Went on a nice, long hike in the mountains today to help clear my head as well as to stretch my body. It definitely helped with both. Too much time this past two weeks stuck around other people, with no room for my own thoughts and for my soul to clear.
Yes, I can tolerate people when I need. I can blend with the crowd, enjoy conversation and social time with like-minded folk, and make do with quiet moments here and there. There are even cities I cherish, able to wander for hours enjoying the sights and the people around me – places like Hong Kong, Sevilla, Santa Fe and Jerusalem all come to mind.
But my soul needs time away – whether for a few hours or days, I must have time without the thoughts of others crowding me, without the noise of their words or the pressure of their presence. At times I have found this peace on the beach or ocean, quietly in a park, or even sitting with a book in a silent corner. The mountains will always be a special place though, the home of both my peoples resonating in my blood throughout the years. Whether it be the hills of the Appalachians, the Japanese Alps, or my beloved Rockies something about a little bit of altitude and wilderness always seems to help.
Today while I was hiking I got to thinking, as I always do. Finishing this time away from home I was pondering the directions life has taken me.
I don’t believe in some grand, over-arching destiny to life and what happens – that everything is pre-ordained and we are simply pieces moving about some gameboard put into play by our Creator. I do however believe that we do have paths which are put before us – we just have to choose whether or not to walk them. Not just one path per person, but choices along the way; and that for some reason when we make the right choices in accordance with these paths somehow things seem to happen for the better – and when we fight them is when we encounter more difficulties. So yes, I believe in my free will but I also know that too many times things seem to have happened for a reason, even if I don’t recognize it at the time.
For my life so many of these choices and changes seem to happen right around the decades of my life. This is when it seems that I somehow end up on a path different than the one I had originally conceived, but which when I recognize it is so much the better.
When I was twenty my life was starting on one path, leading me down years of service in the military and giving me a chance to find myself and learn the disciplines I would need to proceed. At the time it seemed this would be my life and career, and everything went down that path.
But even when the path through the woods is wide and clear we come to forks – choices we must make on which way to go. Sometimes the choice is simple and obvious, and at others you find yourself wandering seeking the path even if you don’t realize you took the wrong turn. This happened to me a bit over a decade later, when I suddenly found myself adrift, unhappy with the course I was following and the goals I was seeking. It took input from my brilliant wife, and time alone in my head to realize that the moment had come for a change – for one reason or another, this was no longer the path I should be on. Sure, I could have stuck it out a few more years, waited around for the retirement check and all the other things; but I would have been unhappy and more importantly stagnant – two things I cannot stand and refused to do for something as simple as money. It took a few more years to finish my tour, but I changed – moving from the military to law enforcement at a time most others are already settled in a career.
Once again a path lay before me, moving to a new place and career, and growing in what I had chosen. I found something I had an affinity for – a combination of the things I liked doing and the skills I brought from my prior life seemed to make the job easier for me than some others, and I spent my first few years learning and growing as a cop. A while back though I started to feel that restlessness again; I still loved being a cop but I needed to find something new to challenge myself. It was time to start looking at my options inside the department, deciding on the next step I needed for my career and my personal growth, and finding out where I was supposed to be.
As I was considering these options, trying to find in my head what felt right inside and what path I was ready to walk – when yet again the right opportunity presented itself. It had been a long time since I’d done any bomb work, but the chance to join our team here arose and I was approached by several of the members to see if I was interested. At first it was part time, just a collateral duty with the regular work I did. Then one night I got the call letting me know that I was chosen to move to the full-time position, with new responsibilities and opportunities that came with it.
Since this path has presented itself it seems many other things have fallen into place, both at work and in my private life. I certainly can’t take credit for everything, or say that the switch was some magical event in doing so – but I do view it as yet another example of when you pay attention to the signs which are put in front of you, and chose the right path, things tend to work better.
Where the next decade takes me, and what choice it is that flows from there I can’t even guess. But until then I hope I can continue to recognize the path when it is in front of me.