I first came across the poem by Rabbi Alvin Fine, Life is a journey and death a destination when looking for inspiration to comfort a friend who had lost a loved one.
I find it so simple and so beautiful for its truthful account of the cycles of life. The flow, the comings and goings, the ups and downs, the joys and the sorrows that make life what life is. Since then, when I am going through a difficult or new phase in my life, or when I am feeling lost, I remember this poem.
The poem has now become a catchphrase and its beauty and deep messages can be lost and get misinterpreted. Some people advocate that life is about the destination and not about the journey. Seeing death as a destination does not mean that “whatever you do does not matter, as we will all die anyway”. Much on the contrary, because our lives are finite, we should be truthful to ourselves and make the most of each phase on the journey. This is not about never having a direction in life; it is about allowing yourself to explore different directions before choosing the path to follow and then having the freedom to change again and again and again; as many times as it takes for one to grow and live a full life.
As I am in the middle of a transition period in my life, and I just turned forty years old, I find myself going back to this poem again and reflecting about the course of my life.
Two years ago, I resigned from a well-paid permanent job in a multinational consultancy to become a facilitator and independent consultant. If that change was not enough, I also decided to return to Brazil, after spending ten years in London, and share my time between facilitation and my parents family property-let business.
For one reason or another, my plans did not materialize straightaway. I suddenly had to put all my savings (which I was going to use during the transition period) into the family business. I was broke and worse, the family business was in such a state that I had to put all my energy and spend all my time working on it. I had no time to prospect for new clients in the new career I was about to begin. As time passed, new clients appeared and new project opportunities slowly brought me out of debt and into a new work life.
Looking back, I now can see how each phase of my life has built me into who I became. It makes sense now, but two years ago it didn’t. Back then I had difficulty in explaining how it all added-up. Sure, it sounded OK in theory, but how would I make it work in practice?
Well, that is where the theory about the 10,000 hours comes in.
Basically, this theory says that in 10,000 hours (the equivalent of 10 years of work) anyone can master any skill. I am not sure this theory has been scientifically proven, but I like the general idea – and it helped me to place myself into the new phase I was facing in this journey of life.
Two years down the road, I am only at the start of my new path. Yet, I can feel how my 20 years portfolio career in the private sector, consultancies, academia and NGOs gives me the strength to be an independent consultant who plays the role of an integrator. My work with Oasis’ Whole Person approach helps me to connect groups with their passion, the people and the planet. My experience working all over the world, from Latin America, to Asia and Africa, gives me the legitimacy to promote collaboration between various cultures and sectors that may not be accustomed to working together. My understanding of the multiple aspects of sustainability and climate change and how they impact each other allows me to help stakeholders to share their points of view and reach a mutual understanding.
The last two years have been a learning journey. Oasis’ Whole Person Facilitation course has helped me to explore different paths I could take, the skills that I bring and the areas in which I can develop further. I hope that these blog posts over the last 10 weeks have also been helpful for you as you have joined me on this small part of my journey. As the poem says, it does indeed feel like “a going, a growing from stage to stage”.
As we come to the close of the course and I reflect back on my journey, I realize how comfortable I have become in not having all the answers, in embracing uncertainty and letting life flow its course, knowing that until I die, I will never be fully developed and I will always have something else to learn.
As I come to the end of my last blog for now, remember this is not the finish, only the beginning – who knows what lies around the corner?
*Note: This Blog was originally published at Oasis.