My friend Judy took me on a few hikes on the Appalachian Trail last year. It was my first foray into hiking. A novice, I relied on her sense of direction and general know-how navigating the trails. Using the combination of her phone, a compass, some land navigation and well-marked signs on the AT, we covered a lot of ground.
We always had a destination planned, a predetermined distance. But we had a couple of misfires, gone down what we thought was a trail and then backtracked. Another time, we came out of a trail much further than we expected, and walked a good four miles more than planned. But we took these changes in stride, confident we were headed in the right direction. Instead of fussing over the time lost, we spent it enjoying the view and basking in the experience.
Since I announced my book deal, I've been asked the same kinds of questions:
- Why now, Tif?
- Did you always want to be a writer?
- Why did you take up nursing if you knew you wanted to write since you could dream?
- Why get your Masters of Public Administration, then?
I love these questions--don't think I don't. I love being given the time and space to give credence to the dreams I had growing up. I'm forty-one with my debut book deal and I'm the proudest woman in the world, because I did exactly what my parents preached, and that's to keep moving. Just move. Just go. Just strive toward a general direction, and the rest will follow.
That included finding a major I knew I'd equally love to qualify for a college scholarship I needed. It included serving a country I believed in. It included getting married, having children, making money with my nursing skills. And learning and learning. And writing, and learning some more. It included harnessing experiences, overcoming struggle, and riding the story of my life that I could make into the books I needed to write.
In hindsight, I realize it was all for a reason.
So how does hiking on the AT have anything to do with writing?
My series title, Journey To the Heart, says it all, doesn't it? (You can thank my amazing agent for brainstorming this series title.)
Setting your compass doesn't mean knowing what's on the road up ahead. Sometimes, you might only be able to plot a short distance. Other times, you might be able to see as far as your mind's eye can dream, and the ability to forward plan feels so damn easy. Most of the time, it's about setting a course, and resetting it again when you realize you've come upon a chasm you can't leap over. Or a log doesn't exist where you need to cross a stream, and you've got to build yourself a raft.
It's okay to go all the way around. It's okay to rest for a little bit. It's also okay to create something out of nothing to survive, to get by, to be what you need to be for yourself and the people you love, even just for now.
But you have to get up. Pick a tree to walk to, find shelter to regroup. Approach the journey despite your insecurities and preconceptions and most importantly, your expectations.
Because sometimes it's you who's hardest on yourself.
So set your compass, lace up your shoes. Get on the road.
I'll cheer you on from my journey.
My first book, NORTH TO YOU, in the Journey to your Heart series is out on June 5, 2017. Preorder your copy here.