Two things you should know about me: I love to hike and nothing excites me more than a good metaphor. These things will be important later…
Flashback to when I’m fresh out of grad school, and I’ve landed a job as a real deal, bonafide therapist. No more spinning plates working a part-time job, attending night classes, and seeing clients at two different off-site locations. I suddenly find I have time to read and do research about issues my clients face. I can get more creative in planning activities for sessions and groups. I am even shockingly able to do that enigmatic thing called self-care that I kept hearing about in textbooks course after course, but ironically never had time for during my training.
So what do I do? I go to Dinosaur Valley State Park on my day off to unplug and hang out with this guy:
Which way is the trail? I have waded across the river and according to the map it should be right here, but it’s nowhere to be found. I keep going, trudging through taller and taller brush along the riverbank. There are sticker burrs the size of my head stuck all over my shoelaces, and my arms are getting scratched up by all the sharp branches.
I probably make it a good half mile or so before I come upon some rocks that I am not about to scramble over. I’m hot, sweaty, and frustrated. Ok, take a breath and think. I look at the map again, follow the bends in the river, and decide that I need to swallow my pride and turn around.
As I make my way back, I can see now how rough the terrain I just crossed really was. On the way in I was so bound and determined, driven by excitement, that I hardly noticed the struggle. Now I’m cursing myself for not realizing sooner that I was clearly not headed in the right direction.
I get back to the spot in the river where I originally crossed, look about 100 yards to my left, and there through some trees is the trailhead. Onward I go. Ahhh this path is much better. This path makes sense. I’m actually gaining elevation with every step, but I feel content. Then it hits me. My mind, which as a narrative therapist has been trained to look for metaphors, starts replaying what I have just been through while I continue to hike.
I am on the other end of the struggle. In life, I have not always felt so sure about myself and what I wanted to do. Many times I went down paths that in retrospect would not have brought me to where I am today. Paths that were at times dark, lonely, and full of thorns. At other times bright and fun, but chaotic and confusing. I realize that just as I stubbornly followed the wrong path down the riverbank on this hike, I have always been smart enough to know when to turn around, even in my own life.
I keep hiking up, up, up. There are amazing live oak trees at every turn and wildflowers dotting the trail. The sky is blue and the only sounds are a few birds having a lively conversation with each other.
The reward of this hike is a fantastic view of the river and valley below. There is a welcome breeze and plenty of Texas sunshine to soak up as you admire the beauty. I look down to that treacherous spot where I started my journey. It is in this moment that I know I am right where I am supposed to be, struggles and all.