The path- the obvious metephor for life. It helps us understand how we're feeling about where we're at, and reflects our anxiety about where to go next when it isn't clear. Familiar phrases and ideas show it's significance. A fork in the road. The pathway to success. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. The straight and narrow. We come to points in our lives where the familiar questions, "am I on the right path?" and "where do I go next?" become very relevant.
In my own life, I remember very well feeling like the path had run out when I was in junior college. I went there for different reasons, but one of the reasons was that I wanted time to figure out what I was doing next. I hadn't decided on a major, I didn't know what college I was transferring to, and I didn't know how I would come up with the money to transfer. When I was in grade school, junior high, high school, I sort of knew what was coming next. I knew what was ahead on that path. I didn't know the details, but I had a basic idea what it would look like. After high school, I felt like I had wandered into a strange new land wondering how I got there. Sometimes during that time at junior college, I felt a little like the single path had run out and there were about 10 other options ahead of me and it was confusing trying to get the information I needed to decide which was the right one. A lot of the time, though, I felt like I had come to the edge of a cliff and there was just nothing. I had come to the end of what I knew and I couldn't even conceive what the other options were. I think it was mainly because I didn't know what I wanted and it took some time to figure out what that was. Finally the pathway formed and I knew what was ahead the next couple of years. I was focused on transferring and enjoying my new school and finally getting my Bachelor's degree.
It seems like when we have big goals up ahead, like getting a degree, we get so focused and anticipate such relief when we get there that having to move past that point in the path and keep going, like we all must do, is destined to feel strange. It's like the movie kept going past the satisfying ending. Now what? For me, I got that degree last year, and life afterward was not as strange as I anticipated. Summer, after all, is when you're supposed to be out of school. Fall, I felt a little sentimental not going back but enjoyed not having to go. Birthdays and holidays gave me something to think about and plan for and do at the end of the year. Even more, 2013 was not kind to me and put me in crisis mode. Life is more day to day in such times. You're not looking ahead down the path very much because it's too scary. Now things aren't quite as dire, the holidays are over and I have started a new job, and so I'm starting to feel that strangeness. I think the feeling was just delayed.
Saying that life is weird after we graduate college isn't an original idea. It's anticipated. It's written about. It's given a name: quarter-life crisis. I don't know if the concept of the quarter life crisis is the best explanation of where I'm at, but I am definitely in unfamiliar territory and what's next isn't so easily predictable. So if I want to have fun with this metephor game, and give a picture of where I'm at right now, I'd say that I've wandered out past the distinguishable path and it's just dry dirt under my feet in open territory with no distinguable landmarks. And I'm feeling some anxiety at the thought that I'm walking in the wrong direction going nowhere. Is this even the right metephor? I also feel this burden to form my own path, like if I don't start creating something for myself, I'm just going to be on a formless path in formless surroundings. I have to put time and effort into the relationships in my life. I have to make an effort to meet new people. I have to insist on doing what I want career wise and not let life just sweep me along. I have more say-so in what that path will look like. Some of it will form itself, and it will tumble along once I have my own family, but right now I've got to start building. I've got to take shapeless land and draw two parallel lines. I've got to plant the plants and build the structures along the path.
Let me concede. As a Christian, I believe God is ultimately in control, and that I'm not having to build alone. Perhaps hardly at all if I had the big picture. And if we want to have a nice nerdy discussion about free will and predestination and whether we're forging the path, or just appear to be, we could. But whatever the case, I feel like I have more responsibility in what's ahead. I suppose it's a priviledge, though a scary one at times. I will not always get this much choice in my life. And I know better how to trust God along my way. Where's my shovel?