How Safe Is A Rut?

April 4, 2008

A few years back we lived in a different city, another nearby suburb in the area between Dallas and Fort Worth. When we moved into our little (actually tiny) house, we were surrounded by open fields. Our house and the neighbors’ house were the only ones there – former model homes in a development that was stalled for years because of a court case over ownership of the land.

Over time, the Farm to Market road that passed by old farmhouses and lots of open land was widened to two lanes plus a turn lane. Traffic lights went in, and so did convenience stores, strip malls, and housing additions. The other Farm to Market road that intersected it a few miles north, the one that took me to the lake by passing through a couple of old country towns, eventually got widened, too. Now it’s the main street of an upscale suburb with Starbucks, a gourmet grocery store, and a huge shopping, dining, and entertainment center. The drive from the old house to the lake used to take less then twenty minutes. That same drive would be almost twice as long now, with all the traffic and those darned traffic lights.

Since we didn’t move far, I still drive in the area close to the old house, sometimes several times per week. A friend was talking to me the other day about a new strip mall in that area and said it was just down from the new funeral home. I was totally confused and couldn’t figure out where she was describing because there were no funeral homes in the area. She told me the intersection again, so the next time I went that way I looked closely. There was a new funeral home, next to the new architect’s office, down from the new church.

This reminded me of a day when we had lived in our old house for a few years when an elderly lady at the corner gas station was completely lost. She was explaining she was looking for the old main street that had the feed store on it. The feed store had moved into a big new building on the Farm to Market road and the old building was being renovated. With all the new construction in the area she couldn’t find her familiar landmarks. She didn’t get out to drive very often, but it was a month or less since she last drove and things had changed that quickly. I let her follow me up the road about a quarter of a mile, and then I turned to drive her by the old feed store. From there she said she would be fine.

Things change around us constantly, even if we want to live in a rut. Sometimes people choose ruts because they’re predictable and comfortable. But the rut you start following today will not be the rut you follow in ten years, even if you try. The business I co-owned was very different the day we sold it compared to the day I joined it. The year I spent returning to a therapy practice after selling the business was a distant experience to the seven years I spent as a therapist before the business.

Last summer while on a road trip I took a slight detour to show my sons the house my family lived in for many years of my childhood. The rural area outside the small town now has a car dealership on one corner and small shops and offices on the road to it. There were so many new houses I drove by my old house and had to turn around to find it. Once again, I felt like that elderly lady, in a familiar place but with so much new information the familiar was hidden.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me to pursue a creative career and be a solo entrepreneur. It doesn’t mean safety or predictability. It doesn’t mean the comfort of the known. It means adventure, and challenges, and the freedom to fall. It means I step into new territory every day, even if it’s just figuring out how to position something on my web page by learning one piece of HTML code. It means I can look at people who are successful at similar things and learn from them, but I don’t just follow their path. I figure out where those skills and accomplishments will be important on the trail I’m blazing for myself.

Life’s going to change around me whether I want it to or not. If I don’t keep up it’s going to leave me behind. I’d rather be out there exploring and learning and trying new things. This way I’ll be more comfortable with changes and can take them in stride. And I’ll be in charge of more of the changes, making them happen to improve my life.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey

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