Every Monday I try to put a graphic or post on our Facebook page that’s motivational. This week, I’m writing my own because from Friday afternoon through the weekend, so many things pointed in the direction of Tolkien’s much used (overused?) quote from “Lord of the Rings”: Not all those who wander are lost.
Let’s start with Friday afternoon. My youngest son, Paul, was being inducted in to the Cum Laude Society at Hebron Academy. Cum Laude is an honor society, similar to Phi Beta Cappa at the college level, for outstanding high school students. It’s not just about grades, but also about human qualities of compassion, leadership, enthusiasm, and others. He is the second of our sons to be inducted in to Cum Laude, and needless to say we are very proud of him.
There is always a guest speaker at Cum Laude ceremonies. This year it was Hollis Hurd, a prominent attorney who has written a book called, “You Just Have to Be Smarter than the Rope.” It’s an advice book he wrote for his grandchildren, and for young people in general. He spent most of his speech outlining a concept in the book called “reverse engineering.” The examples he used were about how, during his lifetime, he has reverse engineered goals. One example was how he looked carefully at the steps he’d need to take to become a partner in a law firm. He worked backwards from that goal through the steps of what kind of law student he had to be at what point in his education, and the step by step career milestones that would lead to that goal. Another example was how he won a military drill competition at his high school. All very plotted, very calculated, very linearly driven from point A to point B. He recommended the students pick a goal, far in the future, and work to it on the straight and narrow until it is achieved.
Do I think this is admirable? Heck, NO! I thought this was terrible advice for young people. It is way at the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum of how we raised our four sons, all of whom are experiencing tremendous academic, personal, and working life success.
I regret not visiting with Mr. Hurd after the ceremony and saying, “With all due respect, not all those who wander are lost.”
I thought of all the goals and plans I made in my teens and twenties, and the ones I worked to in that fashion, only to realize perhaps they were not what my spirit really craved. Did I get a degree in business administration/marketing, and then work in corporate America, because I was told I’d never get a job in music or art or writing or teaching English, my first loves? Yes, yes I did. Did I settle down for way too long in suburban New Jersey when my heart was firmly planted in rural Maine from the time I was a toddler? Yes. Why? Because I was afraid to wander. I was afraid to take the side path and try it. The advice given to the beautiful, bright young students with a thousand paths in front of them at Hebron Academy on Friday afternoon was, “Don’t wander…at least not too much.”
I know this generation, though. I’m sure many, many of them will not heed that narrow advice. Yay for them.
Fast forward to Sunday. I ran out a favorite running path, Mount Mica Road in Paris, Maine, for the first time since last fall. It was positively exhilarating. I have run this country road many times, but every time I do I see something different, notice a different plant or shadow or scent. Something. I have wandered off the road to check out the abandoned cellar hole of a farm long gone. I discovered 19th century grave stones to the side of the road in another area I’d passed scores of times before unnoticing. I found them because finally I took my eyes briefly off the familiar path and caught the sight of hewn granite in the brush. Later on Sunday I climbed Streaked Mountain in Paris with two of my sons, James and Paul. James is home from college for the summer, an aspiring ecologist/wildlife biologist. He and Paul went off the trail a few times to observe some early spring plant, or sometimes just some thing left a decade before by a careless hiker (for example, an old pop top Old Milwaukee can).
Were I not off the metaphorical trail I set for myself in my younger years, there would be no Parris House Wool Works. I worked in real estate for a decade prior to founding this company with Jen. Real estate was a logical fit for me, the business/marketing college graduate, the person who grew up in a family business, the person who knew how to do sales from attending the occasional trade show. I have no art training. I never went to an artisan school. I had no background in textiles except for the fact that my father’s business was clothing manufacturing. But I was eager to get off the path I’d so carefully constructed for myself, and in the stupor of grief following my mother’s death, looking for what I called then and call now a “zen craft,” I wandered in to Artful Hands in Norway, Maine and asked hooking guru Connie Fletcher to teach me to hook.
That was one of the best detours I ever took. And the evolution of Parris House Wool Works has been marked by serendipitous events and opportunities we could not have imagined, let alone planned. We have a very long way to go; we are very fledgling in this endeavor. We have a lot of planning to do, but more than a little wandering too to find out about the things we can’t possibly see now.
Not all those who wander are lost. On this Monday morning, I would encourage you to wander. Be ok with uncertainty, because it often brings opportunity, surprise, and joy.
Happy wandering and happy hooking. – Beth