“The Unfamiliar Familiar Path”
4 minute read
I went for a walk today.
And while this may not be the most exciting opening line I’ve ever written, there’s a little more to this story.
So let me say that again.
I went for a walk today. It’s a circular route which begins right on the doorstep of my house and it’s a walk that I’ve been on before; in fact, it’s a walk that I’ve been on countless times. Over the past decade I’ve taken friends with me, I’ve completed the journey with family, but more often than not, I’ve walked it alone.
I’ve taken this journey during the searing heat of summer, navigating my way along the dried, cracked earth. And I’ve taken the journey during the biting cold of winter, enjoying the satisfying sound of ice breaking beneath my boots as I step onto yet another frozen puddle.
I’ve ventured out in the pouring rain and gotten soaked through to the skin, and I’ve pushed on through snow and ankle-deep mud. I’ve even walked it by nighttime, finding my way along the hills and endless fields with nothing but the moon to help light my path.
It’s a route that’s become so familiar that I could practically complete it with my eyes closed. I know the location of every turnstile, every gate, every uphill, and every downhill. I know the sections with the best views, I know the fields where I’ll encounter animals, and I know every lump and bump in the ground.
Today though, as I left my house and made my way towards the starting point, something felt different.
I looked up at the sign that read ‘public footpath’ and I noted the green arrow that instructed me to walk forwards. I’ve followed the path time and time again without even thinking about it, but today I looked up in cold defiance.
I’d never felt this way before.
I squinted at the sign with resentment in my eyes, and then I kicked the floor, turned 180 degrees, and started walking in the opposite direction.
Today I would still complete the same walk, only this time I’d do it in reverse. The finish would become the start and the start would become the finish.
This may not sound like a big deal to you, but to me it was uncomfortable. As I walked into the first field, a field that I’ve been in many times before, I didn’t recognize what I saw. From where I was now stood it looked completely different.
Something told me I was doing the wrong thing and I felt resistance growing, tempting me to turn back around, to return to the start, and to follow the damn sign.
I stood still, not sure which way to turn, but then I took a moment, found my bearings, and then made it through to the next field.
This field also felt unfamiliar yet I knew it was the right one. I told myself that I’d made it through one field without getting lost and so surely I’d be able to make it through another. I stood still once again, composed myself, understood that I was on the correct path, and then started walking again.
Normally I’d be taking the journey from instinct, without even having to think. But today my progress began slowly as I found myself being forced to look at everything from a different angle and to look at things with a completely new perspective.
Everything that once felt predictable and familiar, the things that I’d been looking at in the same way for all these years, suddenly looked different. What once felt safe, now felt uncertain. It was like seeing things through a whole new set of eyes.
Even guilt began to consume me and I started to question what I was doing, asking myself why I felt I had the right to turn my back and to try something new. I’d been walking this route in the same way for so long that I’d come to believe that this was the only way it could be done. It’s the only way I’d ever known it, so why on earth should I do it any differently?
But the feelings of doubt were steadily replaced with feelings of excitement, and with each field that was passed successfully, my confidence began to grow. It was like solving a puzzle, bit by bit, piece by piece. What at first felt challenging and unnerving eventually had me saying…
“This isn’t so bad after all.”
About half way into the route it began to feel easy with the uncertainty having disappeared almost completely. There were a couple of shaky moments when I felt, once again, that I was at risk of getting lost. But just as before I stopped, looked around, took a deep breath, and then started walking again.
In the beginning I’d felt so much resistance, but by the time that I reached the home straight I could no longer remember what the initial fuss had been all about. Why had I been so worried about trying something new? What was the worst that could have happened? I could have gotten lost? Well so what?
Sometimes, you have to become lost so that you can find the strength to make your way back. And sometimes, it’s not until you lose sight of who you are, that you really begin to see who you were; and once you’ve seen who you were, you can then work out who you need to be.
The paths that you’ve been taking for years may no longer be benefitting you in the way they once did, if they ever did at all. And if you’ve believed that there’s only one way to deal with things; you can find that there are many.
Your path can be changed completely.
And sometimes it’s absolutely necessary if you truly want to find your way home.
Did this short article resonate with you and do you know of anybody that could benefit from reading it? If so then please do feel free to share this article wherever you can.
Do you have any thoughts or opinions on anything you’ve just read? Do you have any experience of having to change your path, and if so, what did you learn from this? What did it take for you to do this? Do you have any guidance that you’d like to share with the readers? Or do you have any questions of your own to ask that either myself or my readers can share an opinion on? Please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll begin a conversation.
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Elliot, this is a fantastic post, thank you!! Always remember, “not all who wander are lost”. We each face our own challenges each day and throughout our lives, each of us are unique in our own ways and that’s the beauty of life. Occasionally we believe that we’re one person headed a specific direction and the crazy thing is that it’s not the true path we’re meant to stay on, that’s why setbacks pop up or life changing moments occur. They’re there to guide us to where and who we’re supposed to be, whether positive or negative, they happen for a reason.
I’m at a stage of my life where I’m trying to make decisions but I’m also a bit scared of making the wrong choice, which gives rise to feeling ‘lost.’ You’ve given me a lot to think about 🙂
Hey Katy, thank you for taking the time to read this and for leaving your comment also. I always appreciate hearing your thoughts on what I’ve written and I’m glad this spoke out to you…it was certainly very appropriate to where I was at when I wrote it. I hope the challenges you’re facing and the decisions you’re making are all working out for you now. You’ve certainly got a very positive and strong-minded outlook and I’ve no doubt you’ll handle whatever comes your way.
Thank you again,
Well now…this was a very interesting & relevent blog for me to read today. I am back temporarily living near my old hometown, where I grew up. I have been very sick for much of my time here & I wonder if perhaps part of the reason this malaise is lingering for so long is because deep down, I haven’t been able to truly see my old familiar surroundings with new eyes? It is as if I am physically here in the present but psychologically, I am in still in the past…including some very difficult memories (but lots of wonderful ones, too). Your blog has got me thinking….thanks!
Hi Maryanne, and thank you for your comment.
What’s surprised me most about the response to this article is that it’s spoken to a number of different people in the same way, despite the fact that what they’re relating it to is totally different to the next person. I know the reasons for why I wrote it at the time as it was so personal to me, but to know that it’s resonated to different people for different reasons is just wonderful.
And I do agree with what you say and it’s amazing how differently we can view where we live just by choosing to look at it differently. When I’m driving I often tell myself to imagine I’m a foreigner in my own hometown, and then I ask myself, how would this place look to me if I didn’t know what I already know?