January is named for the Roman god Janus, god of beginnings and transitions. He is always depicted with two faces, one looking into the past, the other into the future. Anticipating 2015, I take time to stop along my labyrinthine journey to glance at the past.
Dictionaries often define a maze and a labyrinth in such a way that you conclude that a maze is a labyrinth and a labyrinth is a maze. To qualify as a maze, however, a design must have choices in the pathway. Labyrinths have but one pathway that leads inexorably from the entrance to the goal, often by a complex and winding route.
“The true labyrinth has no false pathways or dead ends to confuse those who follow its winding course. Puzzle mazes in gardens … are all multicursal – many pathed – to entice and fool the visitor. Instead, the labyrinth consists of a single meandering pathway which leads inexorably from the entrance… to the centre.” ~ Labyrinthos.net
I had been fortunate in 2014 to walk two labyrinths, both after having had top surgery, and it afforded me the chance to ponder what the one labyrinth proclaimed in its center:
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
Had my life been a labyrinth or a maze? There had been times when I thought I had to choose between alternatives, but with hindsight I now know it had been Hobson’s choice.* (I use choice for lack of a better word.)
A careers councellor in high school told me not to pursue any career where I had to work with people or computers. It made sense at the time, as I was (still am) frightfully shy and maths was my weakest subject (at that time working with computers only entailed programming – who remembers BASIC? Is it still being used?)
My post-school choice was to study languages, Afrikaans and Dutch in particular, and to do my honours degree in General Linguistics. But this degree had no career opportunities and in a serendipitous moment I chose to do a post-graduate higher diploma in Library Science, which led to a career of 34 years (and counting) in different kinds of libraries.
My love interest at university was a Maths major and during the time we lived together, she bought a Commodore 64 computer and I was hooked. She booted me from her life (disaster turned fortuitous and pun not intended), but the computer bug had by then already bitten me.
Later, an autocratic manager forced another post-graduate diploma in tertiary education upon me. The carrot dangled in front of my nose, was a regrading to lecturing staff status, which never realized. I was bitter and angry, not being able to see into the future.
Today my career revolves around library computer systems and social media and I lecture to our library staff. And I love working with computers and people. Looking back at the labyrinth of my life so far, I see the need for every turn I had to make, every step I had taken.
I did not venture into 2014 intending on having top surgery at all, but it became an emotional imperative and I took another turn in the complex and winding route, one that I look back on with gratitude.
In 2014 my partner and I also celebrated 25 years together, having met the same year my ex kicked me out of her life.
I don’t know what 2015 will hold, but I do know that I will be walking my unicursal (one way in, one way out) journey with its specific beginning and definite end.
Thank you for walking along through my labyrinth – the 3 people who know my real life persona and who are and had been pillars of strength along the way, and those of you who got to know me during 2014 as Kris. I value your comments and silent companionship. I hope my posts have not only been of value to me, but to some of you as well.
All the best to you for 2015. I will be following you as you stumble and rise to continue your own long and winding journeys, while getting stronger along the way.
*The phrase Hobson’s choice is said to originate with Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England. To rotate the use of his horses, he offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in the stall nearest the door, or taking none at all. (Source: Wikipedia)