Walking the Path

I’ve been thinking a lot about paths recently. It lingered on my mind when I woke yesterday, how things twist and turn and find yourself somewhere you never expected to be.

School made life seem so easy. In high school, the path was clear: go to college, get a job, meet a boy, fall in love, marry.

Things aren’t that smooth.

I went to college with a double major in mind, graduated with only one in hand, but was positive that career path wasn’t for me.

I’ve felt like a pinball since then, moving from job to job, from major to major to graduate school, from city to city. With each university program or new job, I thought the path would finally show itself, that something would finally click.

Then I abandoned the path completely and started a business. In two years, I’ve learned there is no real path, no certain direction to move in. There is only the path we forge for ourselves, the world we create around us.

This is what live is. This is what vulnerability is — admitting we don’t entirely know what we’re doing but promising ourselves that we’re going to do it boldly, that we’re going to stop defining ourselves in single terms or job titles, that we’re going to dare greatly, fall, and rise strong.

Come, traveller, and walk with me.

Photo from Brené Brown — go pick up her new book, Rising Strong. It’s crazy inspiration at your fingertips.

Missing

This is going to be raw. I don’t know how else do talk about this.

Five days after I returned from my time in Atlanta and Tennessee, I had to say goodbye to my sweet cat, Marty.

He was such a fighter and so stubborn at times. After the vet discovered the lymphoma, they gave him a month to live. Marty gave me 8 months.

I’ve had trouble writing lately, because I want to write about him. But when I do, I cry hard. I miss him so badly and it still hurts.

His loss has made me think about those other lights I’ve lost. So today, here’s what I’m missing:

mornings on the porch, sipping tea, watching Marty explore the yard

the way he dipped his paw into milk to drink it

Marty’s stare in the middle of the afternoon, when he was ready for food

how he licked my little cat Cami clean when my mom brought her home

the way Marty curled up between my legs at night so we could sleep

the wrestling fights he and Hugo would get into

the moments where all he wanted to do was be next to me and sleep

how I kissed his belly hundreds of times after the surgery, wishing for a miracle

watching the transformation as Marty went from a scared cat from the pound to a trusting loyal friend

I wake up some mornings and still can’t believe I arrived here, that he’s gone. He was the glue in my little family of human plus three cats.

I’ve been thinking of all he taught me — to take time, to slow down, to love unconditionally and fiercely.

My heart is broken, but I am so incredibly grateful for all the time we did have.

Hitchhiking on Someone Else’s Dream

A few weeks ago, a friend told me of a business he wanted to start: an online archery shop.

I wanted in.

It was easy to imagine myself in charge and building an incredible company. More than anything else, I imagined all of the content I could create for the world, particularly for young girls interested in archery. I had such good ideas.

But the dream wasn’t mine. I was hitchhiking on his dream.

It wasn’t the first time I had done this. I’ve lost myself in teachers’ plans for me, the requirements of companies I worked for, the expectations of graduate school.

I remembered standing in my graduate advisor’s office, as he told me that I needed to give up my hobbies if I wanted to be a philosopher, that I needed to dedicate more time (subtext: all my time) to this career. It was then I decide I was done trying to please other people.

I left grad school, got a job, and started working. I tried to excel but there was no place for initiative. I tried to fit in but I felt entirely out of place in a company where everything was wrapped in red tape. I was told I wasn’t quite meeting expectations. It was then I was done with not being myself.

I wanted freedom – to travel when I wanted to, to dress in a way that expressed who I am, to live wherever I’d like, to take time off when I need to, to be myself – my full, vibrant self.

I considered what working on this archery shop would look like for me. It wouldn’t be mine, not properly, and there would be new expectations. So I asked myself,

Why hitchhike on someone else’s dream
when I can dream something even better for myself?

Precisely.

Capturing A Moment

December was a difficult month for me: I moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone, in hopes it would be a better fit for me; my then-boyfriend and I broke up; and my cat Marty had emergency surgery when it became clear there was a growth in his stomach, causing him a lot of pain. It was this last piece of news that hit me the hardest — I was just really learning how to love this cat, adopted from a shelter by an ex-boyfriend, then stolen by me when it was clear he wasn’t being treated well. At the beginning he had been stand-offish and always pretty independent. But he had changed in the months before the surgery. I had changed too.

The surgery went well, but the prognosis wasn’t good. The vet gave him a month.

It’s been four.

I know I don’t have forever, but I do have this time.

And I wanted it captured, with me in it. I’ve typically been the one snapping photos, but really wanted some of me with my cats. My friend Carrie came by and took a few photos for me.

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There are days that harder and days that are great. I don’t always know which it will be. My work sometimes falls a bit behind, because I need to be present more with my cats than with emails or my blog. But I am where I need to be, and that matters most to me — and to them, I suspect.

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.