Free to wander

There was a time
When my heart was free to wander
And I remember as I sing
This hobo song.
– John Prine

Yesterday a friend of mine was describing to me what sounded like an existential crisis. He wasn’t sure why he was doing what he was doing in his work. I recognized the feeling – I have had just that feeling in the past. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. One day you just start to think “Why, exactly, am I doing this? Is it for the money? For the pursuit of truth? To help others?” And I remember that when I went through this, I would start to waver, to wonder what any of it meant.

And today it occurred to me, listening to my friend and thinking about what he was saying, that I haven’t had that feeling in a while. Right now all the things I am working on feel as though they have a compelling purpose, a momentum and a reason to exist that drives forward not just the activity itself, but also my own sense of purpose in doing them.

Thinking about this, and wondering why it is so, I realized that nowadays I put a lot of effort into choosing the things I do, much more effort than I used to. There was a time when I would see something interesting to do, like a bright shiny train pulling into the station, flags waving and whistle blowing, and I would just hop on, like a hobo wanderer out to see the world, figuring that if nothing else I would enjoy the ride.

Now I check train schedules, I look at destinations, and I ask myself whether I really want to take this particular journey. Knowing where I am going, and why, turns out to make the trip far more satisfying. And when it comes time to board another train, I’m now much more likely to pick a good one. I am not saying that this is a better way of being or of doing things than the hobo way, but it seems to be working much better for me.

I know it sounds trite, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Wandering can be great fun, but it’s amazing how freeing it can be to have some idea of where you are going.

One thought on “Free to wander”

  1. I can relate to the schedule/project method of living, when academic or work related goals are on the line.

    But I’ve found that personal decisions are made of pure fail when using that method.

    For love, friendship, and pleasure in general, I’d rather stick with the hobo method.

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