In Africa, lion trackers have a phrase called the ‘Path of Not Here’ and it’s used when they take the wrong path, mistakenly believing they're on the trail of the lion, before realising they're wrong. They always expect to go down the wrong trail at some point, and they embrace the Path of Not Here because it teaches them where they don’t need to be.
To get me to this point in my life, I have been down many Paths of Not Here. When I was a small child, all I wanted to be was a nurse. But when at 18 I went for my first interview at one of the big teaching hospitals in London, I was told that because of the severe eczema on my hands, I couldn’t go into nursing. I was devastated and I was lost. The track that I’d been following ever since I was tiny, had turned out to be a dead end. I took a year out nannying and then went to university to train to be a primary school teacher. After a year, I realised that teaching small children was not for me, and so I changed courses. I ended up with a good degree but one that did not lend itself to any particular career path. I was 21 and supposed to be a grown up. But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.
So I went down a new path and started temping, hoping that by trying out many different types of work, I’d finally settle on one that felt right for me. But then a friend suggested I join her in Japan teaching English. So I did. I went for a year, and ended up staying for three. I realised while I was there, that although I enjoyed teaching, what I really loved was the lesson planning and creation. And so I applied for a Masters degree in English Language Teaching Textbook Design, the only one of its kind at the time. The day I arrived back in the UK, and with only four weeks left until my course started, I received a letter from the university. The course had been cancelled due to lack of numbers. Once again, I had come to an abrupt halt.
So I began temping again, and through that work, ended up getting a job as a Media Researcher. It was fun. I met my husband. We married, but sadly, last year, after many years of marriage, we divorced and I found myself at the end of my longest life path so far, desperately scouting around for clues as to which direction I should be going.
This time I decided to slow down and really look at my life. Just as a tracker on the trail uses his senses to tune into the natural world, I tuned into my inner landscape. I began to read into and notice my feelings, my thoughts, my motivations, what lifted me, what dragged me down. I paid attention to all the things that I had seen and done thousands of time all my life, and I learned to see them as if for the first time. It was a new kind of awareness. The themes that have run unnoticed throughout my whole life slowly rose to the surface of my consciousness.
The reason I’m telling you all this is that we will all have many paths in our lifetime; these may be relationships, careers, family, financial, our sense of spirituality, even the places we choose as home. Some will be uneventful trails that peter out into nothing. Others may look promising and we may follow them for years, even decades before we realise that another direction is calling. Sometimes we will sense that the path is about to thin out and other times we will find ourselves abruptly at the end with no warning, teetering at the edge of a sheer drop. There's no need to regret these Paths of Not Here, however hard they are. It was never all for nothing. Because their teaching is in showing us what we don’t want, what no longer serves us well. They free us up to forge new ways. They're a gift to us.
Look back over your shoulder at your own Paths of Not Here. What are the reccuring themes? One idea is to draw a timeline of the major events in your life starting with your birth. You might like to add in education marriage, major relationships, jobs and other life events that you feel were significant and see if you can see any patterns. Or alternatively you may want to focus on one particular area of your life. If you’re looking for a new romantic relationship for example, draw a timeline of all your past relationships and write underneath each one how and why it ended, what did you like about that relationship and what didn’t work? When you’re finished, look for the themes. Be honest with yourself.
When I looked back at my own life, I could clearly see the themes of freedom, healing, guiding, learning and intense curiosity. These themes are now bound up in my new life’s purpose; empowering others to live their life with purpose and meaning. Or in others words, Coaching. Finally I know what I want to be when I grow up. I have begun my journey on the Path of Here.
If you’re interested in exploring your path or at a crossroads or dead end and wondering what to do next, get in touch. My details are above. Alternatively, if you’ve found this article interesting, sign up for regular newsletters or leave a comment below. Thank You
The Lion Tracker's Guide to Life - Boyd Varty