I climb high mountains. There are many mountains in life, and I’ve discovered that these lessons apply. Here is another important lesson from our series of three.
There’s a saying in mountain climbing that I really love: If it’s too hard, you’re off route. And while I believe there are no mistakes in life, only lessons to be learned, you’ve likely made a wrong turn when things are just too damn hard.
I got off course when I married my Iranian boyfriend. Not only did I end up in the wrong place, living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, I lost myself. I had allowed my overwhelming desire to be rescued by him, to evade all adult responsibility, to cloud my judgment. I lost the ability to be selective, to recognize what I required in a mate.
When he’d expressed reservations about marrying an American, not a virgin from the village, I vowed that I would win him over, prove his reluctance unfounded. A great relationship, after all, wasn’t so much about finding the right person as it was about being the right person. I decided to change everything I could about myself— the way I dressed, interacted with men, and how I thought. I tossed out my shorts and bathing suits. I knocked off the flirting and joking and treated men like Ebola carriers. After a while, I’d hoped, he’d see how perfect we were for each other.
Not surprisingly, life in Iran was untenable. I was lonely and frustrated and isolated. I had a difficult time making friends with Iranians. I could never reveal who I really was. An American who’d lost her virginity at sixteen in the backseat of a car.
I ‘d shoved my BS degree in a drawer and abandoned everything that I’d known. Instead of leading that fantasized life of high adventure—camping with Bedouins, exploring the tombs of Alexander the Great and Darius III— I spent my days alone, in a dumpy dorm room, with a baby and Frank, a six-inch cockroach that crawled out of my toilet.
My mistakes were made in the romantic arena, but the same concept holds in the career world. If it’s too hard, you’ve made the wrong choice. If the real, authentic you has no business being in the job you’ve wrangled, you will never be happy. Ever lied on a resume? Ever, in all your cleverness, altered the results of a personality test to ensure that you get the job?
When I’m on route on a high mountain, there’s a rhythym, a flow. When I’m lost, there’s frustration and struggle. It’s true in all of life. Find what flows for you in life. And if there’s too much struggle, stop and reassess. Get back on the path. You can find the way.
The one thing that you don’t get when you’re young? When the right person, or situation, or job comes along, you won’t have to pretend to be someone that you’re not.
Ann Sheybani, 48, is a high altitude mountaineer, ultra-distance runner, and blue water sailor. She is a speaker, coach and author of the popular blog, Things Mama Never Taught Me. Visit her at www.annsheybani.com. © 2011 Ann Sheybani