“You should always do these things, these once in a lifetime things.”
The old woman’s face broke into a wide smile as she nodded and said these beautiful words of encouragement. Her wrinkled skin gathered around the edges of her mouth, and her hands were frail, but her eyes lit up as I described to her the journey that Alejandro and I were embarking on. I could tell she had indulged in adventures of her own, some time ago.
That morning, we were driving our rental car north to Maine to be dropped at the Bangor airport; then we’d hitchhike to Baxter State Park and begin our five month thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. We were right on the cusp of our adventure, peeking into the unknown, fully committed to what we were doing, but still in that in-between state of turning a dream into reality.
Over the years I’ve realized that essentially every moment in our lives is a “once in a lifetime” moment, as we will never get that moment back. That’s what makes every moment so damn precious. Since we all live “once in a lifetime” moments every single day, why not love them and embrace them equally with the grand adventures?
There are, however, those exceptional, risky and all-encompassing “oh how the hell am I ever going to do this” once in a lifetime things too, and I have to admit I adore them. When my gut flutters at the thought of an idea that makes my heart race, and makes my lips part into a wide smile, I listen up. I quiet my mind and the immediate doubts it may cast, I look inward; because usually, that is the moment those once in a lifetime ideas are born. And it’s what inspires that deep, gut wrenching, time-to-flex-and-make-stuff-happen motivation when you realize that the only thing stopping you from living a story you want to tell, are the barriers you put in front of yourself. There will always be barriers, there will always be doubters, there will always be challenges. But if you really want to grab hold of those once in a lifetime opportunities, you need to have the courage to confront them and proceed in any way possible.
Once in a lifetime experiences are lived for the experience, not for the bragging rights of saying yeah, I did that. The beauty is that they’re not about the destination, they’re all about the journey; and you never really know where they’re going to take you. In my experience, they’re challenging as well, fraught with discomfort and uncertainty, and yet incredibly fulfilling, overwhelmingly inspiring, and life-long teachers. Sometimes they’re well planned, well thought out dreams that you decide to make reality. Other times they’re moments that take you by surprise, unexpected opportunities that may be chosen to be embraced, or let pass.
These experiences weave a confidence of knowledge and practicality into your core. And, inevitably, they give you some damn good stories too.
I have another idea, another “once in a lifetime thing” that I’m in the process of dancing into this little story called my life. It scares the hell out of me. It won’t let me rest though, it’s taken up residence in my mind and my heart and inspired action in my gut.
I read a quote the other day that stopped me abruptly, the words pulled at my heart. It motivated an image in my mind that suddenly made me realize I still have this dream, a dream that I’ve always had, but had tucked away neatly so that I could build my career and pay the bills and find time for all the other lovely little things in life that needed my attention up until this very moment in time. And even though time has passed and the details of the dream have changed a bit, the essence of it still remains. The quote was:
“Let your dream devour your life, not your life devour your dream” – Antoine de St-Exupery
When I left San Francisco, I did so because I felt as though as though all the dots weren’t connecting. I had a lot of incredibly beautiful things going for me there, all of which I was blessed to have (and had worked very hard to achieve), but still, there was this disconnect in some indescribable way.
Coming to Chile didn’t immediately connect all of those dots- actually if anything it made me more aware of the distance between them, and how connecting them in the way I previously imagined might be nearly impossible down here. At least, if I proceeded the way I previously imagined.
Then I remembered this little dream of mine, the dream that could so easily be devoured by the life; and as I imagined actually following through with this dream, I suddenly realized perhaps this was another dot that would naturally connect the rest. And when I began to imagine this idea, this dream, being a reality, I saw connections evolve that were previously unfathomable. And so, the momentum of this little idea of “what if I…” increased rapidly.
This reminds me of another quote I love:
“Do not be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so.”- Belva Davis
I’m filling the space between this dream and reality with efforts, everyday, that bring me closer to taking it from an idea, to the thing I’m actually doing. To accomplish it, I’ll have to draw every ounce of strength from all of my previous adventures, struggles, successes and experiences. I’ll have to use my voice in a way I’ve never done before, I’ll have to expose myself and the possibility of failure. And yet, I know that I must do this. I must try. This is truly a once in a lifetime kind of dream, and what better time then the present to embrace it, right?
I’ll be sharing what my idea is, soon.
For now though, just take a minute, and think about your own dreams- what’s your “once in a lifetime” idea (or all twenty of them) that you’ve talked yourself out of more than once? What’s stopping you from going for it?
Confront it- when you pull away every excuse that’s driven by fear, what is left?
Then, is it really worth not doing it? Or is it a story you want to tell, you have to tell; a beautiful memory that you can cherish forever that will remind you how precious this one life is? And maybe, just maybe, you have some dots in your life that the pursuit of a dream might connect.
One thing I know for sure, when I’m in my 80’s and I’m listening to a youth describe the adventure he or she is right on the cusp of, I sure as hell am going to look at them with a spark in my eye, nodding my head and saying, “You should always do these things, these once in a lifetime things.”
With that, I’ll leave you with one last lovely little quote, because words inspire, and with inspiration comes bravery, and courage and guts- big beautiful things we all have within us, waiting to come out and play.
“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive…” – Oriah Mountain Dreamer