One year ago today, I walked into Santiago, Spain, the end of my Camino journey. My daughter Elizabeth accompanied me for the last 2 days of walking — it was wonderful having her with me then, so I could share my emotions with someone who is as close to me as she is.
Emotions: I felt elation – for having actually completed the journey; relief – my body was pretty worn out, especially my feet; joy – despite the physical and sometimes emotional challenges of the journey, it was much more than I thought it would be, allowing me to connect with the spiritual through nature and through the wonderful people I met along the Way; wonder and trepidation – I knew that my life was somehow changed forever, and I was looking forward to this, with excitement and also a bit of fear. Why fear? I knew without having to think about it that I could no longer work for the State of Florida; I was no longer feeling that I was making a positive difference in the lives of the children, and that has been my calling for most of my career. But I am growing older, at that time with about 6 years until retirement. I was afraid of cutting off a decent (not great, but steady and decent) source of income with no promise of success.
Now that a year has passed, I am happy that I made that change. My financial future is somewhat fraught at the moment – at least during those dark hours of the night when there is nothing bright to distract me from thoughts of worse case scenarios. But in the day, I am feeling a true lightness of being. I have opened my own firm, and chosen to take a couple of months to work part-time before jumping all-in. I do have work now, and am truly working. I will begin actual marketing the first of the year, and hope to be fully operational and full-time busy by the spring. My friends with their own practices have advised that my plan is sound and that I will definitely do well for myself.
But even if I end up making less and having to cut back on some expenditures, I have already done well for myself. As I said, I now feel a lightness that wasn’t there before. I am able to spend some time volunteering with groups I enjoy. Now that the weather has finally turned to what counts for fall here in NE Florida, I am out hiking again. And I’m in a slow process of tending to myself and my surroundings. I am happy and content, in ways I had not been for many years. Some of this comes with maturity, I’m sure. But most of it is in now being in full charge of my destiny – to the extent anyone can be.
This was a move I needed to make. And I doubt I would have had the courage to have made these changes without having walked the Camino. During that journey I learned that there will be set-backs, but that there is always a way to continue the journey. I had the tenacity and strength to keep going and did not end the journey early, despite a few temptations to do so. That knowledge will stay with me and guide me through my life journey now – there will be set-backs and there is always a way to continue. I think that having faith in one’s own ability is key to staying strong.
I yearn to strengthen this knowledge with another Camino, sooner than later! Perhaps a shorter route, such as the Portuguese. Or perhaps going to Italy and following in the steps of St. Francis of Assisi, one of my favorite saints since childhood. I hope it will be within the coming year! But even if there is not to be a long walk soon, it is fall, and there will be time for many shorter walks.
This year, my hiking group is planning on 4 weekend camping/hiking trips so that we’ll cover the bulk of the portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail for which we provide maintenance. I have the time now to make the commitment, and have made that commitment to those hikes, during the “winter” and early spring here. It will be grand!