Growing up, I lived on a farm with my three brothers in a small town in Iowa, others would likely describe as BFE. When one lives in the middle of nowhere, you must make your own fun. So, naturally, we had dirt bikes and four wheelers and go karts and all sorts of dangerous things we could hurt ourselves on and absolutely no safety equipment like helmets, this was the early 80s after all.
I remember one afternoon, we were playing “tag” on the dirt bikes. My older brother was “it” and I was riding around the backside of the farm. As usual, our farm was filled with random equipment and machinery scattered around the barns, out-buildings and grain bins. As I was running (riding?!) away from my brothers on this motorcycle, I had my head on a swivel, constantly checking behind me to see whether or not they were closing in on me. At the time, my dad was putting new tin sheet metal on one of our barns which meant that there was a flatbed trailer on the backside of the farm that had stacks of incredibly sharp sheet metal on it. As I flew around the corner to the backside of the farm, looking all around, hoping that my brothers hadn’t seen me yet, I failed to notice the flatbed trailer sitting right in front of me. When I finally turned my attention back to my path, I realized that I was quickly closing in on this sheet metal death trap sitting right at the height of my neck. I also realized in that moment that the brakes on my motorcycle were pretty much non-existent from years of idiocy by my brothers and I. Instantly, I knew I had to dump the bike to avoid the sheet metal at my neck. As I went down, the sheet metal caught me across my upper chest as I dove to the ground and left a long slice across my upper body, leaving a scar I still have to this day.
I think about this experience every time I have the urge to burn it all down –
When is time to change course and abandon ship? How do you know if you should stay and work it out or just wipe the slate clean and start again?
Sometimes in life we don’t pay attention to all the warning signs and everything that’s happening in front of us. Instead we’re so focused on small distractions or we’re mentally lingering in the future or the past that we overlook all the warning signs right in front of us.
Logically, we know that our difficult experiences have a lot to teach us about our own inner work. It doesn’t mean that learning those lessons and putting in the work on ourselves needs to be done in the middle of a hurricane. Sometimes it’s admirable to walk away with your head still intact, start with a clean slate, and do the work from a new vantage point. Sometimes it’s okay to recognize that the space you are in is hurting you and that you need a fresh start.
It’s perfectly acceptable to just abandon ship and pull the plug if that’s what you need to survive. There’s nothing wrong with getting out when you have gotten in too far over your head.
Do I regret that scar? Absolutely not. I know that if I had continued on my path I would have been hurt much more significantly. I did what I had to do to get out. No regrets, no second-guessing. I can apply that same logic to various instances in my life when I simply threw in the towel and walked away — I did it for my own safety and no one else and that was enough for me.
Are you looking to make a fresh start? There’s no better time to let in support to ensure that when you start anew, you show up differently and create a better, brighter future.
Perhaps those experiences of chaos are intended to wake you up to the work that you actually need to do on yourself and that is all the learning you need to take from that place.
The point of the experience may not be to force you to do your own inner work in the middle of the hurricane. Perhaps it’s that you need to see that the hurricane always exists, at least partly, within you as well as around you. From that realization sometimes leaving and getting space is the only way to actually start doing the work on yourself.
Beethoven never wrote a beautiful sonata while he was drowning. You don’t have to “fix” your issues while you are burning alive. Sometimes it’s just okay to leave and start again because sometimes that is the only way you can do the work.
“I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Photo by cottonbro