“It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish.”
The Lord of the Rings
Not in the New Year, not the first of the month, not next Monday. Not when you have more money, more time, less stress. No, you need to start now. Right now is the time to start, the perfect time in fact. Start whatever it is you’ve been planning or dreaming of but have never taken the time or made the effort to follow through with. Tell someone about your idea; share it with a person close to you. In return they’ll probably share in your excitement, most likely be the support system you’ll undoubtedly require somewhere along the line, and most importantly, they’ll hold you accountable to your commitment.
Do not resist the need to start. Starting is good. To do, is human. To take action, is human. And starting usually means taking action. Action creates a powerful and positive state of mind. Inaction breeds negativity. Consequently, taking action makes you feel better about yourself, for simply by starting you are already one step closer to achieving your goal.
Do not fear the process of starting. Starting a business, a blog or an art class. Starting a training plan, an online course, a new hobby. Starting a new life, for that matter… All of it is plagued by fear and uncertainty of the unknown and the unpredictable. But the truth is, without that uncertainty and fear of the unknown, starting would not be worthwhile. Would you attempt something if you knew in advance that it would be a complete disaster? And more thought provoking but similarly true – would you put significant effort into starting something in which you were already guaranteed to succeed? Unlikely. For it is our quest for an uncertain success, and the challenges in achieving it, that drives our commitment, determination and perseverance in any journey on which we embark.
So in essence, it is exactly that fear of the unknown that makes life beautiful, exciting and simply worth living. Yet far too often we sacrifice such a life in the name of security, consistency and stability. And I was no exception, until recently…
For the better part of the last decade I have contemplated the idea of creating a “mountain life”. But in all honesty, I was too afraid to start - too scared to let go of the certainties of my established life, and too scared to begin down an unknown path. I already had a good job, a steady relationship and fun hobbies. In fact, I was almost living a life that some would call “the dream”. But for me it was more of a nightmare, and it took a significant unforeseen event to awake me and bring me back to reality.
And suddenly I found myself at a crossroads. Continue on this well trodden path of certainty down which I had already come so far but which didn’t inspire me in the least? Or turn off down an indistinct side trail where others seldom venture? Deep down I knew that this trail was my gateway to living a life more congruent with everything of which I’ve always dreamed. An opportunity to create my Mountain Life had arisen, and finally I was able to embrace it. The decision was made. The decision to abandon the city and live instead amongst mountains. I call it Mountain Abandon. All it took in the end was a little push off the edge. And for that I have 2020 to thank…
So, you might ask, what exactly will this “mountain life” involve? Well, let me fast forward a few months and share in some mountain life ponderings.
A life in the mountains is a life that excites me. It is a life I can understand and relate to. It is a lifestyle that rids me of all the unnecessary stressors of my previous city life. My mind is once again my own. A clean slate, like that of a child seeing a new world with wide open eyes. It takes me back to the magnificent Du Toitskloof Mountains where I grew up. But this time around, I am in the Drakensberg - a most beautiful, rugged and enchanting mountain range if there ever was one. The air is clear, crisp and cold. The sky is blue. A pure blue that the city sky can no longer even dream of being.
In theory, I should be stressed to death. Finding myself retrenched in the midst of a pandemic. A forced lockdown which halted the whole country and shafted our economy. A completely shattered aviation industry. As a pilot, this is rather significant to me. I was retrenched within a matter of days after lockdown was announced, and I can’t simply go out job hunting now. Not only would it be illegal, but also, airlines are going under left, right and centre, and private charters are all being grounded. Of course I know aviation will pick up again, and I have a decent amount of experience and many hours, but the industry is by no means a pretty sight.
Still, I find myself severely calm. Calmer than I ever thought I would be. Perhaps it’s because I can make this retrenchment irrelevant. Perhaps it’s because I have been flirting, with a new life… A life of fresh air, blue skies and green mountains. One where my days are my own. A life of real consequence. Yes, there will be more uncertainty and greater challenges. But with that will surely come also a life more precious, more beautiful and more valuable? And if life is not these things, is it even worth living?
The significance of my situation is that I am, in a way, now forced into this life of which I’ve been dreaming. But I am in control now, and I have the choice to make it work. I need to make my own decisions from here on out and live the consequences. It’s not guaranteed that I will succeed, but therein lies the very adventure for which I’ve been searching. The adventure I’ve so desperately craved my whole life... And what can possibly be more fulfilling than knowing what you want, knowing that it’s going to be one hell of a challenging journey with all possibility of failure, yet still having that shimmer of hope and knowing that if you apply yourself fully, make time to understand yourself better and maintain relentless forward motion, that success, or rather life, is completely within your grasp?
This is where I am now. This situation is my own and it is what I have been preparing for. In many ways my own decisions got me here and I accept that. We are each responsible for our own emotions and reactions to whatever situation in which we find ourselves. It is irrelevant who did what, who the guilty party is or what misfortunes we have to endure in life. But there is a beauty to all of this, and it’s the beauty of starting. Starting with acceptance, starting to take control of our own lives and decisions, starting down the road less travelled.
So I choose to start now. And for as long as necessary I will let the power of uncertainty be my drive, the beauty of life be my fuel, and my vision of The Mountain Life will serve as my compass.