By: Ethan Maurice
In life, we each get a few shocking, external events that shake us. Life-quaking events that cause us to stop and question, that force us examine our lives from another perspective. It might be losing a job we've long held, the death of someone close, or dancing with death ourselves, but when tragedy strikes, awareness often results.
A good analogy might be swimming across a great body of water.
We put our heads down in the water to swim. Stroke by stoke, we move along. We focus on making progress in the direction we're heading. And maybe we are making great progress in that direction! The problem is, we can't see where we're going while swimming with our heads down.
Once we start swimming, we tend to get into a groove and forget that every once in a while we should pop our heads out of the water to look where we're going. And over time, forgetting to look around often results in a withered, skewed, or long forgotten reason for why we're swimming in that direction.
Then, one day, tragedy strikes. Some shocking, terrible thing happens. Still swimming in the same direction as we have for months, years, maybe decades even, we gasp and breathe in water. For the first time in a long while, we're forced to stop swimming and pull our heads above water, frantic for more than just a breath of air.
As the shock settles, we regain our composure. Our eyes adjust, their first time out of the water for some time. All of a sudden, we notice where we are and where we're going, leading to some important questions. Questions like “Why am I swimming this way?” or “What was it I was swimming towards?” or “Is this the direction I want to swim?”
These are the epiphany moments that change the course of people's lives. It's the story of a Finnish friend I met traveling New Zealand who was laid off from a job she merely put up with for half a decade, allowing her to answer an inexplicable, deep calling to travel she'd been ignoring for fifteen years. It's the story of a brush with death that majorly shifted my perspective and values in life.
It's these heavy, momentous events that force us to stop for a second, pull our heads out of the water, and look around.
We get so focused on how to get where we're going that we neglect to ask why we're going there in the first place. It often takes getting laid off, a near death experience, or some other external event to make us pause, evaluate, and renew our decision in the direction we want to go. Without such traumatic events, we often just keep our heads down and swim.
Rather than waiting for something to cause us to pull our heads out of the water, let's do it ourselves. If you've been paddling away with your head down for a long while, stop! Take a look around. Ask yourself why you're swimming in the direction you are. Make sure you have a worthwhile reason.
And if you do have a worthwhile reason, keep right on swimming! But if you no longer have a strong 'why,' maybe it's best to swim in another direction?
We all must bear in mind, our time in the water is limited.