If there’s one thing most people know about me, it’s that I’m not an “outdoorsy” person. Now that doesn’t mean that I hate nature. I just prefer to enjoy it while I’m sitting on a beach or from the backseat of the car as my family drives through the Smoky Mountains. You see growing up in my family, our idea of fun didn’t consist of hiking or camping or canoeing. We would go to places like Gatlinburg not for the mountains, but for the miniature golfing, shopping, and dining. So this is why at the age of 29, I just went canoeing for the very first time in my life.
I assumed that maneuvering a canoe down the river would be a fairly simple task. I mean it’s not white water rafting. You just have to paddle the canoe in the right direction. After all Pocahontas makes it looks so easy while she’s singing “Just Around the Riverbend”. How hard could this be?
It took about thirty seconds before I realized how hard canoeing was actually going to be. My friend and I had barely pushed off from the bank of the river before I had us turned around and going backwards. As if keeping the canoe in the right direction wasn’t hard enough, we also managed to unsuccessfully avoid several tree branches that were dangling over the river bank. (It was about this time as I was being whacked in the face with tree branches that I remembered why I’m not an outdoorsy person.)
Surprise, surprise. Canoeing turned out to be a lot harder than a cartoon character made it look in the movies. One thing was for sure, you didn’t know what was waiting just around the riverbend. Sometimes there was an easy stretch of water where we didn’t have to paddle as hard, and we could enjoy the scenery. Then the next thing you knew, you were trying to keep the canoe from tipping over in the wake of a passing jet ski.
Looking back on that day, I realize how much life is like trying to maneuver a canoe down the river. There are times when life is easy and you can just enjoy the ride. However, there are also the days when something you weren’t expecting rocks your boat, and you find yourself just trying to stay afloat. In those moments, I was thankful that I wasn’t the only one in the canoe. Even though there were times when my friend may have wanted to push me out of the canoe (something about not paddling hard enough), I was thankful to have her experience to guide us out of those rougher waters.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life over the last few years, it’s the importance of having a community to support and guide you through those rougher waters. When I graduated from college seven years ago, I expected my future would be smooth sailing down a straight path. What I didn’t expect was seven summers of job searching, multiple temporary teaching positions, and being turned down too many times to count for various positions. It was a rough ride with many twists and turns, but throughout it all I had the support of family, friends, and coworkers. They listened when I needed to vent my frustrations, encouraged me to keep going when I wanted to quit, and prayed that God would lead me to the right job. Just like my canoe trip down the river, my path to finding a teaching job wasn’t an easy journey, but I never felt like I was navigating through it alone and that made all the difference.
So maybe canoeing wasn’t quite as easy as Pocahontas made it look in the movie, but she was knew what she was talking about when she said that the water’s always changing, always flowing. Life is the same way; always changing, always flowing. So when life has you turned around paddling up stream or smacks you in the face with another unexpected obstacle, lean in to those around you for the guidance and support you need to keep going. It’s so much easier to navigate those rough waters when you know that you have someone who will see you through whatever is waiting just around the river bend.