Eight years ago, I came across the following text in Steven Pressfield’s “The Art of War.” Even when I read this words below today, the meaning behind his words still resonate within me.
We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us. What will become of us? We will lose our friends and family, who will no longer recognize us. We will wind up alone, in the cold void of starry space, with nothing and no one to hold on to.
Of course, this is exactly what happens. But here’s the trick. We wind up in space, but not alone. Instead we are tapped into an unquenchable, undepletable, inexhaustible, source of wisdom, consciousness, companionship. Yeah, we lose friends. But we find friends too, in places we never thought to look. And they’re better friends, truer friends. And we’re better and truer to them.
Do you believe me?
“We will wind up alone, in the cold void of starry space, with nothing and no one to hold on to.”
When I first read these words back in 2009, I didn’t want any part of it. It’s kind of silly because I was living a life that was familiar and comfortable and routine. And, it was constantly lulling me back into a life filled with dissatisfaction.
Pressfield was correct though. Each time I have decided to transition or go down a new path, I did end up being alone. Oftentimes, the change was very lonely and it tested my convictions, my decisions and my dreams. I always feel like this time in solitude is the Universe asking me, “So, Nicole, do you really want this?”
When the Loneliness Creeps in
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I remember sitting in my room watching an English-speaking movie because I was homesick, knew nobody, and felt scared shitless. I was so desperate to hear words that sounded familiar to me, and I was fed up with speaking awkward Spanish to everyone I ran into that day. I just wanted to be understood so desperately.
That sense of loneliness seeps in on days when everything just seems to go wrong. I remember being so frustrated during a triathlon practice wondering, “What the f*ck? Why the hell am I biking 15 miles and running 4 miles in 90 degree heat for?” To add insult to injury, my bike kept falling on top of me multiple times. I felt like I was the only crazy person pursuing this crazy goal in the middle of humid and steamy day in Texas.
Loneliness Shifts to Solitude
It can be a lonely world out there when you are pursuing a new project, new dream, or a new lifestyle. You have to walk away from things and people you were once familiar with and you have to break old patterns. Those lonely times filled with the struggle and the constant puttering around eventually leads to an energizing and inspiring flow.
Doing the work on your owns starts to feel comfortable and begins to make sense within yourself. You don’t need to have approval from others anymore because you’ve grown. In your solitude, you become more forgiving with where your skills and experiences are in the process. I feel less self conscious when I speak a foreign language with someone. I am less judgmental about how fast I can complete a practice run. I have a more realistic understanding of my expectations. The solitude makes me stronger and more accustomed with who I am.
“We wind up in space, but not alone. Instead we are tapped into an unquenchable, undepletable, inexhaustible, source of wisdom, consciousness, companionship. Yeah, we lose friends. But we find friends too, in places we never thought to look. And they’re better friends, truer friends. And we’re better and truer to them.”
Pressfield was also right about this above statement. When I make a disciplined commitment to discovering who I am and sit with the awkward stages in my life, the right people always seem to magically come along through random circuitous paths. I’ve met people in the most unexpected places: a stranger eavesdropping on my conversation in a cafe, a man asking me about the book I am reading, a woman on a subway seeking advice about her diet and exercise, connecting with someone through an instagram hashtag, and a fellow yoga chasing me down after a sweaty vinyasa class.
So, if you are contemplating a change or pursuing something different, be prepared for the long and windy road ahead. It will be filled with doubt, challenges, and growth. I don’t know if I could ever go back to a predictable, routine, and comfortable life ever again. There’s always going to be beauty on the messy, muddy, and unpaved path.