Ciara – The wanderer
There are many things that collectively scare us all. Making big life changes like moving house, going to university and the more unfortunate events like having an accident all are pretty scary but Ciara, in my eyes, has not only mastered these but she has written the manuals. Her story fell upon my doorstep – so to speak – and I find her determination refreshing and her adaptability uplifting. This is her story.
Her quote comes from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lords of the Rings” which she stumbled across a few years ago. In context of the book, we believe it was right before one of them started their adventure but we might be wrong. So don’t quote us on that (pun definitely intended there).
Ciara went on to tell me that she feels this quote fits pretty well into her life. She purposes an alternative design to society’s stereotype of how an individual’s life should pan out without the whiff of superiority. She merely highlights that your life is your life and you must deal with the hand given to you however you see fit to do so.
“I have moved over 14 times with most of those being with my parents but since I moved out at 18 I have moved 4 times Most of the moves were small maybe from one apartment to the next in the same area. Although, I did move from Illinois to Houston and back again. If I break it down it would end up being 8 different towns/cities. The last four were the only ones I’ve had control of. Meaning it wasn’t because of a parent moving when I was younger than 18. It’s not my favorite thing to do, the actual moving furniture and things that is. Changing apartments and towns isn’t that bad though. New scenery and I kept my friends for the most part. The quote works for me because ever since I moved out on my own after staying in one spot for a year or more I’m ready to pack up and start over somewhere new. I don’t feel like I’m lost or need a permanent home. I just like going places and seeing new things. I don’t want to be the person that lives in the same town that they grew up in, has the house with the white picket fence, the dog, the two kids, the husband, and the same career their entire life. I want to live and travel and see the world. Even if that means I might wander like I’m lost without anyone else there, permanently with me.”
The dictionary definition stated that to wander is to walk or move in a casual or aimless way. An alternative figurative definition stated that to wander is to move slowly away from a fixed point or place. Throughout our conversation, Ciara consistently used the word “wander” and her life experiences are reflective of such a definition. Her ability to consistently accommodate herself to dépaysement is beyond any obligation. The silver lining of her previous experiences appears to help carve her journey moving forward.
“I think the plus side to moving is that you don’t get complacent in the same place that you’ve been for ages. When you move somewhere new you always want to get out and explore everything around you. When you’ve been living some where for a long time you usually either go to the same places over and over or don’t even want to go out because you’ve seen it all.”
The more we talk, I half expect her to say to me “I just look up and want to get lost within the stars” or “I feel most like me when I am lost in the right direction”. Her life has taken a series of turns that were both unexpected but fatal to her new becoming. Walt Whitman – “these are the days that must happen to you”. Her rough patches have been the making of her and her morals. Without them, Ciara simply would not be the girl typing to me. Yes, these have challenged her but in no way have these ruined her or cast dark clouds into her skies permanently. She speaks sincerely of her rough patches with distinct understanding of their impact on her. However, there is not a scent of arrogance or vainglory here, she is bona fida and authentic in her self-discovery.
“I do try to make my life my own and not follow the conventional thought process of what we all should do with our lives. But, I wouldn’t say that I have taken everything that has happened to me in stride. There have been some pretty rough patches that I’ve been through such as my car accident and family/personal issues that I did not take in stride at all. But, I’ve realized you can’t change the things that have happened to you and you can’t change the people in your life. The only thing you can change is your present and future. I wouldn’t be me without the things that I have gone through. Even though sometimes I think I would have been better off without going through them haha”
She is humble with the path she has walked and audacious with the direction on her future footprints.
“I have a bachelor degree in special education. I feel that the degree alone is enough to give me the opportunity to help people. It’s the way that I use it that will decide if I can help people and achieve all of the goals/dreams I have in life. I mean right now I am going to be joining the Peace Corps which is allowing me to use my degree to help someone and I am going to be able to travel at the same time. The Peace Corps is also an opportunity for me to wander while I am overseas. It has always been what I want to do with my life since I was younger. There are different opportunities for me to use it. I just have to figure out how I am going to be able to use it and travel to see the world at the same time. If all else fails I can always get a teaching job and then during the summer months blow my paychecks on traveling.”
A force of hand by the Peace Corps has lead to a reported “failed attempt” to living a minimalist lifestyle. Her post (Becoming a minimalist) highlights that minimalism isn’t the lack of things but the appreciation of beloved things which is a matter of quality and not quantity. From what I know of Ciara, she finds her best connection amongst the rustling of tree and in-between rows in a canoe.
