Ah, so it's that time in my life again where I take a swan dive into the unknown. I just completed my first week of medical school. Not your traditional medical school either, but Chinese medicine. And not your Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) either. No, I've chosen CCM or Classical Chinese Medicine and it's a rabbit hole I've dived into friend. More on that particular part of my new journey later though.
What I woke up thinking about in the wee hours of the morning today was just the actual process of getting onto this path and not the journey ahead itself. I had tea with a friend this past week, right in the middle of this new start and was able to reflect with him a little upon how I got here. It occurred to me, as he and I were talking about life changes, that I've had a few of these "leaps of faith" in my life.
The first was deciding to leave Missouri at 18 to attend school in a far corner of the Northwest. Sure I did a tiny bit of research into university programs. Enough to know that I could study French and/or Marine Biology at either of the places I applied to. That was about the extent of what I knew I was getting into though. My heart just said, "Go," and I followed.
The second leap of faith was leaving that little comfy corner, my ex-husband and friends to live in a new city and to embrace the life of a lesbian. This was no easy decision and it wasn't made overnight. I had spent countless hours searching my soul for concrete answers to what I should/shouldn't do. I didn't have a lot of support in the process aside from two very dear friends. Little planning went into this decision though. Lots of fretting, but in the end I just listened to my heart again.
Most recently, my heart said, "Get into this CCM program." So I made it so. All along, I have kept close to my heart the Rumi quote, "Let yourself be silently drawn by the greater pull of what you really love." I believe this to be true, I carve out spaces to try to listen to my heart.
What occurred to me after my conversation with my friend this past week though, was that it is very important to understand these leaps of faith have not been trodden on a blissful, easy road. Taking the path of my heart has not meant the path of least resistance nor have they been accompanied by that elusive friend "certainty." In fact, when I reflected this morning on the beginnings to these journeys, they are usually (like the hero's journey in Joseph Campbell's words) immediately rough. The start of the road is often one part excitement and joy and equal parts trepidation and obstacles. It is as if the universe says, "Are you sure you want this?"
In fact, each of these journeys fairly early on have been accompanied by loss and disorientation. Early into my college years, my grandfather died and not terribly long after him, my cousin committed suicide and then within a year or so my grandmother died. Under a year of leaving Bellingham I lost the central vision of my left eye and one of the two dear friends mentioned above died unexpectedly. Just as I was entering this latest leap of faith, a dear friend and volunteer at my most recent job passed away and just before starting the actual program, another died.
I say this not to deter others from leaps of faith nor for sympathy. I say it because I want to internalize and recognize that this journey is difficult, but that it can still be the right path. In fact, this is a shedding of past buttresses, pillars of support, and the "known." There is discomfort in this process, no arguing it. But I am convinced this discomfort is just a normal part of the process and should not deter us from forging ahead. Or rather than "forging" ahead, for going softly inward to reflect upon how far we've come already down the path. They are perhaps signposts that we are on our heart's path and, like any physical pain, are best attended to and breathed into rather than ignored.