I’m relatively sure at this point in my 32 years of life that the most uncomfortable place you can possibly be is any time in life you find yourself feeling stuck. Trapped. Stalled.
Last night, while having dinner with friend B, she shared with me how she feels stuck right now, aware that the life she has does not match the life she imagines, the life she wants, but doesn’t seem to see a clear path to achieve it. Boy, do I remember what that feels like. In fact, it has been revisiting me lately as well. It is such a shitty, soul-sucking feeling. So helpless, so powerless to manifest what you want for yourself. When you don’t know what to do, you choose to do nothing, and before you know it, years of your life will have passed that have very little joy or risk or memory in them.
The job I recently started has proven to be a severe disappointment, but the reasons for that are complex. It’s true that there are aspects of job and the company that don’t match my expectations and values. I find myself frustrated when I see responsibility not being taken, or corners being cut, or even just accepting “good enough”. But this can be found in nearly any company, even really great ones. Companies employ humans, and humans are imperfect. No one expects a flawless environment.
But on an even deeper level, I’ve found that rejoining the “work force” – that is, the 9 to 5 office crowd, I mean – I have re-encountered NOISE, and I do not like it. I’m talking about emotional noise, psychological noise. The noise that keeps me from thinking on meaningful things, having meaningful conversations, making meaningful choices. Instead, I find that after spending 2 hours commuting and 9 hours working each day, I have very little to show for my time that will matter at the end of my life. I look back on the day’s contents and I see rush, gossip, competition, judgement, insecurity, and exhaustion. Thanks to the hollow distractions of a busy work day, I spend hardly any time conversing with God, other than the commute (when not hurling obscenities at the cars around me), which I found I can do seamlessly throughout the day in other work, such as on the farm or dogwalking. But with this setting, I come home heavy and numb, with only three or four hours left for any “life.”
I say all this not to solicit pity or sympathy. I say this to say to you what I’ve been finding the words to say to myself, after my first couple months of work, in which I’ve daily felt that sense of “trapped” that B was talking about: I WAS WOKEN UP FOR MORE THAN THIS. I didn’t go on the epic journey of rebuilding myself just so I could go back to work a little nicer and a little happier. I shook the snowglobe of my life and all my values and priorities landed differently. Somehow I really thought that I would merge myself back into “normal” life after traversing the open plains of the wild west and my wild heart. False.
So was taking the job a mistake? Actually, I don’t think so. There is NOTHING wrong with having a structured job, or even working at the company I’m currently with, except that it’s not right for the ME I am now. I had to see for myself that all this wasn’t just for time to refresh and then return. I had to tangibly experience the disappointment of it failing to fit me anymore. I had to see that, for my story, I have to stay outside of what is safe and structured in order to maintain my growth and be available to more of it, which requires my time and energy and creativity and bravery. I’ve always been afraid to strike out on my own, professionally, but now I know it is absolutely what I have to do, because I have to structure my work around my LIFE…somehow.
Getting unstuck is always the result of two things: changing your attitude and changing your situation, but one doesn’t consistently come before the other. Sometimes it works from inside out, other times from outside in. I’ve now experienced both and I like that it keeps me guessing.
To anyone feeling stuck, and to you, B, I echo back all the bits of advice that were given to me this year, when I didn’t know what to do about my intense unhappiness and lack of fulfillment in my life and was so afraid to make the wrong choices.
– Lean in to what you love and what makes you happy, even if it’s silly, and doors will open. I wrote down in my journal that I missed gardening and months later I was adopted wholeheartedly by a family with a farm that’s been my heaven on earth, and the exposure to their lifestyle has joyfully cemented in me the realization that THAT is the future I want to work towards.
– Choose something, ANYTHING, that is true to yourself, and act on it. There isn’t anything as destructive to a potentially good life than the choice to do nothing at all in the absence of certainty. Start small if you must, but go big if you can. Even time you leap, even off a little hill rather than a mountain, it makes you stronger and more fearless.
– Accept grace. You won’t have it all figured out, and you will need help from others. Learning to accept the generosity and investment of others changes the game completely.
– Let go of pride and insecurity. No quote was more powerful to me than this in 2014: “People are going to judge you anyway, so you might as well be yourself.” Am I worried that a year from now, or whenever I choose to move on from this job, the people in my industry are going to think I failed or gave up or am a completely irresponsible bum? Sure. For about a second, and then I remember how gloriously amazing and happy my life has been since I found a way to step over that pothole. People may holler that you are making the most irrational, selfish, immature decisions, but check your heart with God, and if He green-lights you, do it anyway.