Sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street?
Come and play
Friendly neighbours there
That’s where we meet….”
Ever felt like you needed a dose of Sesame Street? I didn’t, but then I did. You know how a realisation can sneak up on you and bonk you over the head and suddenly you find yourself in the awkward position of needing to attend to things urgently? I seem particularly prone to this method of discovering my next move in life.
It was around this time last year that I took off on an extended adventure to the Byron Bay region of Northern NSW with my children and I discovered a love for the vacation – that is vacating my life and setting up elsewhere for a while. I experienced such joy and pleasure and made a mental note not to wait until desperate overload set in before considering the next break. So the theory was in place but for one good reason after another the planning got relegated to the ‘next-week’ basket a few too many times.
So whilst the intention was sitting alone in the dark a light went off somewhere else and illuminated the next step clearly. I needed to create a gap, and by this I don’t mean clearing the schedule for space to get away. I mean a big enough hole (and this would look different for each of us) where you are dangling a bit. Where there is enough distance between the known and the unknown to be able to discover a thing or two. Part new and exciting, part unknown and a bit frightening but a road to discovery either way.
Enter stage left Sesame Street. A childhood fantasy of Brownstone buildings with friendly people sitting around on the stoop, 70’s adventure playgrounds, ethnic diversity and the letter ‘N’. Destination…..New York.
It was a frenzy of organising passports, desperately trying to find accommodation during peak season at a moments notice ( without too much explaining we did spend the first night in our rather expensive hotel room sleeping top and tail in one king size bed), compiling a running list of itinerary suggestions which were enthusiastically offered by people from all corners of our life, fending off naysayers who thought I had left my run a bit short, trying to tie up some loose ends and then the enviable task of telling my children that in just over a week we would be travelling to the other side of the world. Priceless.
The big hole was born and we dived in just as we were.
As we explored what felt like a stage set from my childhood I came to see something I could only really understand by experiencing it first – what it takes to feel fully alive.
This advertisement, photographed from The Highline in Chelsea, articulates my findings so beautifully. We can’t live a big, full life from the confines of a box. Like a bonsai plant, our lives may have all of its features and external aesthetics intact but what is lacking is a sense of fullness.
The joy of the big hole I refer to is similar to putting a small plant into a bigger pot and leaving it do its thing. Its roots will reach deeper and spread to fill it and its branches will reach further. The initial uncertainty is all part of the aliveness. Making quick decisions, thinking fast on your feet, having to hustle, watching your back – it all keeps you in the moment, keeps you alert and this, I realise, is where the pulsating sense of aliveness comes from.
When we spend most of our time unconsciously going through life’s motions and we are only minimally challenged to discover new pathways, excitement and anticipation dies. Being a little bit uncomfortable and dangling in a space big enough for the edges to be out of reach has taught me how to experience a life rich with possibility and choice and freedom, and I feel expanded as a result.
New York is truly fantastic and inspiring and I have much more to share about my time there, but in some ways the destination is only the scaffolding for the experience. You don’t need a lot of money or time (or preparation as it turns out), just a willingness to step outside your own thimble.
And that’s how you get to Sesame Street.
I have returned invigorated and excited by possibility and my only wish is to share it. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.
How have you stretched the boundaries in your own life? What have you discovered? What did it take to get there? What changed as a result?