We settle. We move. We root. We travel. We pack. We observe. We learn. There are so many places we may find our feet and so many paths we can take.
I recall a train journey I took a year and a half ago from Tacoma to Portland. I had just graduated from Seattle University and could practically still feel the weight of my cap and gown from a few days before. I had bid “goodbye” to a few dear friends and had truly entered a point of transition, with no idea of when I’d see them again.
As the great Puget Sound sped by to my right, I felt as though I was on the brink of something great- my life stretched out before me like a blank slate that only I could paint. The future felt tangible in my grasp, a swelling feeling of opportunity and promise, of travel and rendez-vous. There were so many people to meet, so many places to travel, so many vehicles with which to make these journeys (car, bike, train, plane, boat, horse…), so many words to encapsulate my experience, so many smiles to be shared, so much love to give.
And here I am, once again aboard a train. This time en route from Portland to Hood River, Oregon, to spend the weekend with a friend from Seattle U. And I feel as though I am, again, at a transition. I get this feeling at every change in the seasons, a nostalgia for the future ahead. Though my life is a hair more settled than that other train ride from Tacoma to Portland, there is still much uncertainty. I have three jobs, but am still searching for employment which will allow me to make a living. I have a warm home in which to stay but I am still waiting to spread my own wings. I have a wonderful community of friends from my previous lives in Portland but I feel like there are still so many great people to meet. I may get discouraged about uncertainty, but after only four months back in my city love, there is much promise. I plan on staying in Portland for awhile to come, among many reasons, but if only to feel rooted in a place longer than just a year (which has been the case for the past 5 years). Though I will inevitably feel the wanderlust that is typical of people my age, there is something satisfying about letting time just carry you along, no specific plan in mind, and let the river of your live course forward.
Along the way, you will will make connections, one leading to another, relationships lasting days, weeks, months, or years. Events will come up that make you pause your boat for a few minutes, reflecting on all that has passed by and how it all may connect. You may even come to a fork on your river- two decisions. You will inevitably choose one, or maybe even turn back, after much deliberation. And as you glide on one of the two paths, the other simply melts away into the past, absorbed deep into the Earth again. Or maybe it lives on, an alter ago of yourself living out this choice Gwyneth Paltrow in “Sliding Doors.” With all these forks I’ve come to, I feel at peace with my decision to return to my home- a place of blue river, grey sky, green bridges, pink buildings, and dark, complex forests.
I am beginning to come to terms with the permanence of uncertainty in life. Even with the stability of a job, a relationship, or a place to live, nothing is ever static. Even if it is just concerning which shirt to wear on Sunday, decisions abound. And even with stability, there are always opportunities to shake the stability and jump out of your current context- a move across the country, a new job opportunity, a person that knocks you off your feet, a death in the family, or even a new life. There are always new experiences for expansion and growth. And what is always so daunting for me in these realizations of uncertainty is that you are, in the end, the captain of your own ship. At the end of the day, you are the company you keep and walk the route of your own life. Friends come and go, paths crossing and re-crossing, and though you may share special moments with many different people, when it comes down to it, you make the final decisions yourself. You turn your own doorknobs and build your own bridges. You choose your own forks and steadily paddle ahead with your own oars. Sometimes you may look back, but hopefully most of the time you will be looking forward into the horizon. Ebbing and flowing with the tide, settling, moving, rooting, traveling, packing, observing, and learning on this crazy path we call life.