Everyone comes to a juncture in life in which we see our future. Even if just for a split second, we see this glimpse of what life could be. We behold this marvelous lighthouse far off in the distance, but how do we get there? We all waver in our paths in life bobbing up and down, dodging around obstacles, and embracing unexpected opportunities. But, if life is an ocean, and we are all ships, how do we know where to land? What shore is our shore? What lighthouse is our lighthouse? And, even if we do answer the aforementioned questions, and we know exactly where we are supposed to go, how do we even begin to chart out our own coordinates?
I was five years old when I first saw a map of the world. A woman was speaking to our class about geography, and I was completely taken with it all. Suddenly, everything in my little life up until that point made sense. The world was huge. It was filled with endless cities and cultures and wonders, and I was born to explore it all. For reasons I can't explain, I just knew that this was not only who I was supposed to be, but it was what I was to do. And, from that moment on, I had one goal... travel.
I will never forget being 12 or 13 years old; and, everyone was saving up to buy tickets to an N’Sync concert. At the lunch table, my girlfriends asked me: “Are you going?" "No." I responded. “What!! Why?!” Without hesitation, I said, “I am saving up to go to Central America.” Now, keep in mind this was LONG before pinterest and instagram. Hipsters had not found themselves yet. No one used the terms followers or likes. Social media had not made traveling or photography or dream quotes “it” things. Trust me, that answer to a room full of "popular" teenagers was not the "cool" answer, but I didn't care. I was young and naive; and, I had a lighthouse.
Years later, one of my best friends told me that she had pink and glitter butterflies painted all over her walls as a child. She asked, “What about you K Boo (yes, that is my nickname)?" I really wanted to relate, but I just couldn’t. I said "No, I never went through a butterfly phase." She laughed and said "Somehow that doesn't surprise me." I loved her response because it represented so much of my life. I always felt different than most girls my age. While everyone else was playing with barbie dolls, listening to N'Sync, and apparently blowing glitter onto butterflies on their walls, I was in a whole other world all my own. I was discovering my coordinates, studying geography, painting map murals, hating all things glittery and pink, and hopelessly dreaming about the future. I was that type of girl, and not much has changed.
Dreaming has always been the air that I breathed. I knew what I wanted to do ever since I was a little girl. But, as I have gotten older, I have learned that seeing the lighthouse is half the battle. Actually getting there is a whole other animal; because, dreams don't just happen to people. People have to go out there and happen to dreams. To see a goal come to fruition, we have to pursue it passionately, violently even and never give up. True ambition demands a lot of us. It challenges us to see something no one else can see and to work tirelessly until we get there. It asks us to say "no" to many things in life and instead sit for endless hours at a small laptop until your eyes and/or knees give out. Dreams necessitate us to work hard and to stay focused on that light off in the distance.
Recently, a friend asked me “what is your 'intention'?" She wanted to literally hammer it into a bracelet so that I would have it to reflect on. I wasn't sure how I would sum up my life in 16 characters. What was my intention? I started to talk with her about this lighthouse in the distance. I said, “I feel like I see this North Star, and I am trying to steer my life’s ship in that direction. Every day, I tune everyone out, and I wake up and put one foot in front of the other. I keep moving forward whether it is an inch or a mile. I don't have all the answers even to my own questions. I have no idea what that lighthouse actually looks like or how it will manifest itself in my life, but I just keep pushing forward towards that North Star.”
She smiled and looked at me and said, “North Star." That is your intention.
She couldn’t have been more right. No matter where I go in life, the importance of having a North Star will always be the greatest life nugget I have learned. For me, following the light of my north star has been filled with decades of ups and downs and wrong turns. Often, I have felt that I have had more failures than successes. Most people in my life still don't understand what I am doing half of the time. And, to be completely honest, neither do I. But this turmoil and struggle is necessary to life's journey because that light that am confident that I see off in the distance can't exist without the darkness.
And, despite suffering detours along the way, I have also experienced defining moments in which I knew that I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be. And, those are the coordinate points along my journey that fuel me. They are the experiences that I will spend the rest of my life relentlessly chasing. They are the pivotal coordinates, the defining moments, and the powerful lessons I have learned along my journey towards my North Star. And, when the world seems to be tossing and turning around me like waves crashing in an ocean, they are the moments I reflect on to keep me rooted along my path.
If I can only encourage you in one thing in life, then I choose this, find your North star. Only you can dream the dreams you have for yourself. No one else can see your lighthouse or chart out your coordinates. There will come a day when people in your life will come to understand you. The world and technology will eventually catch up to see what you've seen all along. But until then, stay focused. Tune everyone else out. Work hard. Lose sleep. Do whatever you have to do to push through the waves. See your own shore. Be your own compass. Follow your own coordinates. And above all, never lose sight of your own North Star.