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Go Ahead and Veer Off Course

Thoughts on choosing the path less followed.

In my Texas adventures the last few weeks, I’ve discovered this amazing park close to my sister’s house. I love running the beautifully paved trails that wind about in the woods with little gifts around every turn like a breathtaking river, pond, bridge, or a flutter of dragonfly babies dancing across the path.  

But as amazing as the paved trail is, there are all these other little trails that veer off course and trample about in the woods.  You can only see a few yards to the first turn and then the little dirt trails disappear from view away from the safety of the planned route.  And so I stand there. Do I take the route all planned out or do I veer off my course and see what’s behind the next little bend?

I think as human beings we get caught up in the idea that we have to make the “right” decision or do the “right” thing.  But the trick is, you don’t always know what that is. So when we make a wrong decision and find out later on down our path it wasn’t the best choice, we beat ourselves up incessantly over it. But I think that’s looking at it all wrong.

One thing I’ve learned in this messy life of mine is that I don’t always choose the right path. Sometimes I pick the wrong one and I proceed. Sometimes it has strong consequences. But one thing I’ve also learned is, that I can always change direction. So many people get caught up in the notion that it’s “supposed” to be one way and one way only. That’s rarely the case. The thing is we have a bazillion different little trails we can choose to take. And if we find it’s a dead-end or the trail was the wrong one and it’s not taking us to where we want to be, we can turn around.

Why does society judge this as some sort of failure?

I never knew I didn’t like mint chocolate chip ice cream until I tried mint chocolate chip ice cream.

But the thing I love about taking the wrong trails is, that I’ve realized it’s taught me what the right trail is when I crossed its path. Had I not had so many crap trails to compare it to, I never would have known.

Stop listening to everyone you know.

I had my dear friend help me work through an issue today. As always her words landed beautifully on my heart as she explained to me, “people always have their own preconceptions maybe they would support it or maybe they won’t so you can never justify to anyone what you feel because they will always see or think what they want unless they are willing to actually shut up and listen. You know most people don’t know how to listen.”

Essentially she gave me permission to allow myself to take a path that wasn’t paved out. And that my choice in that matter is mine and mine alone.  And why I don’t give myself that permission is beyond me but the validation is a course correction in and of itself.

All the time people judge our paths but the old adage still holds so true. Unless they’ve laced up our running shoes and run the race we are in, then they just don’t know.  More and more that’s become a huge pet peeve of mine. Who are you to say what our paths are and what is the best choice for us as individuals?  There are so many variables that go into our choices and it’s completely okay to make the wrong choice from time to time.

It’s called, being human.

There are so many times I’ve made decisions that I’ve beat myself up for when I finally realize it was for the sake of survival. You do what you have to do at times. You don’t even have to justify it to others. It’s life. And most people are going to do the very best they can.

So if you veer off course, there’s never any reason you can’t change your path. Regardless of what your friends, family, and foes may say.

I have a friend that thinks she’s old. She’s only 34. That’s a baby in middle-aged years. She went into finance after college but eventually felt the need to do “more”.  So, she applied for law school.  And she got into an amazing school. She graduates in one week with a Juris Doctorate degree and already has an amazing job lined up.

The funny thing is she talks about how young all her classmates are and how she’s judged as the “older” one in the group. Which I still find hilarious. But what I love about her story is, that she didn’t like the path she was on. And she had the balls to see it through and change it.

I’ve reinvented myself more times than I can count. When I first exited my abuse cycles, I was pissed.  I was so tired of being told what I could and could not say that I went to an extreme. I became the most outspoken, politically incorrect, sexually in-your-face, person I could become.  And I made a career for myself.

But the funny thing is, at a certain point. I was done with that path. And I moved on to another. But some people have me beholden to the old path. And it doesn’t work like that. We are constantly moving and changing paths. When did that become a bad thing?  Why do you have to stay on one path for the rest of your life?

I recently met this guy. Well, technically I met him somewhere around the 11th grade when he sat behind me in English class and he’s definitely showing me a whole path I never knew could exist. But he knows this park and was telling me about his friend who helped build all these paths throughout the park. And there are a ton of trails that stretch for miles with these thrilling crazy drops and turns. He’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie. So if he says the paths are cool, then the paths are cool.

You see here’s the thing. When you stay on the paved road and it’s all planned out for you, you may have safety, but do you have a life? Why do you not even consider taking the road less traveled, a la Robert Frost?

Yes, it’s a crazier path. Yes, no one will understand why you are doing it. Yes, it will be scary as hell. But by God, you’ll be living.  And not just living, but experiencing life in all its effed-up messy glory.

I’m so glad for the times I took the wrong path. I love that I screwed it all up beyond belief. Because now that I have a path so exhilarating and amazing, I do nothing but appreciate every last second of it.

I don’t want safe. I don’t want predictable. I want complicated. I want turns that make my stomach leap to my throat and I want to praise God for every last second of it. Because even if I can’t see the path that leads me off the course I thought I had all planned out, God can see it. And better yet, he’s right there waiting for me after every bend asking me to trust him as I turn another corner. And another. And another.

He can see the path even when I can’t. He knows when I’ve chosen the wrong one and he gently leads me back to where I need to be. And even more beautifully he opens my mind to possibilities I never dreamed of and then gives me the courage to step off the cement.

I’m stepping off the path. I’m veering off the course I thought I had all figured out. And I have a beautiful peace about it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m terrified. I don’t know what’s around the corner. But my God does. And if it works or if it doesn’t He is there teaching me what I need to know and steering me to exactly where I need to be.

So here’s to those who stop in their tracks and see the path less chosen, and then choose to take it.

What a perfectly beautiful thing complete uncertainty and full trust in God is.

And like my hero Corrie Ten Boom says, don’t be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. Because if you want to know what’s around the bends and curves and steep drops, He is. And the life he’s given you is nothing short of a gift. So go ahead, take the path. And see what a beautiful thing.

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