I recently listened to an inspiring conversation with Bill Sycalik, who is currently on a mission to run a marathon in each and every one of the United States’ fifty-nine State Parks. As if that weren’t impressive enough, he’s doing it in just one year. And he’s taking a break from his corporate job to accomplish this.
Taking a break? What?!?!?!
That’s really the part that gets me the most.
While it’s obviously mind-boggling to think of someone running a marathon a week on all manner of terrain, I have an even harder time wrapping my mind around the concept of taking a year off of work. Isn’t that a little messed up?
Sometimes it seems that my sense of what’s possible diminishes as I grow older. Think about all the things you wanted to be when you were a kid. Maybe one day you wanted to be a veterinarian, the next a farmer, then a professional soccer player or a singer. My younger sister once told us she wanted to be a firetruck. When we’re younger, the world is made of pure possibility.
But then we pick a path and one step follows another. We find careers and partners. We take out mortgages and then we accumulate stuff. (So much stuff.) Eventually it seems inadvisable or even impossible to veer from the path ahead. As we “advance” in life, we begin to fear losing what we’ve gained more than ever.
This is why I find examples of people breaking away to try something new so inspiring. I listen to their stories and wonder, “could I ever do that??” Perhaps I could, but to do so would require stepping very far outside my comfort zone. It would mean contending with uncertainty and facing my fears of scarcity. It would mean being a beginner at something again, just like when I was a child.
St Augustine said, “If you can understand it, then it is not God.”
Breaking away from the known is the only way to encounter the divine. This is the truth despite how fervently I might wish otherwise. The divine is just too big to fit inside the cozy sphere of the known. And thank goodness for that.
Even if you’re not ready to quit your job and #VanLife your way around the country, I encourage you to stretch yourself a little. Where can you push your boundaries and rediscover your sense of wonder and awe? Maybe it’s exploring an art form you’ve admired but been too nervous to try. Maybe it’s opening yourself a little more in a relationship. Maybe you’ve been interested in going to a yoga class but were too nervous to try (don’t worry, you won’t look worse than I did at the dance class I went to last week).
The beauty of this is, you don’t need to do any of these things perfectly. It only matters that you do them. Life is not just a narrow road. It’s an open plain with possibility in all directions.