“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope”
~ Martin Luther King
If I’ve learned anything over the last few years, and especially in the last six months, it’s that life never goes as planned. You can still accomplish what it is you want to accomplish, but the path you laid out to get there will change many times. No matter how well you plan, and no matter if you want it to change or not. This is where many people get discouraged, depressed, or give up altogether. I have battled with those feelings several times in my journey toward my dream of being a full-time writer. In fact, there were times when I caved under the weight of those feelings and my dream was stalled. Sometimes for years.
What Changed Everything
In January of 2018, I had a 12 year relationship suddenly end. I’ve written about that several times, but it was an important turning point in my life. Maybe even more important than my divorce had been 17 years before. When I got divorced all those years ago I had small children to consider. They were the center of my world so everything I did back then was to ensure I was the best provider and dad I could be. Years later, following the end of another long term relationship, my children were all grown and out on their own. When I found a new place to live, I would be living there alone. I spent the next 18 months living alone. It was a time of deep reflection and a kind of rebirth of my life. For the first time since I was 20 years old, I had the opportunity to dive deep into who I was and what I wanted to do with my life.
How I wish I could describe with words everything I experienced during that time. Every fiber of my being was shaken, dismantled, and rebuilt. I’m still not sure that even those closest to me fully understand the transformation that took place. In many ways I am a different person. Those 18 months of intentionally living alone, and rebuilding myself in every way possible, changed everything.
A New Vision
About three months into my transformation, a vision began to form in my heart and mind. It may be more accurate to say it was birthed in my spirit, because it goes way beyond a mere idea or notion. As I was changing from within, I began to get unprecedented clarity on the things that mattered most to me. There’s simply no way I can convey in a blog post what all that entailed, felt like, and the powerful way in which it moved over me. I was drawn to writing in a powerful way. I was already a writer, but this was different. I was being drawn much deeper into the power of words and story. The ways in which they can shift perception, soothe a tormented soul, and offer a way out of depression and hopelessness. I felt compelled to travel, and not just anywhere. I was drawn to the western part of the U.S. Not a particular state, but the west in general, including the west coast of California and into Oregon, Washington, and on into British Columbia. I yearn to find and tell the stories of people and places. Another part of this vision involves traveling via motorcycle, at least for parts of it.
I can’t explain how all of this will unfold, much less a timeline of when. All of this happened between April and June of 2018. Now, I have never experienced anything like this before. Ever. The way it all felt was like an assignment, or a mission to be accepted. It definitely appealed to me in a big way, but it wasn’t desire that I was feeling so much as being entrusted to carry it out. Some would label that a calling. Maybe it is. All I know for sure is that I did accept it and I purposed to do everything within my power to be ready to hit the road by June 1st, 2019. That gave me one year to get ready. Understand that at that time, I was flat broke, jobless, and barely surviving off of freelance writing work. That didn’t deter me. I had a mission and I would do whatever it took to see it through.
For the next 12 months I spent money on only the bare necessities. Peanut butter and crackers were my dinner every night. Literally, every night. I went back into automotive repair and worked 11 hours a day. I took my lunch every day. One sandwich. I bought no furniture for my one bedroom apartment, slept on an air mattress, and only one chair for sitting. I didn’t purchase new clothes. I dated no one. My only splurge was the occasional coffee shop visit. Come June of 2019, I would be ready. No matter what.
Hope is Enough
What empowered me, in spite of the circumstances, was hope. Anyone looking at my life in April of 2018 would’ve had difficulty believing that, in a little more than a year, I would have saved a few thousand dollars and would be going out on the road. Whenever I paused to consider my circumstances I would get depressed. I went through many days where I was in a very deep and dark place. I was past 50, broke, and starting over at an age where many were thinking of retiring in a few years. I had nothing, except hope. Hope isn’t wishing. Hope isn’t wanting something to happen, but being convinced it’s impossible. Hope is an expectation that something WILL happen. Hope is trusting that what’s in your heart will come to pass. All I had was hope, and hope was all I needed.
As I write these words, it has been 6 months since I left my hometown and headed west. I have had some great times, and I have had some hard times. No complaints, of course, because this is something I have undertaken willingly. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s a challenge to keep myself funded, and at times I get lonely and long for the familiar. I’ve driven more than 10K miles, met dozens of people, and have learned more than I would have in 20 years of staying home. I’ve had people tell me I should be doing something else, or try to redefine my mission as they saw it through their eyes.
I’ve learned of people I never would have known existed. Some of these I have already written about, so now others know about them too.
See? That’s my mission. And I am just getting started.
So here I am. Still “out there” encountering the unknown and the unfamiliar. No doubt there are many who think I’m crazy. Maybe I am. But I started this journey with nothing but hope. Hope is all I have now, and it’s enough.
Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash