The Shadow in the Wilderness
Last week we talked about our passage “through the wilderness” being imbued with meaning, i.e. not random, not absurd, not shameful, not meaningless.
Let’s dive into this a little deeper.
In Turning Pro, I wrote about “shadow careers.”
Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. The shadow career is a metaphor for our real career.
Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan Studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies you know you have inside you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk being an innovator yourself?
If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for.
That metaphor will point you toward your true calling.
“The wilderness” is a shadow calling.
The reason our lost years are loaded with meaning is because they’re a metaphor. It’s not random that one person becomes addicted (nor is it random, what they become addicted to), while another abuses his spouse and children. Hidden in each shadow is the Dream. Hidden is who the Dreamer truly is, what his or her true calling really is.
My wilderness/shadow was driving over the road—trucks, cars, whatever wheel I could get behind. Driving for me was mileage. Numbers on an odometer.
The (fake) idea that I was getting somewhere.
Ambition was my secret. I wanted to make something of myself. But I was too terrified to even realize it. So unconsciously I found a windshield to stare through and an accelerator to plant my foot on.
Trucks for me was the metaphor. Because with trucks it wasn’t just driving, it was delivering a load. People were waiting for me. They wanted what I was bringing. They were happy when they saw my headlights come around the corner.
I had no sense of this “in the wilderness.” No clue. We’re blind to the meaning in the moment. We’re addicted. We’re not just imprisoned, we’re self-imprisoned. But the meaning is right there, staring us in the face.
I have a friend who’s an addiction counselor. The first time we went out to breakfast, he leaned across the table and looked me deep in the eye. “Are you sober?” he asked.
That was tremendously perceptive.
My friend saw the shadow in me. It isn’t alcohol, it’s self-sabotage. It’s Resistance.
That’s the wilderness for me. The only difference between me at twenty-eight driving over the road and me now is I see it now.
The meaning was there all along. It just took me a passage through the wilderness to see it.