Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Down the Rabbit Hole

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where -' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
'- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.”
-Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 
Life often seems to me like a lone adventure through a maze of forks and crossroads. There are periods of consistency when there are no major decisions to be made and there are also spans of road we share with a fellow traveller(s). As a child, most our choices are made on our behalf by our parents and we accompany them on the roads they choose to travel. It isn’t until we start walking on our own that we begin to discover the difficulty of choosing for ourselves the paths we take and come to know how lonely, tiresome, or unremarkable some of the roads ahead can be. It is no wonder why so many gravitate toward religion. Not only does it mark for you many of the paths to take, it provides you with traveling companions who are also committed to following that same path.

I followed the roadmap I was given for many years, but ultimately I found it to be infantilizing. As long as I followed it, I would forever be a passenger in my own life, unable, or else unwilling, to walk-- too afraid to explore beyond the marked path and wander from the security of the group. So one day, I threw out the road map and fell behind the herd and found myself alone.

Since then, I’ve often felt like Alice in Wonderland. Life without a roadmap might as well be Wonderland- it is just as full of possibility, mystery, and adventure. In such a new world, I sometimes wish someone might tell me which path to take, though I haven’t the slightest idea where I am headed. I just hope to get SOMEWHERE. I’d like to believe I’ll know where it is I’m going once I arrive. I think it is more of a feeling I seek rather than a physical place or combination of achievements or possessions.

Making choices on your own is difficult and the fear of choosing wrongly or of making a mistake always threatens to render you immobile. I’ve had to learn to trust myself to recognize when I have travelled down a bad or dangerous road, and then to make corrections (or backtrack) when I’ve made a mistake. But I’ve also realized that sometimes we can’t know the consequences of our choices until long after they are made. I will need to learn to be okay with mistakes because one day, I will look back and realize that, long ago, I should have chosen a different road. In that moment, I will need to pause, accept it as my reality, and then make my next move forward.

Lately, I have found myself stuck at a fork in the road. Almost two years ago I quit my full-time job to start my business- Reelboy Productions. I have been passionate about video/filmmaking since high school and studied it in college, but it got real when I turned down a promotion at the company I worked for and subsequently quit to follow that passion. This path has been both more difficult and more rewarding than I anticipated. It allowed me to work on things I cared about and use my abilities for causes I believed in— work that touched hearts and minds.

My emotional attachment to the work I was doing, however, led me into a pattern of doing severely discounted work that left me exhausted and defeated. One of the motivations for moving to Maryland was to leave that pattern. Now that I am here, however, I’ve struggled to decide what the best way forward will be with such a limited pool of connections in such isolating circumstances. The work I am doing for my one client on this side of the country hasn’t felt fulfilling in the same way previous work did. I think I’ve determined to find a video production position within a larger company in a large urban center (D.C., New York, etc) and put Reelboy on the back burner for awhile.

Wandering around Dupont Circle in D.C.
Committing to this path, however, has proven difficult. I have found myself standing at the fork looking up at the choices, hesitating to begin walking because I know that whichever path I choose, I will need to commit to following it for some time. To where am I traveling? I guess I’ll tell you when I get there. Life without a road map makes for a long journey, but I’m okay with that. Life isn’t a contest or a race. When I finally arrive at that elusive SOMEWHERE, I will at least be comforted to know that I lived, and that my life was mine.

The Cheshire Cat assured Alice she was sure to get there on the condition that she walked long enough. I guess I better get started.


  1. Hi,
    I don't really know what to say to you. Other than I knew your experience well, and that I'm living it. Being in the midst of it I don't feel that I've got any great words of wisdom to offer you. I too will have to let you know much further down the road how things turn out. What I do know is that "It's the journey that counts". The destination is the culmination of the journey. The journey will only end when we end. Because even when you think you've reached the journey's end, you'll find it was just a rest stop along the way. The key is probably to travel these roads with a smile on your face. Finding moments of wonder and taking in the scenery.

