EDITORS NOTE: This blog post is the fifth in a series intended to celebrate Embracing Ambiguity reaching the 50 post milestone. Embracing Ambiguity received an email in response to a recent post, that asked a lot of great and challenging questions. In celebration of Embracing Ambiguity’s milestone, various authors will be responding to these questions over the next week. In general, the theme is (roughly) “making the decisions that will impact EVERYTHING” and “the narratives we tell ourselves about what we’re doing, why and how we feel about it.” It is left to each author to choose how closely they reference / stick to these (and other) prompts. We’re excited to see what they come up with. If you like what you read, share it on Facebook and Twitter and help #EmbAmb increase its reach. Happy reading.
Right now I’m sitting in a coffee shop window in Burlington, Vermont listening to beans grind and people chatter. Fall is here and I’m surrounded by people who look like me. Birkenstocks and socks. Plaid. Reusable shopping bags and to go mugs. It’s amazingly comforting to feel instantly at home in place I haven’t actually called “home” for the past six years. Here I have a sense of who I am and am surrounded by people who reflect that back to me, both aesthetically and because we’ve known each other since we were twelve. In this cocoon of sameness, my identity isn’t in question, it’s strengthened.
Almost three years ago I started an internship, my first job out of school, and vowed I would put my need to constantly future plan to rest in favour of living in the moment. When I started I knew that with such a short amount of time to work (four months!) I would feel the need to keep applying to jobs, to plan my next steps, to figure out every day what the “right” thing to work on next would be. I threw myself in to my internship, made amazing friends, and lived completely in that community. And so in a way, not making any future plans was a decision in itself and I, surprisingly, ended up being hired full time by the same organization. No searching, no planning, no big decisions necessary. Instead of taking time to sift through what I dreamed for my future I accepted a job and from there followed the path to where I am today.
There are days, like today or when I read the big questions in the editor’s note, when I wonder if I made the right decision that summer. Since taking that job I haven’t really sat down to think about what I want to do and where I want to go next, and more recently it’s felt like I’m stuck in a pattern of survival. Instead of a more intentional approach to my career I’ve said yes to everything that comes my way first because it was easy, and then because I didn’t have a choice (unemployment does funny things to a person). What started off as a deep breath of indecision has turned in to survival mode of no decisions and as a result I’ve gone a bit decision making gun shy. Though all of the infinite possibilities of the world seem so shiny and bright and nice it is terrifying to think of everything changing, or worse, deciding wrong.
So now I sit here, feeling all warm and fuzzy for fall foliage, and wonder who I’ve become and what exactly I’ve done if I’ve not made many intentional choices over the past few years. Who am I if I stumble around from job to job, thing to thing, without really taking a moment to pause? Is this the person I want to be? And if so, what decisions am I going to start making to intentionally maintain that? But if not, who? what? how?
I am confused. I am unsettled. I am learning. I am resilient. But most of all, I am scared.
It has taken months to realize this. It’s taken months to realize that I need the space and time to regroup. To articulate, however vaguely, the person I’m trying to be. To feel stable and map out my hopes and dreams and ambition. That’s the key though — the space to tap back in to that ambition. AC Newman sings, “I don’t mean to weigh things down / with fortune telling, let’s just see / when it all comes true, we’ll see” in the song “Not Talking” and I’ve had it on repeat trying to divine what I should do next. While the strokes of his guitar the trumpet notes sound so sure, his lyrics mirror the question marks I’ve been so deftly swatting aside the past few years. It’s nice to think that maybe this all doesn’t matter, that the decisions we make are not as earth shattering as we give them credit for. It would be nice to just wait and see.
I’m not that person though. I’m a planner and an organizer and a mover and I have been holding back on those things now for far too long. I imagined, briefly, of cancelling my flight back to Toronto and fully embracing the comfort of my Vermont identity cocoon. What a bold and beautiful decision that would be! But just as indecision has me feeling lost and confused, I think running away from that confusion without a map would do much the same. And so I sit here and stew, thinking about what regrouping will be. As usual, I don’t have any answers. Though for a change, I’m going to take some time and decide what I intend to do next.