I had a dream where I was walking through a forest blanketed by a thick fog. As I looked around, there were brief breaks in the mist where the light could get through, but they only ever lasted a moment. For the most part, it was murky and dark, mysterious and uncertain.
I could see directly in front of me. I had a clear sense of being on a path that was leading somewhere. But I had no idea where. With every step, just enough came into view to let me take another step, and another, and another.
I kept marching through the woods, onward and onward. Just as I crept upon another open of lighting, believing that I'd finally come up out from the fog to my destination, it would close back in on me and I'd descend back down into darkness once.
Part of me was frustrated. I wasn't walking in circles, but there was no tangible sense of progress. It all looked the same. There was no “pay off” for my progress. No new view. No 5 mile marker to let me know how far I'd come. It was just the diligent work of one step in front of the other, and another, and another, trusting that at some point I'd get to my destination (which to be honest, wasn't totally clear to me either).
But as I woke up from the dream, I wasn't frustrated at all. In fact, I felt a sense of relief, calmness, and clarity.
I could see the fog as a metaphor for our paths of growth and change, both as individuals and as humanity as a whole. Often, progress is something we must have faith in. There aren't always tangible signs of progress to keep us going. Often, the exact destination isn't clear. But we are often able to sense whether a step is a step forward or a step back intuitively. We feel our way around and we keep moving forward.
Perhaps this is cold comfort. It's completely possible that we are fools walking further and further in the wrong direction, trusting in something that will never come.
But the dream also helped me see that whether or not we can see change, see progress, see our destination, does not necessarily have any bearing on whether we are actually making meaningful progress. We also could be just minutes away from where we are headed without even realizing it.
As change agents, half the battle is trusting the process, having the courage to be hopeful, and to just keep going.