I moved my husband and young son to California in 1969. Moving from the then small town of State College, Pennsylvania to the big cities of California was a huge risk. We drove; really, I drove, the entire way with our son’s tricycle strapped to the back of our used Pontiac LeMans. Everything else we owned was in the car.
On the last full day of driving, as I came over the mountain and saw the lights of Los Angeles spread out as far as the eye could see, I had the frightening thought, “I hope you did the right thing.” The next morning we stepped out of the motel onto grass that didn’t feel familiar at all, bright sunlight, and some strange looking plant that I later learned was a bird of paradise, and nothing was the same.
In those days, moving to California was essentially moving to a foreign country. I knew nothing about the place other than what I had seen in The Graduate movie, but I knew it was where we had to go.
I remember standing in our tiny kitchen in State College, and getting the acceptance letter from Long Beach State as if it was yesterday. I am not sure if I have ever been as excited or scared at the same time as I was at that moment. Although after moving, I was not able to attend, (another story for another time) it did start our entire family down a path I know everyone was eventually glad we took.
You would think, after taking that big risk, getting past the familiar into the unfamiliar would be easy for me, and yet, like everyone else, it’s not.
I have tricks I use.
For that move, I would shut my eyes and hold out my hands. I pretended that I was holding the idea of staying in one hand, and in the other, the idea of leaving. Every time I did it, leaving felt lighter in my hand. It was an open door, and as hard as it was – we knew no one, we had no jobs, and just enough money to get there and live for the first month – it was easier to go, then to stay.
Jogging this morning, I used another trick. There is a turnaround point that I use when I don’t feel like going the longer route. I hadn’t gone the longer route this year. Asking myself “why not,” I realized I had developed reasons for avoiding it. It was unfamiliar again.
“What would be on that route? What if a dog barks at me?” (Seriously, if your dog barks at people on the street, please train it not to. We don’t know what that bark means, and it scares the bejeezus out of us.) “What if I can’t make it that far?” Just a few of the assorted reasons why I didn’t want to go past the familiar to the unfamiliar.
I knew it was time to pull out the misdirect trick. As I approached the turning point, I turned my head away from the marker and distracted myself until I was far enough past it that it was easier to keep on going. After that, it was a delight. I even got to say “hello” to people walking their dogs, (on a leash thank you) and both the people and the dogs smiled at me.
I find myself not wanting to do many things that I know I need to do to move on. So I practice self-trickery. I trick myself into joining groups and classes that I don’t want to because they are unfamiliar. I promise myself (as I once promised my daughter) that after fully participating – this is the key – I find it is not the group or class that fits me, I can stop.
Occasionally I do stop. Usually, I find that it has opened the door to things I never would have thought I could, or would want to do. Even when I stop, it has taken me down a path to a new idea for me to consider.
With all our tools like computers, phones, and tablets, we are constantly being asked to move from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Every time our gadgets ask up to update, or download we have to move onward just a little.
It’s easy to forget that the universe, with its continuous expanding, is all about moving out into new possibilities. As children of that universal Mind, expansion is also our natural state. If we believe that in order to expand we have to find the will power to do so, then moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar may never happen.
Instead, we can trust that we are always guided into expansion. Sometimes it is a voice from within, sometimes it is a symbol we see, that both calls and leads us safely onward. When personality gets in the way, go ahead and trick it, it will be worth it!
Or we can simply remember what the poet Robert Frost told us:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”