I recently discovered a beautifully illustrated and narrated book called “Go Where You are Drawn.” It was a moment of good synchronicity.
Author Jeremy Collins is a climber and illustrator who, upon finding himself restless and searching, decided to head in the four cardinal directions – and up. I like discovering people who are called to keep exploring.
I also appreciate knowing that other people bleed, too, and keep going.
Jeremy used his travels, and his existing climbing skills, to create a journey of discovery, personal challenge, and growth. Climbing and fear again, it seems. An interesting theme.
And I love the way Jeremy draws and paints.
After google searching for more information on this interesting book, I discovered that Jeremy is also a filmmaker.
My first reaction is admiration and excitement. I like what Jeremy has done, it resonates with me, and I always appreciate knowing there are people out there adventuring in creative ways. If I’m being honest, this work also brings up some insecurity for me. Will I be able to share my lessons as effectively as this? How? Where?
Indeed, what are my lessons? Do I know yet? I can feel something crystalizing here in Durango and my sense of “what’s next” becoming more clear. At the same time I’m also still in the discovery process, still a traveler. I remind myself of this because my urge is to rush to the end, to find out what’s next simply because I am curious. I am still learning to slow down.
“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and grass grows by itself.” This zen saying is something I repeated to myself a lot this winter in San Clemente, to help myself through moments in which I wanted my lessons of this “year” to come faster.
This summer I’ve learned by settling in, and next week we leave Durango to learn by being on the road again until October. Burning Man, and then points east, by way of — Canada? We don’t know yet. We’re just beginning to talk about routes again, get excited about those possibilities.
Go where you are drawn. It’s a good principle, and a book or video I recommend checking out.
How can I be authentically in the present moment while also kicking ass at getting things done? I think a lot about that. Most days, I wish I were more productive. Yet on this trip I also spent six valuable months fighting my usual urges to organize, to schedule, to discipline. I know I got something out of the uncertainty.
The kind of control that’s familiar to me is like a marked path — even if you haven’t travelled a stretch of land before, there’s a predictable route to follow with known information about distance, elevation, and forks along the way. I’m a planner by nature, and I’m quite comfortable both making and following these metaphorical maps. I know quite a bit about “what works” — for me and for humans in general — with regards to productivity. I’m starting to use these skills again, but first I had to let them go.
This trip was intended as a journey of discovery, which does require going beyond the known — while literally exploring the country, I’m also studying my soul. Looking back at my first post, A Manifesto, this purpose is clear. I knew the kind of growth I was after. I didn’t know how I would need to get there. I don’t think I understood that it couldn’t even be charted in advance.
One of the reasons I was so attracted to Steven Sagmeister’s TED talk on the power of time off is that he grappled with free time in a way I could really relate to. He thought he would leave his sabbatical completely open to create and discover, and he discovered that he got nothing done. As he put it, he became his own intern, responding to other people’s queries and letting the external world drive his time. In a brilliant move, he created a schedule for himself.
Such organization is how I am comfortable — my projects tend to be goal-aligned, color-coded, white-boarded, excel spread-sheeted, and tracked for progress. I’m the kind of person who makes to-do lists on vacation: write in journal, brush teeth, make sandwiches, go kayaking, walk to happy hour.
I studied Sagmeister’s slides. I was interested in him and curious about how he approached experimental organization. I’m enough of a dork that I took screen shots and zoomed in his schedule, was charmed that he included things like “future thinking” and crushed on him a bit over activities like “typographical research.”
I invested a lot of time and energy planning for our travels, but I focused on the practical things – budgeting, saving, minimalizing, planning, and outfitting the camper. While I was still employed, I was steadfast about not wanting to pre-define my creative time off because my intention was to discover new things about myself once I had the space to do so.
I thought that “I’ll figure it out later” was enough to accept openness. I thought that that once we got on the road I’d go Sagmeister-style and lock in some kind of routine and project rotation. I thought that even if I didn’t know quite what I wanted to do, I should have structured time for experimentation.
I had a lot to learn.
I didn’t know how much freedom I would need before I could even begin to understand the path my soul wanted to follow. Sure, I could think of tasks with my head, I’m rarely short on ideas. Yet when I tried to knuckle down to these projects, it felt false, like there were things I had to learn before I could benefit from familiar discipline. I could not predict how scary it would be to let go.
The first six months of our travel included many fun adventures, but much of my personal time was about the darkness of these fears.
I wanted the security and predictability of everything being planned, and our trip logistics, my travel partner, and my own brain conspired to prevent that. I fought against it, hard, and I was always unsuccessful.
I felt like I was trying to jam a changing person into old expectations. I didn’t know yet what I wanted to be focusing on, because I hadn’t grown into it yet. I could try to schedule myself into the activities that sounded good, but they felt a little false.
Six months sounds like a long time to be adrift like that. It still astounds me how long it took to shake off some of the ways I felt burdened and constrained by my old life. Interestingly, in some cases I’m now returning to interests that I’d previously held and thought I would discard as more oriented towards my professional than my personal self. Perhaps they are actually both — which is a good thing. To know this, I needed the space to go away and then come back on new terms and for new reasons.
I’m starting to understand how much this kind of personal adventure is truly about what’s around the next corner, over the next hill. It’s about open space and about discovering as you go, maps not needed. I hope I can bring this knowledge home with me, too. I’d like to always leave a little space in my schedule — and in my heart — for discovery.