Dancing in the Dark
The Wonderfully Ungainly Art of Discovering your Path.
I would imagine we’ve all been told how clearly defined goals, finding your passion, knowing our purpose, and/or unwaivering focus on the goalposts are the keys to our grand and glorious future success (*insert booming infomercial salesman voice here*). Easy peasy, right?
Okay, great. Find this one thing and boom. Sounds lovely. Can’t be that hard…
If you are one of those people who was born with a fire in your belly + crystal clear passion from day one, hats off to you. Seriously.
I, for one, have dreaded any questions about my purpose, 5/10/15 year plans, or fiery passions for most of my life. If you asked me those question, you were either going to get an absolute blank stare or a well-honed deflection back. And, let’s be honest, an internal eyeroll and serious grumble.
It’s not that I didn’t believe in passions, purposes, and missions or that I didn’t want to discuss mine with you. Quite the opposite. I longed to tell you all about what got me out of bed in the morning, why I was put on this great green earth, where I would be in 5 years. The issue was I didn’t know.
Whenever I broached this topic, it felt like I was surrounded by this great black expanse. I sensed that there were answers, paths, callings so nearby. I could almost feel them whispering in my ear. They lurked just out of reach, like the voices beyond the Veil in Harry Potter. I was surrounded by this ocean of pitch black. I could feel life unfolding on the other side, but I couldn’t figure out how to cross the chasm.
I felt as though something must be wrong or missing within me (Hello imposter syndrome 👋🏼). So far, I had been good enough at things in life to be able to get by without that fire in my belly or the need for oodles of grit. I enjoyed many things. I enjoyed seeing my friends fired up and bringing their dreams to life. Why hadn’t this path illuminated before me? Maybe I just wasn’t meant to have a purpose? Maybe if I just waited, the answers would come?
I was comfortable, safe, enough where I was standing. I was getting by. Life wasn’t bad. I was relatively content on the small, safe little island upon which I stood in the sea of darkness. I didn’t really want to stay there, but I absolutely did not want to drown in the darkness. So I resigned my life to the fates and if it was my destiny for a path to come then I would wait, safely in the mean time, for it to appear.
Unwittingly, I accepted that their were only three options for my reality: stand safely still, drown in the depths, or wait for the answer to appear. I surrendered the active ownership of my life to the darkness. More importantly, I sacrificed my journey without even knowing it. I was waiting for life to come to me, to happen to me, before I started living.
I had to stay on my little island until I knew what the next step was or else, DOOM.
Fear, from a lack of faith in myself, from a fear of failing/not being enough/not living up to expectations, from placing too much weight in the judgment of others, and on and on, held me still.
The more people asked where I was going, the more I wanted to get off that island, the more exacerbated I became that there was nowhere to go. HOW THE EFF AM I MEANT TO GET OFF THIS DAMN ISLAND?
Play. I had forgotten how to play. I had forgotten that play is the secret sauce to life. Life is just our playground. It is not meant to be a sweeping epic, serious and stern. It is not meant to be a Greek tragedy, catastrophic and devastating. It is meant to be playful, curious, joyous. An great adventure into the unknown: a surprising delight around each bend, new experiences, trials, failures, laughter, learning and successes. A comedy of errors at times, painful tumbles, glorious risings, and an endless flow of new lessons. It is meant to be tough like a Greek tragedy and triumphant like an epic at times, but never entirely one. Life is meant to be like Mozart’s Symphony in F Major.
I still had no idea where I was meant to go, but I knew I was no longer meant to wait.
If no solutions were making themselves known, then it was time for me to play. And play I do. Here’s what I’ve learned:
We are standing in the darkness.
If we stay standing still, waiting for the light to shine the way, we never know what comes, if it ever will come. We become passive observers to our own life.
Instead, we begin to explore in the dark. Step by step.
Dubiously, we reach out for our first step, testing the black expanse, tapping out with our toe. Waiting to see if what awaits us in the black expanse is merely a bottomless pit.
As we step, we realize that the darkness is not a chasm. It is an ocean of bioluminescent waters.
As our toe makes contact with the black expanse, what was once black now shines in beautiful color.
Each step lights up a little flash around it.
Some steps light up blue. Others purple, green, pink.
This wide expanse which once terrified us is becoming a beautiful canvas for our play.
Our unsteady, cautious steps become a dance.
Timid at first, hesitant of missteps, still learning to trust that we will not be swallowed whole. The step slowly gives way to a wild, ungainly dance of freedom.
We explore. Discovering the array of possibilities illuminating beneath our feet.
We assess step by colorful step.
We begin to learn that we think we like blue.
So we follow the blues.
We learn from the blues, and realize now we think we like the combination of blue and pink, so we evolve our path.
We still do not know where all the blues and pinks may be so we dance on, illuminating greens, purples, and yellows as we go.
The once dark expanse now glows with a beautiful mosaic of colors. A path is taking form.
That path is a visualization of the past. We still dance forward into the dark, but we now understand that we are dancing in a direction. In a flow. In our own way.
Our seemingly ungainly dance is leads us in our intended direction.
We dance with more trust, faith, direction, intention. Because we have played. Because we have tried. Because we have explored. Because we have learned.
If the knowledge isn’t there to know the answers, if the language isn’t there to answer the questions, if the passion isn’t yet found, if the guiding light isn’t yet illuminated, why not at least begin to dance in the dark and see what lights up?
If we wait to be hit by the “fuck yes”es, we miss out on shaping them. We are left standing in the darkness, missing out on the delight of our dance.
Life is about the journey. The journey on a path which we can never truly know, but which we can choose.
Do we stay standing on our island? Or do we remember to dance?
It’s time to start dancing on bioluminescent waters.
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Liza Tullidge is a serial entrepreneur, investor + advisor focused on reengineering business + individuals to build a better planet. Find out more about Liza + her work at www.lizatullidge.com