I used to seek change outside myself: a new promotion or job, home, country to explore, a new relationship. I also channeled my restless nature in physical exertion and a full diary. I was goal-driven, and achievement-focused. As long as I was busy, all was well. To slow down made me painfully aware of the discontent that trailed me like a twinge.
I started climbing mountains as a hobby. In the outdoors, my mind slowed and I would return to my sea-level life fresh and recharged. Over time, I wanted to commit to my mountaineering passion as a way of life. So I quit my well-paid job, pension and thriving network of London friends.
I followed the seasons from one hemisphere to another – Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand. Eight months into my new life, the unimaginable happened: I was starting to get as stressed out chasing my dream as the rat race from which I’d escaped. The movement, planning and physical endurance came at a price. There were always more summits to scale as rungs to climb – no neat finishing line when the effort and struggle stopped. And I was terrified of heights.
I had to take a good look at the inner mountain that had driven me for so long. Summits had inspired a peak experience. The high I felt was always followed by, “what now?” I had swapped the values of a career ladder for one at altitude and nothing had really changed. I was the same restless me – whatever my external reinvention. I was trapped in a crash and burn cycle – the drive to be more, do more.
I faced the feeling I most wanted to avoid. Restlessness. What was its wisdom trying to tell me? Behind its signature ‘twinge’ lurked fear: having to prove something to myself time and again. Who would I be without the story I had to do something important? What if I never did anything again? Was I enough as I am? I’d forgotten to enjoy this moment, now. Experience made life meaningful – not the giddy ascension to a future time, promising peace and contentment. Success and fulfillment are not the same.
I stopped moving and welcomed the full force of my restlessness. I channelled it into my creativity. I started writing, exploring the world through storytelling. The inspiration from all the mountains of my travels lives on. I tell stories, and support others to rewrite their own. We all have the power to change our story, transforming past hurts and wants into the living wisdom they are. We can become the change we seek. Diving into our creativity is rich medicine – so often disguised (as it was for me) as discontent or restlessness. It is a tool to thrive in life’s uncertainty. Real lasting change often happens in small steps over time.
Feelings are the language of soul calling us home – to embody our full-blooded human nature. To ignore them is to be cut off from the neck down. I’ve changed the story that the answer is ‘out there,’ anywhere but ‘here’. I am what I seek. Now I relish ordinary life as the adventure it is: out with my dog, among neighbours, enjoying the culture around me. We are all storytellers, making sense of the grit – and gift – of being human. I don’t have to climb a mountain or travel anywhere to remember that. And when I forget – again – there is a map to reset my inner compass: the way up is down.