An Inner Journey
“On average you live for 80-odd years and then you die. Sometimes quietly in your sleep. Other times, horribly. In between living and dying, some people endure. Others barely manage to survive. Some sell out to materialism. Some buy into religion. The majority search for a meaning to life. And a select few chase their dreams . . . . Ultimately it is your choice. And your life. Cherish it, but never, ever forget to live it.”
– Jacques Marais –
I‘ve never attached much value to birthdays. They’ve always just been numbers following one another in a progression of time and chronology, which, although felt, I’ve never much been bothered by. In this way my life unfolded in a messy jumble of randomness, as it became clear to me early on that chasing goals was not how I preferred to live my life. I, ironically, crave order and predictability. Yet, no matter how much I wanted life to be either black or white, neatly compartmentalised, I learned that it is always a blend of the two. A shapeshifting shade of grey that makes it confusing and exciting in its unpredictability.
Mid-year, with my 5th decade approaching faster than a bullet train, I found myself unsettled and out of sorts. The realisation that I have less life ahead of me than behind me, unless I lived to be a hundred, slowly started to become a thought my mind fixated on. I realised with a flutter in my stomach that I was at one of those exciting and uncomfortable places of transition and reinvention.
In my quiet moments I started to retrace the trajectory of my life, revisited the choices I made, wondered about missed opportunities, and with an overwhelming sense of discomfort grappled with how the place we are born impacts on the kind of people we become, the things we believe, and the choices we ultimately make. Dipping in and out of bouts of anxiety, depression, and gratitude, I gradually redirected my gaze to the future.
At the cusp of this new decade I came to understand that looking back, within, and ahead were essential parts of coming to terms with where I am on the map of my life. And so I did what I gravitate towards in moments like these. I booked a plane ticket, packed my bags, and went offline. This time not to tick off bucket list items, but to revisit the country of my birth, and a town I spent five very formative years in.
It was while tracing the faint outline of my memories through both my inner and outer landscape that I realised the chaotic tangle of desire and opportunity of my youth had been replaced with more structure and tangible goals. And so I am turning my gaze to 2020, and with renewed vigor start to plot out a course of action that will see me living in Portugal for a large chunk of the year.
# David Whyte
# John O’Donohue