Monday, 26 April 2021

Don't settle

On my way home from work today I pass a large pasture with several hundreds head of cattle. I've been watching the herd grow over the last several weeks, even seeing a calf born one morning as I was driving by, so mesmerized I almost ended up in the ditch. 

A cowboy is riding amongst them, herding a stray calf, his dog following close by. Another cowboy is several hundred feet behind them in an easy trot, surveying the herd. 
 
Above us all is this incredibly blue, wide sky, dotted with fluffy white clouds. 
It's a sky I only heard about in stories when I was a kid. The sky I grew up with was mostly grey, low, and forbidding. It felt like it may fall on your head one day. It caged you in. 

I dreamed of a sky that represented freedom. A sky so large and never-ending, it had nothing but wild nature, animals, and free people underneath it. I wanted nothing more than to experience that sky one day. 
And now I do, every single day. 

When I pull into the driveway at home, the dogs run up to greet me, tails wagging, small clouds of dust rising into the air behind them. I stop the car, leap out and crouch down to greet them. It's been 3 days since we've seen each other, it warrants a proper welcome.

In the house, Rich proudly shows me the 3 baby button quails that hatched over the weekend in the small incubator we keep on the counter in the kitchen. They promptly escape (these little popcorn quails are fast), and it takes us a minute to catch them. Once they are safely back in the incubator, we beam at each other and hug tight. It's good to be home. 

There's a fine layer of dust in the kitchen, a present from the desert since I leave the door open all the time. Everybody who visits us tells me to shut the door, but I love having it wide open: to let the wind, warm air, dogs, the odd chicken, and most of all, freedom come right in. I've felt caged in for the first 22 years of my life; if a bit of dust is the price I pay for feeling free, I pay it gladly. 

I'm away from home every second weekend. Last weekend I yoga-ed every day, wrote, read, worked, and walked underneath that glorious blue sky, accompanied by hawks and children's laughter, warm sun and a mild breeze. I met new people and learnt new things about the medical field I love so much. 

This life of mine is weird in the eyes of many. They tell me that it must be hard to drive that far, be away that much, to work shifts, and to have so much work at home. 
What they don't realize is that the life I live now? It's what I never even dared dream about. It's so much more fulfilling, rewarding, and happy than I ever imagined possible.  

I never wanted a conventional life. I was born to very conventional people who were afraid to step even the tiniest bit outside the line. It was suffocating. 

I love having a small incubator on our kitchen counter that hatches tiny quails.  
I love having the odd chicken wander into the kitchen because the door is wide open. 
I love meeting the most interesting people in the most unlikely places: like the tiny nurses' kitchen in a rural hospital in a small town. I've met more people who have worked all over the world in those small town, cramped back rooms tucked behind the ER, than I ever did in the city.

People who have worked in Africa, all over the States, all over Canada, and countless other places. People who are working in the roughest parts of the city to help addicts and the ones who have the least support. 
People who have seen so much of humanity that they are the kindest, wisest, and most non-judgemental people you'll ever meet. 

I got here by accident - but also not. 
I couldn't foresee where I would end up - none of us can. We don't know if the sum of our decisions will lead us to a satisfying life. But as scary as this may sound, the reassuring news is this: if you aren't there yet, you just keep going. 
Where you are now doesn't feel right? Say no to it and choose something else. 
Just keep going. 

That's all any of us can do. Nobody has their life's path mapped out for them. In fact, the ones who do are the ones most likely to be sorely disappointed somewhere along the way. 

How can anybody know their entire life 50, 60 years in advance? Nobody can. It's a system that's doomed to fail. 
Yet, so many of us were raised with the pressure to find a job we would work for the rest of our lives at 16, to find a partner at 20, to live with for the rest of our 60 or 70+ years. Insane, right? 

Obviously, everybody "fails" at this. Who in the hell knows what they want in their teens or their twenties? Or thirties, for that matter? Nobody does. 

So, you just keep going. You don't settle. You keep going, until one day? You will find your own dusty, strange, flawed version of the life you once dreamed about. It won't look like your dream version, because reality isn't perfect. But it will contain enough moments that take your breath away, that make you laugh out loud, that make you almost drive into the ditch because you can't look away from the magic of it, that you know - this is as good as it gets. This is *your* happily ever after. 

It's filled with dirty dishes, annoyances, extra work on weekends and too many people you don't care for, but also: endless blue skies with cowboys riding below it. New friends you explore the beautiful mountains with. Precious conversations that change your outlook on life. Horses that rub their heads on you affectionately when you come home. Dogs sleeping in your bed. Impromptu parties on your porch.
Guys you know you can call in the middle of the night and they will come to help you. 

Keep going until you can look at your life and feel everything: grateful, fulfilled, joyful, but also annoyed, overwhelmed, and fed up. Don't stop until you feel fully ALIVE. 
Don't settle.  


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