August means Bear Lake — the week of heaven my now-massive family looks forward to all year, every year. We spent our days boating on the impossibly turquoise water. (Is boating a Utah term? I am too enmeshed to know.) We waterskied and surfed and made sandcastles and ate homemade cookies out of bucket-sized tupperware.
But that is besides the point.
The point is something I noticed on an early morning waterski run. (7:30 AM, 48 degrees, yes I wore a wetsuit). My dad is an expert boat driver. He knows how to find the smoothest water. He can guide the bow within inches of the buoy when it’s time to anchor. He and my mother have a little routine — when she’s done skiing she gives the signal and he whips her around, then cuts the engine so she ends up right behind the boat and can hop back in.
But here’s the thing about steering a boat — it won’t move any direction unless it is also moving forward. Even my dad, in all his experience expertise, is bound by that law.
My 67-year-old father in his element
It’s science, right? Or engineering, I suppose. The steering wheel turns the rudder, but it is only when water moves past the rudder that it has any effect on the boat’s direction.
The more years of adulthood I get under my belt, the more I realize that I may never know the exact direction in which I am supposed to move. I’ve gone through bouts of paralysis, crippled by questions of who I am or what is “right” for my life. I have struggled against the realization that I actually have very little control over what happens.
But I can move forward.
It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over, each time pleading with myself not to go and forget it again. But see the problem is I get so comfortable. I am logical to a fault and prefer security over risk, which means that when it’s time to move I usually get so scared I stop in my tracks.
In one such six-month period of paralysis, I read this quote (most often attributed to Goethe) daily.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
There is power in beginning, in ‘definitely committing’ to the task at hand. The universe will conspire to reward boldness.
Every time I read it, it was as though I added a layer of resolve, shaved a teaspoon of weight off of my heavy feet. And then finally I took a step, and then it was as though I was walking downhill, my momentum building until it was an all-out sprint.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the only time I’d had to learn that lesson?
The last few months have been full of change. We moved. We both quit our jobs. (Ha! I still can’t believe it.) I have been excited and scared and have spent a few days in the depths of a depression that hits whenever I feel I’ve lost purpose. But I have tried to keep moving. They have been slow, ugly steps, one foot plodding in front of the other, but I’m starting to see the nose of my boat pointing in a direction.
This week I got hired to teach yoga. I actually did, I can hardly believe it, after over a year of baby steps in that direction. I am giddy with excitement, can’t think of an occupation more opposite in its level of positivity than what I’ve done for the last few years.
I got a copywriting gig for a brand I love that will allow me time and space to continue writing the things I really want to be writing.
Both are new territory, both freak me out a little, but I am trying to picture the jade-colored water moving against the white of the boat, creating the necessary drag to make it turn, to remember the lesson I have learned so many times:
Push down on the throttle.
Keep moving into the current.
It’s the only way to get anywhere, and I have too many places I want to go to spend time sitting idly in still water.