What Forrest Gump taught me about life, and transition

Sep 19, 2017

Let me tell you a little-known story about me.


When I was in my early teens, I watched the movie Forrest Gump.  I watched it just once or twice, maybe, but it left an indelible impression on me.  I chuckle, a little, that a somewhat bizarre movie about a fictional character could impact me in this way, but there we have it.  I watched with sheer awe as Forrest Gump lived what I believe to be the Biggest Life imaginable.  He joined the Army and fought in the war, he played professional table tennis, ran across the country, and fished for shrimp with good ol’ Bubba.

Something in my teenage self knew, deeply, that Forrest’s was a life well lived.  My adult self sees a glimmer of maturity that I didn’t appreciate then:  Forrest Gump didn’t hold advanced degrees or titles or make a lot of money.

He just lived life in a way that was unabashed, unbridled, rich, and deep.


In those formative years, I became singularly focused on living a life like that.  The Biggest Life Possible.  It wasn’t about prestige or accolades, nor about living a simple but fulfilling life, but something in between.  Something where I said yes to what scared me, yes to the things that felt a little wild, a little weird.  Yes to anything that promised to allow me to fully experience life.  As a young teenager, I embodied this by being up for trying anything.


If I’ve lived my life by any mission at all, it’s this one:  Live the Biggest Life Possible.


And like any good mission statement, these simple words can help me make decisions for my life that feel awake, alive, and emboldened.  These are the words that pushed me out the window of a plane while skydiving.  They’re the words that flickered on the water as I swam from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, the words that rode the wind on the summit of Kilimanjaro.  They’ve swam alongside me on shipwrecks 100 feet under the cold Atlantic Ocean.  They were the words that embraced me as I birthed my children.


And they’re the words that are guiding me now, as I prepare for a massive transition in my life.

After five years of committing to my regular, full time “day job” while building Nalumana, working nearly 80 hour weeks sometimes, I have made the transition into full-time self-employment.  I’ve also taken my kids out of full time daycare (so let’s face it, I’ve actually just traded those 80 hours a week for eleventythousand hours a week).  To make this transition, so that we can be financially comfortable with me working less and for much less money, we’ve made the decision to downsize from our beautiful home in the suburbs to a very small oceanfront bungalow.  We move in a month.

This is where the process of transition gets real, and where I’ve noticed, as an adult, that it becomes more complex.  

I had quit my government job to work for a small non-profit which was more aligned with my values while I continued to build Nalumana.  It was a great place to work.  I’ve often said that if I hadn’t started the process of building this business and giving it the “college try,” I would have stayed there.

I also love the neighbourhood I live in.  My daughter is just getting to that age where her friends from the neighbourhood come over and ask her to play, they tear off down the cul de sac, and return a couple hours later.  Our suburb is the most cliche, cookie cutter neighbourhood there ever was, but we have grown comfortable and made a home here.

And so sometimes I wish I was flipping the bird to a jackass boss and breaking out of a Stepford Wives suburb, but I’m not.

I’m stepping into this amazing dream I’ve had for myself and my family for so long with a hefty amount of sadness.  And with that sadness, there has been the requisite amount of questioning, and fear.

Maybe this is a terrible decision.  Maybe I should have just been happy with working in my secure job.  What if we hate living by the ocean (okay, no, we’re not going to hate that, but being a half hour drive from the city?  Maybe we’ll hate that?).

When these thoughts started to spiral for me a few weeks ago, I thought of Forrest Gump.  I remembered my mission:  to live the Biggest Life Possible.

Right now, for me, living the Biggest Life Possible is jumping into this transition with two feet.  It’s being an entrepreneur and a full-time mama and living by the ocean.  It’s mobilizing more of my personal resources – my time, my money, my emotional and physical availability – into the things that matter most:  my family, travel, adventure, and writing.


By leaping into this tremendously scary life change, I have made the decision to life the Biggest Life Possible, which is, for me, one of the simplest ways to know what feels aligned.


It doesn’t mean I don’t have permission to feel sad, to grieve the loss of my neighbourhood, my house, or my sense of security.  I doesn’t mean I don’t have permission to not enjoy this process of transition sometimes, to second-guess myself or feel afraid.  It doesn’t mean I can’t decide to cut my losses and hightail it back to middle management if it doesn’t work out.

It means that I can feel confident that I’m living in accordance with my values right now.  And, in fact, just knowing this, just knowing that despite all the complex emotions I’m feeling, I’ve made a decision to live the Biggest Life Possible, is like a comforting embrace, a deep, anchoring sense of knowing in the middle of the flux.

I know that when I live my Big Life, I live full-on, full-out, juicy, scary and rich with possibility.

The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes


Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging


Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!