March 31, 2019


“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”  -Dolly Parton

Here I am.  Three months in.  One quarter of the way through my journey.  Time is less relevant to me now. Months, weeks, and days don’t factor into my thoughts much.  I am living an hourly existence. My plans rarely extend beyond the end of the day. It may sound like a tenuous way to live, but I have found it quite liberating.  

I have always loved this Dolly Parton quote, and started thinking about it again as I drove through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, near Dollywood Theme Park.  I love the idea of deliberate self-awareness. I also love that the action of deliberate self-awareness calls forth a demand for thoughtful self-actualization.  Not just to inhabit our potential, but to be the kind of person we want to be. “To be the change we want to see in the world,” as Mahatma Gandhi so eloquently stated.  And, yes, I just linked Dolly Parton and Mahatma Gandhi in the same paragraph, no apologies given.   

I was sitting at the hotel bar having some late dinner in Greensboro, North Carolina.  A woman sat down two stools away. She was twitchy and restless and kept quietly apologizing for interrupting my dinner over and over to ask me the time.  I was a little put off, and would normally avoid a person like this – receding quickly to my bedrock introversion without hesitation. But I resisted that impulse and reached out in a simple way.  “How’s that Chardonnay you ordered?” I said, although I couldn’t care less. “Ok I guess.” She replied, then blurted “I just left my husband after 40 years of marriage.” I melted. She had been holding that in all night!  We talked for a bit longer. She assured me she was emotionally ok and that she was safe to be alone; and we parted ways. She needed someone to listen, to hear her, to recognize she existed. I laid in bed awake for hours unable to shake the experience, and the thought that I almost thwarted that small moment that she needed so badly.  What a terrible thing that would have been. A valuable lesson learned.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by a reporter who wanted to write an article about my journey for the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  The story was released online earlier this week. As it made its way around the internet, I was surprised by so many negative reactions.  Comments like “what a waste of money” and “worst idea ever” swirled around like buzzards over roadkill. It bothered me. An older version of myself would have been reactionary – would have engaged the trolls and rolled in the online mud until I was as dirty as they were.  But I didn’t. I have worked far too hard to achieve my serenity and I am guarding it fiercely. It is inconsequential in the long run anyway. The journey is mine, not theirs. Mine is a deliberate actualization, inspired from within, and informed through self. Find out who you are and do it on purpose.  Damn good advice!

Parks visited since March 21st:

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Blue Ridge Parkway

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Obed Wild and Scenic River

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Andy Magee