Take Risks, Drop Your Comforts, and Go Wild

Life has a way of taking you in unexpected directions. My path is about to take a sharp left turn.

We all have different and very personal journeys in life. Sometimes you push yourself along, controlling your direction by sheer force of will. That is the road you choose. Sometimes you’re slowly pulled into unknown and uncharted territory by a strange gravitational force. That is the road that chooses you.

In both cases, you either move or your heart aches, knowing that there might something else out there — something more.

I just quit my job of 5 1/2 years. It’s the first time I’ve ever quit without having something else lined up, be it work or school.

I know it’s risky. I’m used to having a paycheck and a daily schedule. I’m used to the comfort and stability that brings. I’m used to having an answer to the proverbial question, “what do you do?” I’m used to the comfortable persona I’ve created through my answer.

I know it’s risky to leave my job, but I also know it’s right.

This wasn’t a decision made lightly. I worked at AIDS Project Los Angeles. There I advocated with government and the community to end LGBT stigma and to combat the health disparities that put my community and my friends at risk. It’s a wonderful organization, there are amazing people who work there, and I know for a fact that they do great things and help lots of people. I’ve truly appreciated every second of my time there.

But for the last few years I’ve felt a shift. Something deep inside me wanted to explore, to take a step in a new direction. A strange gravitational force was pulling me away into uncharted territory, and I finally obliged.

During this same period I discovered mindfulness — how to chill and be present instead of worrying about the endless and unknowable possibilities of the road ahead. But being mindful in the present doesn’t mean you give up all your hopes for the future, it means you live in every moment as another step towards that future. I’m living those moments now.

So I took a leap of faith — a simultaneously frightening and exhilarating leap.

The next step I’m taking is perhaps even riskier. I’m leaving home to spend 3 weeks in the woods…alone.

This is something I’ve thought about for years and I know it isn’t all that groundbreaking. There are hundreds of books, new and old, on the topic. Native American tribesman did it as a coming of age ritual. There are even major motion pictures depicting it.

But every time I’ve read about it, or saw it on a screen, or imagined myself doing it, I knew. Even though it would be difficult, physically and emotionally, I knew. Even if it would be nearly impossible to explain to colleagues, friends, my mom, and especially to my partner, I just knew.

From childhood until now, my passion for the environment has been a guiding force — I was fascinated with Walden in 7th grade and my masters degree was focused on environmental policy.

In the last few years my relationship to nature became even more personal. Beyond my drive to protect the planet through everyday decisions and advocacy, the earth has also become my teacher, my friend, and my mindfulness guru.

So I’m taking another leap of faith — a revelatory, mildly dangerous, and possibly selfish leap.

I’m leaving the city to go wild and commune with nature, to camp without modern distractions, to hike and explore our National Parks and Forests, to read books about discovery, self-reliance, and overcoming fear, and to write pages and pages of inspired posts.

I’m leaving my man, my dog, and my home behind for this experiment, and that has been the biggest struggle of all.

I’m leaving all the things that give me comfort in life so I can really understand what it feels like to get out of my comfort zone.

I can’t predict the outcome of all this. Ideally I’ll rediscover myself, figure out my next step in life, write amazingly insightful blog posts, and set a solid foundation of inspiration to guide me into the future.

Or maybe, after a few weeks of sleeping in a tent, hiking in the woods, and taking some pretty pictures for Instagram, I’ll still have no clue what to do with myself. And that would be ok. Really.

A journey isn’t about expectation, it’s about discovery.

The trail ahead may not be clear, but I’m ready for this hike. I’ve taken one step by leaving my job. Soon I’ll take another next step by going wild. It may end up easy, with the trail coming into focus as everything falls into place as I walk ahead confidently. I’ll learn from that. It may end up arduous, with cliffs, loose footing, and more questions than answers. I’ll learn from that too.

Either way, I’m ready to walk down this path. Hopefully it leads me to myself…

I’m quitting my job and going back to school…the school of life.

Originally published at www.getmindfulnow.com.

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