I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about my future.
Actually, that statement simply put makes it seem like the process is graceful and poetic, as if I was sitting near a windowsill with a hot cup of tea and staring out into a kind world. Rather, it’s more that I am panicked on the inside, constantly hashing out possibilities, frantically seeking one that seems to fit, even if snuggly and disproportionally.
We all think about our futures and wonder what is next; it’s a common process of growing and evolving through life. We all want to chart a path that seems strapped to our destiny, but also feels within our capabilities. For me, the digging to find that roadway has become an obsession.
It started about six months ago at a staff retreat for work when we were asked to consider our goals, not only for our roles at the agency but for life. My goals didn’t readily pop onto the paper, and shame tugged at me as all I could think was, “I don’t know.” I wanted to know though, and so I let the ideas simmer for a few months while I had conversations with colleagues and friends. I had hoped that one day the magical goal – the one I know that deep down I should be fulfilling – would appear and then I would have all the courage and knowledge to chase it.
In the last few months, I’ve ramped up the search for my calling. While I am not on any grand timeline, my job comes with an expiration date (an agency-wide term limit that is applicable to all employees). Even though I am still far from the predicted end date, I still have this nervous feat that I should figure out my life sooner rather than later. It’s come to a point that on days I think about it too much, I make myself sick with nausea and headaches.
But as I ask people their goals and ambitions, no matter where they are in life, I’ve come to understand two things.
No one can predict the future. Even the most successful people couldn’t have anticipated where all their hard work and drive would have led them. Most people have ideas and ambitions, but very few can pick out specific paths they want their lives to go and then follow them exactly. Instead, our lives move in waves and sometimes we find ourselves on shores that we could have never anticipated. Those unexpected ventures are sometimes moments and sometimes they are part of a redirection. And only long after the tide has gone in can we see how it all made sense.
Most people I know do not have it figured it out. We are not alone in our confusion, and even in the stress about confusion. Most of the people I talked to made decisions not full heartedly but with just the right amount of fire in their heart and faith in themselves to leap at something that feels a bit different than the other options.
The second thing I’ve realized is wasn’t really something someone told me rather a reflection in my life, a simple matter of history. I will be OK. I have always been OK. When I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t see the future and the ambiguity shook my entire core with fear, I struggled a bit but then my world solidified and calmed down. Because everything eventually worked out, I have no reason now, or in the future, not believe otherwise. Faith in yourself and that idea of being OK is really the only answer to fear. Even if I fail and take a leap that seems shattering, I get to learn and then try again knowing more than I did before.
Those two realizations all added up to an audacious thought: let it be. Let the ambiguity and uncertainty be. Do what I can right now, but appreciate each insight for what it is and then take another step tomorrow. Let all the moments add up to the thing inside of you that is just waiting for it’s grand reveal in the most spectacular of timing.
It will come and when it does, looking back, it will make sense. It may take time and missteps, but if I keep searching for the OK it will eventually appear. For now, though, my heart doesn’t need the stains of anxiety and fear because only when I plant in love I will grow in it. That means allowing myself to be right now and trust that when it comes time to make the move and say the word I will know exactly what to do. Till then, I keep listening and growing.