    I wish you luck on your travels. I hope things go your way x

    1. No words of wisdom? I'm not so sure of that! I think you are right about finding and appreciating the "moments of wonder" along the way. I have definitely experienced those even through the most transient parts of my life. I also think it is true that life is a continuous journey. Honestly, I think what I am feeling now is the unsettling feeling that I am stuck at the crossroads. Once I start traveling down a road, I think I will feel much more assured that I will get to wherever I am going. Thanks for your comment. I wish you luck on your journey as well!

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  3. On May 12, 1990 Christopher McCandless graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. A month later he mailed his final college transcript and a brief note to his parents' home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He drove off traveling in his car, a used yellow Datsun to what can only be called "Into the Wild." A search for something that would feel authentic to him.

    "We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring,
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time....
    And all shall be well and,
    All manner of things shall be well. "
    T.S. Eliot

    Eva Hoffman observes in her 2009 book "Time" as follows:
    "The optimal experience according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in ordinary work is states of focus, concentration, total engagement in activity and above all flow: time flows. And it is when we plunge into its flow and move through it without excessive resistance or excessive strain that we can attain a sense of enjoyment and gratification. That happens in it's own tempo giusto, neither too fast nor too slow."

    To feel somewhere, as you anticipated is more a longed feeling than accomplishments etc, is to be in that sense of flow. This isn't just settling for a routine for routines sake, as you wrote January 1st, " Despite that uneasy, undeniable feeling that things just aren’t right, people stay in jobs they hate, Routine is predictable. There is security there, even if it isn’t the existence you might hope for."

    Hoffman points out that there is such thing as natural time flow in gratifying work not merely routine for routines sake. "A great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work." (Bertrand Russel, "In Praise of Idleness" 1930.)

    What we hear from you is the farm gig is slow. But slowness can be good. Hoffman concludes, "Slow may not be always beautiful, and fast has it's seductive pleasures. We do not all have to be poets, but if we do not want to live meaninglessly, then we need to give ourselves over to the time of inwardness and contemplation, empathy and aesthetic wonder. To mull and muse, reflect and interpret our experience. The workings of time in ourselves are imperceptible, but we need to recognize it's parameters on our own temporal limits if, in our rush to post natural modes of existence, we do not want to lose a rich and deep measure of our humanity." This is what you have been doing, and there isn't anything wrong with it. More changes are coming. It may be several directions until the feeling of 'progression'. Do not be afraid to make a full on U-turn on a road that says do not pass. You don't have to be tied down to anything, ever. Not all hats fit and some wear and tear out.

    Remain "Into The Wild" and you won't have to sing along with Joni Mitchell the words:

    "So many things I would have done,
    But clouds got in my way.
    From win and lose and up and down and still somehow
    It's life's illusions I recall
    I really don't know life at all"

    But instead sing with her:
    "They shake their heads, they say I've changed
    Well something's lost, but something's gained
    In living every day" ~ Joni Mitchell ( Excerpts: Both Sides Now, 1967)

    Today is God's gift to you, for you the world was made. Now own apart of it, foremost of which is just to be the authentic you - Just as you are, just as you are becoming, just as you will become. Do that and you will say your words in a rocking chair porch sunset, "that I lived, and that my life was mine." Whatever path Alice takes, she will still be herself, and that is the only way, and the only way it is ever meant to be. When will you be enough? Maybe you already are. "The greatest gift of the future is that it comes one day at a time." ~ Abraham Lincoln

    Away we go, daily.

  4. It's very difficult to establish a good client base when you're starting off as a freelancer. I spent two years working at a facility before I had enough clients to venture out on my own. Even after all of that time, I really think a lot of it was luck.

    If you have any questions about what an editing career is like in LA, I would be more than happy to answer them. My typical genres are Live/Award/Reality/Talk so most of my knowledge is related to those areas, but I can talk a little bit about everything. Whatever path you end up taking, I hope you find success... and remember to enjoy the wild ride :)