Not all those who wander are lost JRR Tolkein
Not all those who wander are lost. ~J.R.R. Tolkien (from The Lord of the Rings)

I like that quote, you know? I’ve liked it for a while now because, frankly, it makes me feel better about me.

I am a bit of a wanderer, I suppose. I used to think of myself as simply dissatisfied, and maybe, in some ways, I am that. A lot of folks have offered criticism of my wandering habits over the years–mostly out of concern, but sometimes out of a sense of superiority. In my younger days I wandered from school to school and back again. I wandered from major field of study to major field of study; first Music; then History, back to Music, English, Communications, back to Music, then finally graduated with a degree in “Interdisciplinary Studies.” Or, as I like to call it, my Bachelor of Miscellaneous.

I wandered from job to job, usually staying no more than a year, although my time working in a bookstore lasted over five…go figure.

I moved a lot, although never really far away.

“Why don’t you stay put?” I was asked many times. My answers varied and eventually people stopped asking.

Few people understand my transient nature. Not colleagues. Not friends. Not even family. Both my mom and dad grew up at a time and in families where the work ethic was to get a job and keep that job, and both of them did just that. They each worked for companies for 15 and 20 years before moving on and working elsewhere for another 15 or 20 years. It’s hard for them to understand someone like me who just doesn’t seem as connected. I admire them for being able to do that. I certainly don’t fault them for steadfastness and loyalty, so please don’t assume I’m being critical of them.

So why? Why do I have such trouble sitting still?

Truthfully, I don’t know. It is simply in me to move and change.

But, I’m not lost.

Henry David Thoreau, one of my favorite authors and poets, wrote “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?” He was something of a wanderer, too, but was never lost.

I think that is a question that wanderers like me (and there are a lot of us) frequently ask ourselves. What are we busy about? Is what we are doing worth the time we are spending doing it? We wanderers would rather spend an hour on something worthwhile and meaningful which changes a life, and then move on, than spend a lifetime on something average and have only the moniker of consistency as our reward.

When we wanderers find that what we are busy about has lost its usefulness, we move on.

The question then becomes, why are we wrong?

Why did I spend twenty years of my life referring to myself and thinking of myself as a ne’er-do-well, as lazy, as a failure? Why did I value what others thought of me more than I valued my own thoughts?

Why do you think that about yourself now? Why do you put more stock in what others say about you than you put in yourself?

If you are truly lost, then by all means, go find yourself. But, don’t make the mistake I made. Don’t spend half your life confusing searching for being lost. They are most certainly not the same thing.

When we stop searching, we stop growing. When we stop growing, we die.

I don’t want my epitaph to be a litany of jobs I’ve held. I want it to be verse after verse of things I’ve changed and people whose lives were made just a little easier because of something I was able to do for them. For that to happen, I’ll just have to keep moving.

We must all go our own way. For some, that way is steady and sure. For others, it is frought and fearful. For folks like me, it is almost always moving–always in progress. If you see one of us wanderers along your way, don’t worry. We are not lost.

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