Dr. Marry and Me,  Personal Writing

All journeys begin with a path

Turns out I have a thing for paths. Be they paved, cobbled, grassy or gravel, I like taking them. This morning I discovered I clearly like photographing them, too.

I’m rebuilding my website with my designer, and we were looking at a rough draft she created recently. There was a section on the homepage with a bird’s-eye view of a computer drawn maze underneath the language. I had an instant negative reaction to it; it felt way too plastic-y and soulless. The premise of the image, which I like, reminded me of the maze at Hampton Court Palace where I was quite certain Dr Marry and I might not get out. I suggested a more organic, human- and nature-designed image to better resonate with the work I do and said I’d see if I had any photos to use.

Hampton Court Palace maze, England

I didn’t have to search too hard. After eight images, I stopped sending because I feared she’d think I’d lost my mind. I’m sharing them (and just a few more!) because they beautifully represent the way I think about life and the value of doing Personal Systems Disruption work.

Maybe you’re in love with where you are right this minute–everything is working; you’ve found balance and harmony. You’re content to plant yourself and stay right here. But guess what, you can’t stay standing still, even in a place you love. Take a moment to be filled with gratitude and soak it all in so you can recall it when the path isn’t quite so glorious. The only true “rule” to life is you have to keep moving, whether you like it or not, because time keeps ticking, and the ultimate path is decidedly one way.

Keighley, England, the village where the Bronte sisters lived

Your path might appear to be one long, well-maintained road right now—seemingly smooth sailing, perhaps even a bit mundane in its sameness. You might assume it’ll always be this way, but you can’t see what’s beyond the next slight bend. There aren’t big decisions to make on this portion of path, but you’re definitely moving toward the unknown, even if only slightly. This part of the path is pretty indicative of the great majority of our lives, if we’re fortunate.

Door County, Wisconsin
Outside Burnham, England

Sometimes there are moments of firm decisiveness required of you in life: take this job, leave that relationship, move to this location, marry that person. You stand at the point where you have to go left or right; straight is no longer an option. What if both decisions are seemingly equal? How in the world do you choose? Sometimes the answer is “win-win.” Sometimes it’s “lose-lose.” But typically, if you really reflect, you have an instinct about which way to go; you just need to get quiet and honest with yourself. And then you need to trust your instinct and move purposefully towards it.

Rural farm roads, North Dakota

It can be hard to appreciate your actual present path. You’re on your path but longing for the parallel one that appears so much more beautiful or adventurous (other people’s lives on social media, anyone?). Or what about the path that veers off completely from the main artery and leads to…who knows where? The great unknown is what makes it so appealing. When your current life feels utterly predictable (or worse), everybody’s path looks infinitely better than yours. But it’s important to remember you usually can’t see their sharp bends, u-turns or dead ends because you’re not on their path, and they are presenting the highlight reel, their “best of.” And guess what? Mostly, so are you. It’s easy to discount that others might be looking at your path with the same longing.

Hampton Court Palace grounds
Chawton, England (Jane Austen’s brother’s estate)
Magdalen College, Oxford England
Jardin Botanique, Montreal, Canada
Chawton house
Hampton Court Palace grounds

There are times when the path looks pretty rough and worn out—its glory days are long gone. You find yourself reminiscing about the times when things were much better, the path was smoother and you were in a very different place on the journey—you know, the times that, when you were in them, were ho-hum, maybe even (painfully) predictable. This is when it’s valuable to have taken good stock of the incredibly happy times so you can recall them now.

It’s also valuable to remember, however, that these are the parts of the journey where you discover your deepest, strongest self. This is also where your truest people show up to travel beside you. But you have to let them in on the journey in the first place and trust that they’ll walk it with you.

Tullyallen, Co Louth, Ireland

Maybe the solid path has been taken out right from under you and you’ve lost all your firm footing. We can’t walk on water, so it’s time for plan B…or C, D, E… In those moments, reach out and find a boat to climb into. As my stepdad used to say, “You can’t get anywhere standing on the shoreline.

Killarney National Park, Ireland
Norwich, England

And if there’s no boat, look around for a bridge. That might be a person, a support group, a podcast, a journal, exercise, etc. Anything (besides something that could lead to an addiction) that’ll help you cross the immediate impediment keeping you from moving forward.

Cambridge, England

Regardless what part of the path you’re currently on, there are likely to be highs and lows. Sometimes the path is crowded with friends and family; sometimes you’re taking an incredibly solitary journey. With the exception of those truly horrific paths most of us will luckily never traverse, there are blessings to each piece of the journey. Your job is to be present, take stock, have gratitude, learn the lessons and keep on moving.

And if you’re ready to jump to a different path or have a big decision to make, doing some Personal Systems Disruption work might be just the thing you need to bring clarity and map the next journey.

A follow up video conversation continuing the path metaphor.

Dayna is a Personal Systems Disruptor. What's that, you ask? As the world's first PSD, Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams--today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


  • Pagyn Harding

    I enjoyed your latest personal writing about giving your networking chat over a glass of champagne. Very clever. It reminded me of my younger self … when I was trying to market myself as a freelance writer a long time ago. I no longer write for a living. These days, I write because that’s how I make sense of the world.

    • Dayna Del Val

      Thanks Pagyn! I appreciate you reading and commenting. I write because it’s how I make sense of the world, too, but I also hope to make money from it. That’s asking a lot from my poor little words, but we can all dream, can’t we? Be well!

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