last year, I was hiking the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. On this particular day, I walked 21.9 km (13.6 mi) from Villavante to Astorga. The day started off cool and overcast—perfect for the day's walk. But the skies were ominously dark, and the last 10–11 km were spent walking through pouring rain with no shelter in sight until I reached the albergue in town.

I have been reading through the journal that I kept along The Way, and I vividly remember writing today's entry after I had settled into the albergue (and dried off!). My thought at the time was that the Camino is, in some ways, a microcosm of human life. Here is an excerpt of this day's journal entry:

Everyone starts and ends their journey somewhere, but each person's is unique and varied—in distance, time, experience, and path. We all have daily and longer term goals—some which get achieved, others that don't. Situations and circumstances along the way allow goals to be met or surpassed, or others to be changed in the process.

Additionally, people regularly come into and leave our journeys. Some are with us from the beginning and stay until the very end. Some stick around for a while and then depart as their own journeys take them elsewhere. Some only appear for a moment or two but can have a lasting impact on us. We are sad to lose some connections and happy to separate from others. But whatever happens, we keep moving forward. On the Camino, that usually means to the next town. In life, that (hopefully) means moving in the same direction toward our own goals and dreams—and for our own happiness and enjoyment.

In this entry, I also wrote about a friend's recent Facebook post that I had seen (on the anniversary of 9/11): "Life is fleeting. It is so precious. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" When I saw this, I thought back to one of my primary reasons for doing the Camino—gratitude! Gratitude for the fact that I could do it, gratitude for the fact that my health had allowed me to experience this amazing journey, and gratitude for the fact that, just a couple years after having gone through a major surgery, I was fully cognizant of this gift I had been given to fully experience and to live this wild and precious life!

I concluded the day's journal entry by documenting the fact that I was approximately 2/3 of the way through the Camino ...

... and I still don't know what's next—and I feel okay with that. I have a couple ideas for options to pursue, and maybe that's all I really need for now. Maybe just some basic directions (yellow arrows) and the ability to trust the path, to believe in the journey. ... I so look forward to seeing what the rest of my journey holds—to Santiago and beyond!

One year later, I'm still not quite sure what's next for me personally or professionally. I have some ideas, and maybe that really is all I need. While I was on my Camino, I found it fairly easy to accept and embrace the uncertainty of the journey while continuing to move forward. But I find this approach harder to take in the "real world." When you're away from the Camino Frances, life doesn't provide a series of painted yellow arrows to show you where to go next. But I believe it can provide direction in other ways. The challenge for each of us is to find those directional guides, trust them, and continue moving forward on our own journeys.

* * * 
"Life is a journey. Be your own navigator."
–me