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No matter the course we chart for our lives, and how many times we may veer from it, we all live out our destiny: we are born, we live, and we die. That much we can be certain of.

For some that may be only a few precious hours, others more than a hundred years. Still, there’s much more implied by the word itself that makes it difficult to define.

Destiny may speak to a feeling we intuit. We may feel like we are destined to do something specific with our lives. We may feel strongly called upon and expected to answer. But that same feeling can be a trap if we surrender control and allow ourselves to be cast as a character in our story instead of its author.

I’ve always envied people who from a very early age, intuit exactly who and what they’re meant to be and do with their one precious life. They make a good case for destiny being a series of fated events. Still, there’s also a part of me that rejects that our stories have already been written in stone.

“Destiny is hardly used in everyday conversation; it is a word that invites belief or disbelief: we reject the ordering of events by some fated, unseen force or we agree that there seems to be a greater hand than our own, working at the edges of even the most average life.” – David Whyte Consolations

The fact that I envied people like that tended to automatically make me feel worse about myself. For the longest time, I considered myself defective. Unlike those lucky souls, I did not come with a set of instructions and spent my childhood and most if not all of my adult life joking that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I was a kid, I only remember ever having one dream for myself. I wanted to be a wildlife photographer for National Geographic. If a picture told a thousand words, then I longed to tell those stories.

I remember one day in particular when I was very young and happened to find an antique camera tucked away in an old desk drawer that belonged to my mother. The eyes in the back of her head must have detected my movements because before I knew what was happening, it was taken away and swiftly put back in its rightful place with an admonishment not to touch it again.

I had never seen my mother use it before so I couldn’t quite understand her reluctance to at least show it to me. But like most admonishments from my mother, I ignored her wishes and from time to time would take it from its hiding place if only to hold it in my hands.

Once I was a little older and deemed responsible enough for a camera of my own, I was hooked. From the moment I first pushed the button, more than the shutter clicked.

Days spent waiting for my prints to come back felt like torture as if my future was being held captive in the nascent images waiting to appear.

But my passion for photography was not encouraged and was short lived. Throughout my childhood and for the rest of my life I would always be the one taking pictures – I have at least a dozen photo albums just of my kids. But it felt apparent to me early on that I would never be good enough at it to have it become my profession.

Reflecting on this now makes me think I must have known in my heart all along that it wasn’t strictly the photography that called to me, so much as the adventure and the experience that I so longed for.

Only in looking back am I finally able to connect those dots.

Who knows, had I pursued it with more discipline and determination maybe I could have done something with it someday. But so many other things were pulling me in different directions back then that it was hard to know which direction to follow.

I remember being told once that I had a gift for writing by my AP high school English teacher. Much like photographs, stories were open to interpretation, and I liked that. I liked that two people could read the same story or view the same photograph and come away with two very different interpretations of what they were reading or seeing.

I was a senior when she told me this, and while it definitely made an impression on me, once again I never believed myself good enough to give it a go.

As far back as elementary school, I realized I had a knack for telling stories, but so did every other kid I knew.

I was in the fourth grade when I put together this little magazine about dogs. It was recently resurrected from an old folder my mother was thoughtful enough to save for me and has me wondering if the writing was on the wall way back then.

I must admit, it looks an awful lot like my blog does now. A short story accompanied by a picture, in my adolescent effort to reach out to people.

But despite the pull I felt from time to time, I don’t think I ever considered writing to be my destiny. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever considered any one thing to be my destiny; it just feels like too small a word to encompass its own meaning so I never gave it serious consideration, that is maybe until now.

But that’s only because I find myself writing about it this week after just having met my inspiration for this blog, David Whyte, at a reading of his poetry in Boston this past blustery St Patrick’s Day morning.

I’ll be the first to admit the timing felt too spot on to automatically write it off as a mere coincidence. Maybe there was a greater hand than my own working around the edges this time.

Still, I can’t help feeling like I met him by chance, not by choice, and I believe choice plays a much bigger role when it comes to our destiny.

“We are shaped by our shaping of the world and are shaped again in turn.” – David Whyte Consolations

And we shape ourselves and the world by the choices we make, so maybe the real question becomes, who or what guides us in making those choices and do we honor or squander that?

Do we take the time to seek out the silence that is often necessary to hear what our intuition is trying to tell us when faced with making difficult choices?

What if we thought of our destiny as being like a tiny acorn of truth already containing everything it needs to become a mighty oak. We are born with the answers somewhere deep inside us, so maybe we just need to ask better questions.

When faced with an important choice, whenever I’ve asked myself an honest question seeking a truthful answer and have the courage to follow the advice that comes from my heart vs. my head, it always feels right to me. The results of that choice may not be what I had hoped for or expected but soon enough I see that it was necessary for my own evolution.

The more I look back the more dots I am able to connect and I see enough of the picture now to understand that the dreams I may have had for myself when I was a child were largely dependent on other people making choices for me. It was not until I was older and started making my own choices that destiny began to shape me.

“It is still our destiny, our life, but the sense of satisfaction involved and the possibility of fulfilling its promise may depend upon a brave participation, a willingness to hazard ourselves in a difficult world, a certain form of wild generosity with our gifts; a familiarity with our own depth, our own discovered, surprising breadth and always, a long practiced and robust vulnerability equal to what any future may offer.” – David Whyte Consolations

We must be brave enough to get off the bench and participate, despite feeling vulnerable and despite the danger involved and despite our preconceived notions of the direction we presume our lives are supposed to take.

Fulfilling our promise to life implies action must be taken. Even when we’re lucky enough to be born knowing exactly what we were put on this earth to do, we cannot and must not sit in the back seat and hand over the wheel to some unseen force that will drive us in the direction we know we must go. I have had more dreams of that nature than I care to admit whenever I relinquish that power to someone else.

We must participate, bravely, if we ever want to feel that sense of sublime satisfaction that we achieved something worthwhile.

When I look back at my life now, I see this has always been true, even if I didn’t know it then.

But knowing it now is everything if you’ve spent your entire life feeling like your contributions don’t matter. To be not only familiar with your depths but comfortable diving into them headfirst, allows you to be wildly generous with your gifts and offers you an olive branch in return.

As you fulfill promises to yourself that you may not have even been aware of making, you are offered a sense of peace in return, along with another piece of your puzzle being put into place, and if you’re lucky, with patience and determination, the big picture may just come into focus.




About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

2 Replies

  1. Michael

    Sent this to my daughter who is going through adolescence And feels something is wrong with her – that she is ADHD but she’s not like everyone else – she’s an artist and I try to encourage that as much as possible with her – I’d like her to bring it out to share with me but she holds it back always thinking something wrong with her – I hope this can encourage her to be who she is – to take a determined and discipline approach so that she can discover who she is like you did – thank you

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Michael. I am touched by your words and by the support you are offering your daughter. Sounds like she is very lucky to have you.

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