On Ambiguity

I have been thinking a lot about ambiguity lately. Not in a philosophic ‘consider the idea way’, but rather, in a staring directly at it kind of way.

4th Wall Shit: The rest of what I am going to say must come with two caveats. The first, is that regardless of what it may sound like after this point, my life is fantastic by all accounts. I have an over abundance of everything I need to live a long happy life. The second, is that while I will speak in generalities, I speak only for my own experiences. There may be others who thrive where I do not, and others still who fundamentally see the world differently, and I fully accept both. However, with that out of the way, let me get back to my point.

I’m currently job hunting. Which feels a bit more like life hunting, as what I’m looking for is my first paid gig in something that has to do with my degree. The first stepping stone as I wade out into my selected field.

I have run an environmental non-profit for nearly three years, my current job includes a variety of environmentally related tasks and I’ve been working on environmentally related projects with a U of T professor for the past year, yet this is my first step. Perhaps everything mentioned prior has given me a running start, allowing me to better reach these first rocks but in the end I’m still on the beach. This is how I’ve come to see almost all unpaid work. Each and every one of us is running back and forth on the beach hoping someone who’s already standing in the water will see us, like us, and help pull us in. This running is the ambiguity which I imagine the title of this blog refers to.

But recently, I’ve come to realize something about the nature of this uncertainty. In small doses, it’s fine, perhaps even fun. It’s the kind of ambiguity you can carry around in your pocket, or perhaps an over-the-shoulder bag if you prefer. It can be taken out, looked at, shown to others, but there’s no need to dwell on it because it doesn’t pose any real harm.  It’s kind of cute actually. Kind of makes what you’re doing feel different. Who knows what lies around the corner right? We’re living life on the edge.

But there is a thing about living on the edge, the fun comes from the sense of the edge, not the reality of it. You know you can always take a step back onto completely solid ground. The danger is not real, so it can be played with. In the past month the ambiguity in my life has outgrown my bag. In fact, it’s outgrown most of everything in my life. It has forced me to stare at it because there is nowhere else to look.

4th Wall shit: I’m about to unapologetically delve into an irritating analogy, filled with over generalizations and overly poetic and dramatic language. So if those are things you hate you probably should stop reading now.

So this is me now. I’m still standing on this edge but now I’m no longer sure where it is. You see, what I realized was that as ambiguity grows it changes its shape. There exists a tipping point where it’s no longer fun, where instead, it’s a creeping black fog, casting a shadow of insecurity and fear to the point where embracing it no longer feels feasible.  What is there to embrace? This mass is far larger than you are, you can hold parts but that does nothing to dissipate the growing blackness.

The edge that used to seem fun is now obscured, any single step could send you off it. So here you stand, staring. Paralysed by an encroaching blackness. This is where I found myself, but I’m starting to get some feeling back in my extremities. During my time staring I came to realize two things. The first is that no amount of staring will dissipate the fog. I can’t hope to simply stare the uncertainty away. To try would be to give yourself in to the blackness and rely on blind luck to find your way to the other side.

The second is that if you’re not happy with letting luck control your life, you are faced with the classic fear response. Fight or flight. To choose flight is to take your best guess at the right direction and just jump into the blackness. You’re smart and savvy, you can fend for yourself and if you land on solid ground it may just be a little less foggy there. If you fall, you can always blame the fog, dust yourself off, nurse your wounds and do your best to climb back up. It is a legitimate choice to make. And perhaps, to do so would be to actually embrace ambiguity.

But this is not my chosen path. My chosen path is to fight and the only way to fight is to grab hold of one of the few things that remain un-obscured by the fog, the things you still have control over and swing them wildly at the darkness. Use whatever you’ve got you fight it back. When understood in this manner the blackness can almost be freeing. It strips down distractions and eliminates options, forcing your hand. If you are going to get through this, its going to be on the back of what you’ve got left, so better make the most of it. Sure you may still fall off the ledge, but perhaps in fighting you’ll learn something that will make the climb back up easier, or more fruitful.

Who knows, maybe this entire analogy is bull. It certainly is dripping with privilege. The edge I speak of is nothing more than a personal feeling of failure. I’ve got a strong enough safety net that survival isn’t even on my radar.

So why write this?

My reasoning is two-fold. The first, is that writing is how I cope. Everything is more manageable after I’ve written it down. I can only think properly if I am expressing it. When done in spoken word this has gotten me into trouble, as I speak to test an idea but after it’s out there’s no delete key. Writing is different. The second, is that sometimes I just need to get angry. I need to tell myself that life is a battle and if I’m going to do something great, I better start fighting. I can harness this and turn it into something powerful. So if you will excuse me, I’ve just written a spear and I’m off to throw it at the fog.

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One thought on “On Ambiguity

  1. […] never quite easy, and never quite clear. It’s a bit of a black hole. A bit of a journey through a thick fog. You know which way you want to go – it’s just the path there that is […]

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