“I feel as if my life had grown more outward when I can express it.”
― Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
There’s a tricky thing in writing—deep introspection is conveyed through outward expression. When you read a lot you stumble on some deeply damaged characters who had the courage to put it all out there on paper for others to see. I’ve mined myself similarly, but I don’t have the deep scars that others seem to have. Blame it on a good family growing up, but the fuel for the writing isn’t to draw out the pain of the past but rather to tap into the experience and intense gratitude of being alive at this time. That doesn’t mean there aren’t scars, how does anyone live an unsheltered life without scars? That which you once were is a memory that haunts you or spurs you towards becoming a better person. I’ve long ago buried the character I hated in myself, though he keeps trying to crawl out of his grave.
Decide what to be and go be it.
There’s a feeling that comes over you when you decide what to be. It’s like a magnet that pulls you in the direction you want to go in. My sailor and hiker friends know this, for it relentlessly pulls them towards their True North. I smile when someone questions why someone would put all their eggs in one basket. If you haven’t found your basket you can’t possibly know why others do what they do.
“I don’t want to swim in a roped off sea.” — Jimmy Buffett, Cowboy in the Jungle
We all have our calling. Do we listen to it or to the helpful guidance of others? When you find that direction, killing time on other things feels like you’re strangling yourself. Urgency and purpose demand your attention. The only way forward is deliberate action. Growing outward requires we stretch ourselves beyond what we once were, and then to keep doing it over and over again. To reach out towards where we want to be often means pulling away from what we once were.