I had a bit of a moment of nostalgia earlier this month as I was walking down the city, thinking about how different this environment feels compared to the different settings I grew up in. It felt like it was so easy to lose track of key memories and lessons I had learned when I was younger, and I needed to take time to reflect on this.
“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.” — Neil Gaiman, from The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Whether it’s a path of expectation, obligation, survival or fear, we all end up heading in directions that become comfortably worn, even shabby over time.
Finding the spaces between the fences, stepping tentatively into the chaos of our imagination can propel us in directions we never thought achievable. Those openings reveal whole wide worlds of unknowns. And there is so much beauty in all that possibility.
There was a time not so long ago, before we were weighted down by the politics and pain, the heaviness of adulthood. Possibility was brimming. Remember spending innocent hours chasing flickers of fireflies late into summer nights, or building billowing forts with bed sheets and piles of pillows next to the couch? That was a time when you could unabashedly create wild stories and elaborate futures. That was childhood, when what you knew inside your heart echoed so loudly it moved you to act.
Listen to that childlike voice again, whispering in your ear: let’s go exploring, let’s go on an adventure through the jungle! Let your feet step forward, however hesitantly at first. You owe the seeker and dreamer inside you the chance to forge a new way.
You should go, even if the way is not clear. Don’t worry about gates and doors, they will open. No matter what, stepping off that well-worn path will always be scary and intimidating. It will be unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unexpected.
But you should do it anyway, even if it seems reckless or impossible.