Just after the new year, I lost my voice. Not completely. Just enough that a friend commented, “You sound like you’ve been smoking a pack a day for thirty years.” It was, by far, the worst effect of a vicious cold virus that had me shivering and sweating, wrapped in down blankets and sipping tea with honey, for twenty-four hours, before it finally turned Ursula and absconded with my ability to speak.
My voice was still gone by Wednesday, when I met with my fabulous group of maker friends. We’d decided to spend the morning talking about our goals and intentions for 2019, but arrived at our usual meeting spot to find it closed for renovations. Instead, we decamped to a cozy old town café…with a very LOUD cappuccino maker. My poor, husky, smoker voice couldn’t compete.
So, mostly, I listened. And, as I listened, a theory started to form.
Highways and Alleyways
For those of us in creative businesses, there are two distinct types of years--highway years and alleyway years.
Some years are highways. Highway years aren’t necessarily all smooth-sailing, but they’re generally straight runs. During highway years, you know right where you’re going and it’s more or less a straight line from where you are. Your surroundings may change as you approach your destination, you may find yourself needing to stop for gas and snacks to fortify you on your journey, you might even need a little nudge from your GPS to say, “In two miles…remain on the current road,” but in general, highway years are meant for buckling down, setting the cruise control, and driving.
Alleyway years are different experiences entirely. During alleyway years, the GPS directions are more like, “In 0.1 miles, take a slight left on unnamed road, then turn right and continue straight for 0.2 miles and take a sharp left…” and on and on. Alleyway years are full of twists and turns, and the destination you programmed in January may not even turn out to be where you end up in December. You may find yourself lost in a maze of unnamed streets, or spending an hour in a cute little shop that wasn’t anywhere on your itinerary. Alleyway years are for accepting the winding path and enjoying the exploration.
There are ups and downs to both types of years—highway years can feel boring and alleyway years can be frustrating—but I firmly believe that we need both to stay on the right path, and recognizing the nature of the road ahead can help us get the most out of the journey.