Nearly two weeks ago, I left Chicago behind. I had lived there for 27 years so this was no small move. The sun, the ocean, and the hills of California called me as they’ve been calling me for years. I finally packed up my car and started the journey west.
On my journey, I spent time with family and friends and slowly worked my way west. Last night, I arrived at my destination—Southern California. The journey was an adventure to remember for a lifetime—the chance to see America in a new way—but one moment from my journey stands out: the Continental Divide at Independence Pass. In the US, the continental divide is a geologic feature—a line down the middle of the rockies—where all water on one side of the line flows into the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side it flows into the Pacific Ocean.
Metaphorically, in our lives, a continental divide is the moment where, when you cross it, everything goes in a new direction. We’ve all had these moments—the day you sign the lease on your first apartment, when you cross the threshold of your first job and start making your own money, getting on a knee and asking your love to marry you, saying yes to said question, quitting the job that is sucking your soul, getting on that plane to travel internationally for the first time, starting your own company, signing your name for 30 minutes to own your first home, and the list goes on and on. These are the moments where we have understandable fear but we move ahead anyway. We don’t know exactly what is on the other side but we move forward boldly.
As I approached the continental divide this past week, I noticed that some of its features also seem to coincide with this metaphorical divide.
Starting in Chicago and visiting friends along the way, it took me 2242 miles and 28 hours of driving to get to the continental divide. Chicago doesn’t have any mountains—and it took 16 hours at 80 mph to find them.
Your personal continental divide may be something you search for over several years. Most of my clients report knowing that they want to do something different but simply have no idea what that is. Some let this stop them. Don’t. Keep driving. Keep putting miles on your car. You will find it but I guarantee you will not find it by standing still. Try things. Meet people. Take risks.
It’s not easy to get there
I’ve packed all my possessions into my very economical car (Chevy Cruze Eco). There is one thing you don’t realize in Illinois; fully packed cars have a hard time going up mountains. I could barely maintain the speed limit. The weather has to be perfect too because even in October, a snowstorm in the Rockies could keep me from getting up to 12,000 feet where Independence Pass and the Continental Divide is located. There were plenty of moments as I read sign after sign about the potential dangers of fear—of a pit in my stomach. Could my car make it? Will I have to turn around? What if something goes wrong with my car?
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have to climb a mountain to find their own personal continental divide. There are plenty of moments where we have no idea if we are going to make it. We go anyway. We keep at it. When it’s your own personal continental divide, you have fear but the fear is an indicator that you are on the right track. It doesn’t quite make sense logically but sometimes you just know deep in your gut that you are moving in the right direction—even if you are all the while wanting to puke.
It’s not a place you want to stay
The day I traveled to the top of Independence Pass, it was a beautiful day in Denver just a couple hours away, it was 75 and sunny. Independence Pass at noon had a different story to tell. Windy, 50 degrees, and a sense that the weather could change any moment. In fact, that night brought 10 inches of snow. I can make it across the divide but it is no place to build a home or hang out for any length of time. The nights (even in the summer) can be dangerously cold.
The place of big decisions—of crossing big lines in our lives is not a place to stay. We don’t make these decisions every day and we certainly don’t sit on the fence with these decisions. It’s dangerous up on the top of that mountain and we either move forward or we go back—preferably move forward.
What is your continental divide? Have you started your journey towards it?
One thing I noticed as I took this journey alone—I made sure I had partners along the way. I spent time with over a dozen family and friends. Who are your partners on this journey?
I'd love to hear from you.