“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” ~Alan Cohen
Last year I was suddenly made redundant along with half of my colleagues, as our company was being taken over. It was swift and severe. It was also a blessing.
I didn’t want to work for the new company whose values conflicted with my own. And I had been wavering on making a decision about my career.
Now I was being forced to decide but I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. At least, that’s what I told myself. Fear makes us do that sometimes, to keep us where we are, safe within our comfort zone.
A friend reminded me to return to my dreams. On the basis of de-cluttering, Practical Me, that part of me that likes to keep me safe, put my vision board on the top shelf of my wardrobe, where it was safely out of sight and out of mind. I took it back down and spread it out on my bed.
In the top left corner were pictures of the ocean and scuba diving. I had just spent a week diving around the island of Komodo in Indonesia.
Beneath it were pictures of walking trails and Italy representing my dream to walk the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route of 2,053 kilometres, from Canterbury in southern England through France, Switzerland, and Italy, ending in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome.
After walking a small section through Tuscany a couple of years earlier, I dreamed of walking the whole way one day, sometime in the future. I hadn’t planned on walking it now but then I hadn’t planned on being made redundant either.
I sat on my bed looking at my vision board with this dream staring back up at me. With no job and needing to move house in the next couple of months, and a small redundancy payment in the bank, now was the perfect time for this dream to be lived.
That’s when the whispers started. You know them. The ones that give you every possible reason why you can’t do something, to stop you moving forward, to keep you “safe” exactly where you are right now:
You didn’t plan on doing it this year.
You haven’t saved for it. The redundancy payment won’t cover it all. You will have to spend your savings. You will end up broke.
It will be long and hard. You don’t even know anything about long distance walking or hiking. Maybe you won’t make it. What a waste of money.
And the loudest…
Why on earth would you want to walk 2,000 kilometres? What’s the point?
Logically, there was no reason to walk that far, especially these days when I could fly or take a train or bus or drive. Except as much as I was scared, the idea excited me.
Then I heard the words of my good friend and yoga teacher, Joey. Whenever I hesitated to go into a posture or resisted going a little deeper, Joey always looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “If not now, when?”
If not now, when?
Yes, but I didn’t plan on doing it this year.
If not now, when?
I don’t know—maybe in a few years when I’ve accrued some long service leave or I have retired, or maybe never because it’s just a dream to be dreamed and not lived.
As I was having this argument with myself, my mind jumped many years into the future.
I was as an old woman with short silver hair, lying on my deathbed and looking back at my life, specifically looking back at all the things I didn’t dare to do. As soon as the words, “I wish I had” left my mouth, I knew this would be one of them.
I don’t want to die regretting the things I wanted to do but was too scared to try. And I knew that if I didn’t attempt to walk it now, I might never have the perfect opportunity.
I may not have the freedom and time to undertake such a long adventure until who knows when, maybe decades away when I’m older and my body less able, maybe never.
I decided to walk. Scared and excited, I prepared myself as best I could. Ten weeks later I had packed up my life in Melbourne and was in Canterbury taking my first steps to Rome.
For seventy-five days I walked entirely on my own. Then ten days away from Rome I met Peter and Paulius (yes true story their names really were Peter and Paul just like the Apostles). Eighty-five days after I left Canterbury, I walked into Saint Peter’s Square with Peter and Paul.
Some of those fearful whispers were right. I didn’t know what I was doing and I was an inexperienced hiker, but I learned what I could before I left and the rest I learned as I walked.
I depleted my savings; however, I didn’t end up broke.
There was a risk I might not make it all the way, especially within the ninety day Schengen visa restriction, but I decided it was a risk worth taking. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I made it.
It was long and hard, one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I discovered the extent of my own determination and resilience and found the answer to the question I had long been seeking—the purpose of my life.
In realizing this dream, I have been able to take steps toward living another dream: to write and publish a book. I have written about my journey and am in the process of getting it published.
Stepping toward our dreams and into the unknown can be scary. It’s just that part of ourselves that wants to keep us safe and free of shame, where there is a risk of failure. It’s okay to feel scared and it’s normal, but we don’t have to let it have the last word and control us.
Take a deep breath into your belly, feel into your heart, and ask yourself, if not now, when? What answer do you feel in your body? Is your fear nervous or excited? Is your desire greater than your fear?
Is now the right time for you to take that step? Maybe the answer is no, not right now. That’s okay. We don’t need to force things; everything can unfold in its own time.
How will you feel at the end of your life if you don’t give your dream a go? Will you be regretful, sad, or disappointed in yourself? If your answer is yes, then use those feelings to propel you through your fear and take that first step towards living your dream—starting now.
Walking image via Shutterstock