My 4 Life Lessons from Driving Across the U.S.

ZestNow for Women 50 and Forward invited me to be a guest blogger.

I ate dinner with a friend recently, and she told me something that disturbed me greatly. We had both read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear about allowing your curiosity to lead you to your life’s purpose. Sadly, my friend said she has lost her curiosity and doesn’t feel purposeful about anything in life. She said she’s in “survival mode” at her job and only needs to persevere for seven more years to reach retirement.

My friend’s predicament struck a cord in my heart because she and I were in the same boat. We were both tenured professors and chair of our respective departments at different universities. We both felt stuck in careers that once felt fulfilling but had become tedious and soul-draining. The difference between us is she chose to remain in her circumstance and trudge resentfully toward retirement, while I chose to listen to my soul’s whispers to resign and follow my passion of art.

This blind leap of faith may seem crazy, but I knew my soul would slowly shrivel if I didn’t honor my life’s calling. I could NOT turn 50 and remain stuck in a life that was blocking my path toward living the purpose for which I was born.

What prompted this leap into an uncertain future? I began meditating in 2013 and discovered my purpose in life is to use my art – my life-long love that had become a forgotten part-time hobby – as a tool to inspire others to live their own unique calling. I eventually realized that becoming a public relations professor was a means to thrive after divorce, but not the ultimate calling for my life. It was time to take the lessons I’d learned along this journey and evolve toward living my purpose.

So, I resigned from my 12-year professor position last spring to follow my bliss of art.

A few months later, I received an invitation to become the executive director of an arts organization in Washington state. This is a position I would not have applied for of my own volition because I don’t possess an art degree. Yet, it’s an open door that leads me closer to living on purpose. That’s how I found myself driving cross-country from Connecticut to Washington to begin a new life chapter at the age of 50.

Here are 4 lessons being on the road taught me about living on purpose that can help you fulfill your unique life’s calling as well.

  1. When you begin to follow your purpose, your soul becomes lighter.

As I drove from Connecticut on the first day of my road trip, I felt joy begin bubbling to the surface. I was leaving friends and a romantic partner behind, and I knew my departure was causing them pain, which wasn’t easy, but at the same time my soul was celebrating within me.

That’s how I knew I was on the right path.

Compare the feelings of rightness and bliss to the feeling of resentment caused by remaining in a life circumstance that no longer serves you and keeps you from growing into your full potential. The scenario that makes you feel lighter and more vibrant is the path your soul wishes you to travel. Following your purpose will make you experience exuberance for life, not apathy.

  1. When you’re aligned with your purpose and surrender to the Universe’s timing, obstacles will fall by the wayside.

On the second day of my journey, I drove the construction-congested Ohio turnpike. I began noticing that cars were stranded on the highway’s shoulder with flat tires or steaming engines. However, I was sailing right through with no issues. At times, the bumper-to-bumper lane I was driving in suddenly became clear of traffic allowing me to progress unobstructed.

I’ve found this is also what happens when I’m truly aligned with my life’s calling, and I surrender to the guidance the Universe offers. A knowingness replaces doubts. Inner peace replaces fear. Believe that the Universe will give you the skills and opportunities to fulfill your life’s purpose once you begin the journey. You may be delayed by lessons you need to learn that are meant to strengthen you, but once you align with your purpose via meditation, communing with nature, or by taking a few minutes to get still each day, your path will begin to flow easily.

  1. When you follow your purpose, expect that not everyone will understand.

On my journey to Washington, I drove through North Dakota and Montana. Both states offered beautiful natural scenery; however, both were quite desolate, which gave me an eerie feeling as a single female making this trek alone. I was glad to reach a more populated area.

Living your purpose can also feel desolate, as some people may not understand your need to grow and evolve into your True Self. Friends and family members have expressed sadness because I’m “changing” or tried to discourage me from pursuing my calling because they feel stuck in their lives and want me to play small with them.

It’s important to set boundaries around your dreams to protect them and populate your life with a tribe of people who recognize and celebrate your gifts.

  1. Gratitude helps you live in the moment and opens doors of opportunity.

Living on the road for six days was tiring and inconvenient at times. However, being thankful for small things throughout the day – a hot bath in a clean hotel room, a toll booth lady who allowed me to pay a dollar short because I didn’t have enough cash for the toll – helped me joyfully abide in the moment.

Consider this: why would the Universe continue to offer you gifts of abundance if you’re not grateful for what you’ve already been given? I’ve discovered expressing gratitude helps me remember the positive things that have transpired, which opens doors for more abundance to enter.

The road to living on purpose becomes more zestful at 50 and beyond. Where will your curiosity lead you?

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