My coworker asked me a very simple question; “You are really going to do this, aren’t you?”
He was referencing my dream of riding my motorcycle across the country for 12 months. I did not know until that moment that I had made the decision. Until that single moment the entire idea was nothing more than a dream. I knew what I wanted to do; I believed that I could do it but it was not until that moment that I finally took action.
I simply said “Yes.”
That simple action of saying “yes” out loud was as exhilarating as it was terrifying. The carefully crafted foundation of my life crumbled around me. All that remained was this unknowable future, filled with every possibility and potential and yet it was mine for the taking. I stood at the precipice of everything and all I had to do was say yes. I was free to go after my dream; free to go after my hopes; free to conquer my fears. I was free.
My life, or what more accurately could be called ‘the sum total of the years I have been alive’, had not been lived. It was as if I had been floating through life, choosing to swim to one shoreline of a river or the other. I was always being carried along by whatever circumstance and situation occurred. Life took place with me in it. Have an alcoholic mom? Choose the left shore. Bullied at school? Choose the right shore. Date the girl of dreams? Choose the left shore again! But I was always moving down stream; an illusion of choice. How could I have confused that for freedom? The answer was simple.
Freedom comes at a cost; a cost that most of us are not willing to pay. Freedom costs nothing more than letting go of the “should’s” in our life. I should swim to the left shore is warm there or I should swim to the right shore there is more sun.
I should get a 9-5 job. Swim to the left shore!
I should buy a house. Swim to the right shore!
I should get married. Swim to the left shore!
I should stay. I should go. I should have this or that.
I should be safe. I should be happy. I shouldn’t feel pain. I shouldn’t be different.
I had confused deciding which shore to sunbath on with freedom. My life was being lived with only two choices; should I or shouldn’t I. Left shore or Right shore, good or bad, right or wrong, accepted or unaccepted, liked or disliked. But there was a third choice: STOP AND GET OUT OF THE FUCKING RIVER!
How can we do that? Wait…We can do that? We can explore the forests beside the river? We know we can. We just don’t take the action. We just don’t get out of the river because outside of the river, outside of our comfortable and familiar life, is the great unknown and that is terrifying. Beyond our personal limitations, beyond the boundaries of who we think we are is who we can be and that is scary.
With that simple question, from my coworker, came the conclusion that I was finally willing to face my fears. But now I was willing to step into the scariest thing of all: LIVING. Not existing, but living with purpose. I was willing to face being homeless. I was willing to face being unstable. I was willing to face other’s judgments. I was willing to do all of this because I was no longer willing to live my life through ‘should’. I was confronted with the possibility of seeing who I would be and what my life would be beyond my perceived limitations. I was willing to face the fear.
Fear is an internal crisis. What will happen if I face the thing I fear? What will happen if I don’t? The Chinese symbol of Crisis is composed of two symbols; the first symbol is DANGER. The second symbol is OPPORTUNITY. To overcome fear we need to focus on the opportunities that accompany any crisis. We must embrace the opportunities despite the fear. We must live deliberately.
We become unwilling to face fear because we fixate on the DANGER, forgetting that OPPORTUNITY will inevitably unfold after. Riding cross country for a year brings infinite dangers; crashing, physical harm, death, robbery, loneliness, depression, poverty, and hunger. I could puncture a tire in the Arizona desert. I could run out of fuel in the high mountains of Colorado. I could be hit by any of the millions of drivers sharing the road. All of these dangers could happen and if I focus on these things than the fear becomes overwhelming and I will cease to take action in my life. If cease to take action out of fear of danger I will always miss the opportunity.
Twelve months on the road on the back of my bike is more than adventure. It is my way to find freedom. It is my way to make another choice. It is my way of choosing, neither what society says I should or shouldn’t do, but what I say I am going to do. It is my way to face my lifelong fear of homelessness, instability and my fear of other’s judgments about who I am and how I live my life. This ride is me entering the darkest cave; not because I have to or because I should but because I am willing to do so. Twelve months on the road is my attempt at living my life deliberately.
Am I willing to live deliberately?
For the first time in my life I can honestly answer, YES!