• Eric "Aspen" Marley

A Road Trip With Destiny: What To Do When the Illusion Appears

Well… I’m still here.

That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, least of all myself. I’ve been through/ put myself through / put others through / a lot. But here’s what happened before I left.

I was broke. Frankly, I haven’t had a real paycheck this whole year. It’s all been piecing this or that together; odd jobs, grocery delivery, etc. As I was packing my things, I found that I was going to have to fit all I had into one pickup load. That was humbling enough.

But even worse was the fact that I had no money for dump fees. I was so broke that I couldn’t afford to throw away garbage! So, I stashed it all here and there in unguarded commercial dumpsters. That’s not easy to admit, and it’s not too cool, ethically speaking. But just as bad, I was two months behind on rent and hadn’t made a truck payment for 4 months. Like I said, I was broke.

But I was also committed. So, what happens when we commit to a big dream - as soon as we determine that we are making the leap? I’ll tell you what happened to me. See if this sounds familiar in your own experience.

The weekend before I started packing (but after I had let everyone know I was definitely making the move) I got a voicemail from an HVAC company in Portland. Late 2019, when I was still an employee, but definitely disgruntled, I had put out some resumes. The company that called me just before I started packing was the one at the very top of my list. Now, it turned out they needed an HVAC salesman. Would I like to come in for a formal interview? I knew from plenty of experience in the industry that the job would pay around $100k.

There were all kinds of reasons to be excited about this.

First off, as I described above, all I had was a few hundred dollars to my name. Plus, I had no credit. And no way to get any. (We could talk about why someone like me, with a top-notch education and some decent talent, was in that situation. Another time would be better.) It costs around $65 in gas to even get to the property I was moving to from my cabin, which amounted to about 10% of my total resources. Moreover, the cabin I was leaving is one of my favorite places I’ve ever lived, and I had no reliable work in near the property where I was moving in order to pursue my dream. Plus, the property itself is full-on wilderness. I had minimal food, and only a tent for shelter. Since I wasn’t making payments, at some point the truck financier would probably want their truck back. My phone might be next, which is, of course, my only communication with the outside world. Plus, I’m still paying on the property itself.

So, do I want to interview with this awesome company? What kind of an idiot wouldn’t?

Well… this kind. I had to think about it, first. Why? Because I had seen this situation before. And when I had, I had hung up my dream and chased the short-term opportunity. Have you ever done that?

Maybe, after all, this job opportunity was Creator was telling me that it’s cool to just stay at the cabin for a while longer. Get caught up financially? Pay for the property, and line up some way of bringing in some income before I move there?

You know… be responsible?

The problem was the dream, my vision. I’ve had this for many years. If not now, when? Besides, this happens every time I make an attempt to pursue it. Every. Time.

A quick aside: when I was young, I would sometimes get fevers and hallucinate. Usually, it was mom appearing in the doorway in the middle of the night to check on me. I would call out, “Mom?” And she would disappear. The last time that happened to me, I was about 11-12 years old. I had seen this happen enough that, seeing her there one sleepless, feverish night, I called out in a mocking tone, “Mom.”

She disappeared, as expected. It never happened again.

This interview, if I were to take it, would be like that. The potential job wasn’t the real thing any more than it was really my mom standing in the doorway.

The point is that when we commit to our dreams, an illusion will absolutely appear at the crux moment. We can count on it. Joseph Campbell wrote about this idea, and that it’s a dramatic component in many ancient, beloved tales.

It’s Gollem guarding the ring of power in “The Hobbit.”

It’s the evil toad in the tree in “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

In indigenous ceremony, it’s the ordeal itself that will teach us the code we need in order to proceed, or Iktomi the Trickster himself who possesses the key to our advancement. However the Illusion appears, we have to see it for what it is. And if there is anything to be gleaned from the encounter, we must embody that lesson or risk missing our destiny.

I only know this because it’s been happening to me consistently for about eight years, now. I’ve been tempted away from my vision over, and over, and over, for at least that long. The key is the release of the idea of control – that we control anything. I wouldn’t say it’s the giving over of the steering wheel entirely. It feels more like a road trip with Destiny, and the map appears on the windshield as we drive. The map may look nonsensical. Instructions may appear out of nowhere and be required immediately. Friends and acquaintances may wonder what in the world you’re up to. It's all part of the path of following the heart.

As I consider this process and what it’s looked like for me, I’ve known that my vision is possible - but the way was unknown. This unknown is like the fevers I experienced as a boy. Note that even though I was feverish, I believed that my body would heal at some point. This belief is analogous to belief in my vision. But with a fever, like big changes, so little seems certain, and the mind can play tricks on us. This is when the illusion always appears; when we are weak and want help. Over the past eight years I’ve been calling out “mom” in all sincerity. I’ve always gone to the interview. I’d get the job in the nick of time, stave off financial ruin, and keep the status quo. While my vision was placed on yet another hold.

This time, however, I laughed at the offer for an interview. I didn’t even respond to it for several days. Not to be rude or unprofessional to the fine man who was contacting me, but more as a thumb-to-the-nose of the fact of the illusion in front of me. I eventually sent back a text. “I moved to California. Thank you very much for your interest. It would have been great to work with you.”

He never responded. But then, illusions seldom do.

Two days ago, without even asking for it or knowing it was a possibility, I got offered a gig that will give me enough money to live on comfortably for several months. It aligns with my vision for the land upon which I am currently camped in a series of tents and shelters. I won’t have to leave the land in order to pursue it. I couldn’t even imagine this opportunity before I left. I’ll be able to make my truck payments. I’ll be able to make my phone payment. It’s not “stupid money,” but it’s enough for now. And as I mentioned, it happened totally out of the blue. By staying in the game, by refusing to chase the illusion, a way has been created for me to make it happen. I think it’s like this for everyone with a dream. Including you.

So, yes, I’m still here. Better yet, I’m wiser than before because I know from experience that the key to the door is faith in the process. Attractive options are going to appear when we commit to our dreams. This is common, so count on it. Furthermore, the illusion will appear to us exactly as we dress it: in the hollow answer to our temporary problems, in the very fears that are most prevalent for us. The most persistent. The most nefarious. The most present.

When it comes to these obstacles to our grandest visions, it’s true that the last hurdle leads to a field of shiny brand-new ones. We’re always going to be required to grow. There is no escalator to the kind of success that is worthy of our souls. So, more learning opportunities will be forthcoming, guaranteed. But the door to those opportunities is the recognition of the Illusion and having the courage to call out, in a slightly mocking tone:


(artist unknown)

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