“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one” Michael McMillan
I would like to start this year with an excerpt from my book – FEEL THE WILD
After years living in New York City I was still trying to find my place, my tribe, my purpose. I worked in an office and performed a job I had no passion for. Day after day, I acted my way through the part, feeling as if I didn’t have enough to give to my work. And I didn’t. I wasn’t energized by my work; I was drained by it. Like a stabled horse, I wanted out. I needed to find that child within, to be alive once more. So I called it quits.
I sold everything, bought a camera, and persuaded some companies to help fund my equipment. I took out a world map, put my finger on New York, and started moving south until I reached Patagonia. This land had been many things to many people. For Magellan and Drake, it was the land of giants. For Darwin, it was a place that would change his life. For French author and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Patagonia was his muse. And for writers Chatwin and Theroux, it was their salvation. For me, this vast land, these million square kilometers of mountains, rivers, canyons, steppes, ocean coasts, and unbelievable skies, would perhaps bring me back from the depths of unhappiness. Patagonia is where my story began.
I was standing on a beach at Punta Norte, on the Valdes Peninsula in the Chubut Province, a place famous for orcas that beach themselves to snatch young, careless sea lion pups. Looking out and watching black fins knifing the shallow waters, I unexpectedly started to feel like I was choking. I don’t know why. I can’t explain what happened to me. Instead of giving in to the anxiety of the moment, I gathered my wits and took a really deep breath. I felt the south wind pushing its way into me. This cold air had traveled north from Antarctica, passed Tierra del Fuego, followed the rugged coast of Argentina, and now settled into my lungs. And with this new breath of icy air came a release. It was as if I was taking my first breath. My lungs opened up, like the petals of a flower stretching out to receive all the light around it. And I felt a sudden awareness, as if I was unexpectedly waking up after decades of hibernation…”
The part missing from the text is that none of it happened the way I had planned. In fact my trip to Argentina was so ill prepared that I had to cancel my original plan. I had overestimated the challenges and ridiculously overpacked. To say that I was in over my head is an understatement. Facing my foolishness and immaturity, I surrendered to my predicament. Letting my pride take the back seat, I reassessed everything and improvised. Six months later, I emerged transformed.
None of my expeditions have happened the way I wanted. In fact barely anything in my life goes according to plan. But every time I find myself in the unexpected, I let go, adapt, learn, and grow stronger. The truth is that my most cherish possessions, my most beautiful discoveries, and my most precious friendships have all appeared from these dark places where I thought nothing was working.
On December 31st, I was listening to Shankar Vedantam, host of Hidden Brain, concluding the story “Life’s Many Codas: Maya Shankar’s Path From Juilliard To The White House”
“… all of us have chapters in our lives that close and when they do, especially if it is a chapter that we have known and love for a long time, it can feel like the whole book is over, that there is nothing left to do, maybe even nothing left to live for. But I think each of us has stories in our lives that reflect the fact that the people we are today are not the same people we were only a few years ago. We often underestimate our capacity to reinvent ourselves… the things that distinguished humans from other species is our remarkable capacity to adapt to different conditions, differing situations… it isn’t about our physical abilities, it is really about the mind and each year around this time, we need to remind ourselves that when one door closes, we have the ability to find other doors to open…”
Whatever has happened to us last year, the year before, 10 years ago, or even as a child decades earlier, we must let go. The goal of the Past is to learn from it, not to hold on to it. What I wish for you in 2016 is to shed the old skin, to let go of the unnecessary, to release the burden, the guilt and these negative attachments and march ahead, chin up, and confident. We are alchemists, we have the ability to turn iron into gold, to grow from the most challenging and painful. We are resilient! Onward and Forward!
The Power of Nature to Nurture, Awaken, Transcend, Uplift Restore, Elevate, the Human Spirit