“I have always been into nature and walking. I grew up in a very rural environment. There wasn’t much for us to do unless we drove 45 minutes to the closest big town that had movie theaters and malls. I grew up as an only child for the first 9 years of my life and my father and ex-stepdad both took me out into the woods to do various activities. As I got older I started wandering around the woods at my grandparents farm. Then as I got even older I started driving to different places I could find. There’s one place that I would just go start hiking through the woods not on a trail. I found old cars with trees growing into them and cool trees to relax in. It has always just been something I like to do and then as I got older photography got more involved into that. So now if I’m going to go hiking or something I probably have a camera along with me.”
I curiously asked her for her favourite location to date and instantly, wanted to book my flight and walk that path with her. I wanted to see what she saw and take her trail for a while.
“My favorite location to date that I’ve lived in would be Carbondale, IL. There’s a ton of places to hike and relax outside plus most people are pretty chillax there. But my favorite place I’ve been so far would probably have to be Nashville. I went and saw some bands play that I have records of at a little bar with some friends. We drank beer out of mason jars, heard good music, walked around and found other little bars, and basically just explored.”
As I am reading this, I suddenly stop and realise ‘Wow! This woman is 25. What a life she has led. Wandering runs in her veins.” I can tell that she does not feel that there is much content or inspiration within the years that she has graced this world but then we are all prisoners of our own self-doubt. It is much easier to believe in negativity as we live in a society that profits from one’s self-doubt and emphasised the weaknesses within each of us. We pondered about her ideal life and what that would look like. Without a shadow of doubt, I knew the resonating theme would be wanderlust.
“My ideal life…. that’s kind of a hard one. I mean I really would like to travel the world, as I’m sure everyone else does but the difference is I want to use my degree and/or make a difference even if it’s a small one. That’s why I went into special education and joined the Peace Corps. I’m getting my start of what I want to do in life with the Peace Corps. After that’s over well… I want to go hike the Pacific Coast Trail or Appalachian Trail. Just to take some time for myself. Realistically though I’ll probably stay overseas, travel for a month or two, come home, find a job, and then hike one of the trails the next summer.”
Ciara and her story have taught me two things; 1) dream bigger and 2) being lost is not a problem. To dream is to imagine the possibilities when you devote your heart and hard work to something. For when you truly commit, dreams come true. Ciara has dreamed about helping others through her travels whilst experiencing as much of this world as she possible can for a long time. She has learnt lessons from the curve balls that life has thrown at her and has lent on mother nature to guide her through darkness. She is not afraid of her dreams nor does she try to cage them. I believe, as I am sure Ciara does, that no one should be tamed and that every individual already possesses the power of change. That there is a distinct difference between people we know. Some don’t try to change their present and future to get what they want out of life. Some are just complacent with dreaming about their life changing and don’t actually try to change it. Maybe that is due to fear or the uncertainties of failure. Whilst others, like Ciara and myself (if I can be so bold), know the risks of falling, but take the purge anyways.
The second lesson, being lost is not a problem, is a realisation, on my behalf, that being lost is a stage of discovering purpose. Sometimes it is important to get lost or to loss something in order to progress. Accidents have a way of holding onto you like the “Jaws of Life” requiring hidden strength to break free. However, this can be done if you search deep enough inside yourself. When Ciara lost her fear and self-conscious, she gained her whole life. Her whispers echoed off the canal walls where she found peace and shone a light into her blackness. And slowly but surely, she waded through the depths and brought herself back into the light.
In relation to her ikigai, I believe Ciara has found her reason for being within her fernweh. It’s a German word representing an ache for distance places or the craving for travel. She is most alive amongst the trees and finds the fresh air most welcoming. Her eleutheromania does not come in half measures and her love for nature has been a kind of storge love. Her affectionate love has slowly developed over time from a growing friendship dating back to her childhood and is based on familiarity. She takes from nature as much as gives back. She is truly an inspiration.
So that’s it, my first Sunday Story done. Thank you to Ciara for sharing her story with me, it has been sincerely eye-opening. I hope you have enjoyed reading and please leave your comments, questions and thoughts below. Ciara’s blog can be found here: Ciara’s Life Adventures
If you want to get in touch privately, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise if you want to be a Sunday story, please write to me.
Until next Sunday,