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  • Writer's pictureWill

i will burn that bridge when i get to it

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Photo: I took this picture, put my pack down and crossed it, the oldest (unreconstructed) bridge on the Camino. It stands unused, about 30m to the side of the modern route.

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago.

I think bridges are fantastic, you probably don't but that's okay.

For most people, a bridge is an extension of the road, a part of their journey not worthy of notice. Which is a shame, like a meal counted only as calories, a bridge is more than concrete and steel. A bridge is in fact magic. A place between places, an inter-dimensional limbo. The moment you step on to it, the path behind is in the past, and the other side is the future and it abounds with possibilities.

I had always believed “I was never in the driver’s seat of my own life”[1]

Leave school, get a job, meet a girl, get married, get a house, watch tv, mow the lawn, buy a microwave, get children, grow old, care home, dribble into my pyjamas, and hope to die in my sleep. My boring, predictably conventional life was pre-ordained, cradle to grave, and there was nothing I could do about it. My future epitaph terrified me.

After nearly freezing to death in the Pyrenees, in the third week of my Camino, I had, for the first time in my life, an honest conversation with myself. It was brutal. Similar to the first words you hear in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, “my name is William and I am a coward”. All my life I had maintained this daring-do, crazy “two-finger to the world” fiction. In truth, I wasn’t the hero or a rebel or a risk taker, I was the real-life walking talking Zeke[2], dangerously morally weak.

When I should have replied “no”, I said “yes”, ever the people pleaser. Well, I pleased the people whose good opinion I craved. When I should have stood up to be counted, I remained seated. I swear, if I had been born decades earlier, I would have been a Nazi concentration camp guard or guard in the Soviet Gulags. If this sounds overly dramatic, then it’s quite possible you have never truly examined your own motives. The line between good and evil goes right through the middle of the heart, yours and mine.

God, it was so liberating, admitting it and speaking it out loud.

I am no psychic but even I could work out what my path looked like on the other side of the Camino. My marriage was over, both my wife (ex-wife) knew it, so, separation and divorce. One of us would be forced to leave to the house, that would be me then. I worked with a Baptist Church; I couldn’t imagine the mess a divorced youth worker would bring. The best thing to do was save them (and me) the anguish, I would resign.

In short, my future was going to be divorce, homelessness and unemployment.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.

Mark Twain

Life, is too short and fragile to plod on out of fear of what other people think. I had no wish to look back at this moment and regret my failure to overcome my fear.


[1] Quote by Bobbi Grey, the mother of Cheryl Strayed, from the book and film Wild. [2] Zeke, the name of the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz.

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