From feeling like a fish swimming up-stream to learning to how to let it flow
“I feel like you like to hike for the workout of it all,” my friend Brenna said to me as I power-walked in front of her in Big Basin State Park.
“I think I do it to be in nature; I like to walk slow and look up,” she said, not as a slight to me, but more matter-of-fact, pointing out an obvious difference in our hiking styles.
That was six years ago.
In that time, I graduated from college with a degree in public affairs journalism. I wanted to get a big-time job as an investigative journalist writing meaningful, life-changing stories – that was the end goal. I was in love with my craft so the hard work to get there didn’t phase me. It turned out, I didn’t know what I was getting into.
I landed my first job in a small television market. It was a job where most days, I felt like a fish swimming up-stream. If I wasn’t fighting rushing water and hungry bears, I was fighting my own moral and ethical exhaustion. I chalked it up to the station having a low-budget and being new to the industry.
Like the diligent hiker I was, I kept my eyes down and marched forward. My end goal always in sight, ignoring what was actually happening around me.
My contract ended. Finally able to get on to bigger and better things, I moved to my next “home”: Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was here where, very quickly, all the marching paid off. I earned the title I had been seeking: “Investigative Reporter.” On the outside, everything was falling into place, so things should have felt right. However, inside, that upstream feeling kept nagging at me. As much as I tried to focus on the destination, that whisper turned into a full-blown scream that I couldn’t ignore.
It stopped me dead in my tracks. it forced me to look around and ask, “why do I feel this way? Why am I not as happy as I thought I would be?”
Stopping was scary. I had to look my goals in the eye and decide if they aligned with who I am and the life I want to have. After all, you only get one. Eventually, I had to come to terms with the reality of my dream being different than the idea of my dreams and then I had to change my dream. Once I did, stopping wasn’t scary as much as it was inspiring. The second I opened my eyes and came to terms with my reality, the feeling that I was swimming upstream went away. I was being true to myself for the first time in five years.
I used to be the kind of hiker that powered through to my end goal. I was in it for the workout of it all, for the story. To say, “I did it.” I have since learned that when the trail gets tough, there’s no shame in stopping to catch your breath. Even better than that, when you stop to really look around and let life flow, amazing things can happen.
It took me a while but now I know why those words stuck with me for so long. The end goal is great, but it means nothing if you don’t enjoy the journey it takes to get there.