My Messy (Non-Linear) Life
For the past month or so, I’ve sat down to write, had a good start to a piece, only to then hit the save to draft button.
Translation: no courage.
My excuse was that my writing wasn’t good enough.
Many people take a path in life (vis-a-vis their career) that looks pretty linear. Usually, it involves some kind of specialization.
I.T. Marketing. Medicine. Modeling. Plumbing. Education.
There is a pretty straightforward set of steps, and if you work hard enough for long enough, good things–stable career, stable income, respect, influence–will happen.
Myself, I’m more of a generalist.
I just follow my nose, as the saying goes.
(Follow the white rabbit.)
Recently, I had this amazing opportunity to travel the world quite literally fall in my lap. It was like the Universe was reading my mind.
Get paid to see the world? Are you kidding me?
No, said the Universe. We’re not.
Then came a challenge from some people close to me: what will you do after, Alex?
Why must I always be thinking about after?
Yes, I get the concern.
My life situation isn’t what we’d call ideal.
But I’m in transition–from what wasn’t my life passion to what is.
I’ve taken much of the past three months in Florida to relax and be.
BE. BE. BE.
You know, from the verb, to be.
(Shakespeare had a little something to say about that verb, if I recall.)
I took a hiatus–my sabbatical, as I talked about in a post from earlier this year–from working to cover my bills, to reducing my bills to almost nothing and moving in with my brother to focus on my passion of writing.
It has been interesting to notice my level of comfort and dis-comfort when answering the questions, so what are you doing doing here? and where do you live?
My answers: working on my writing career; living at my brother’s place.
But something always felt off when I gave these answers; an inner feeling of shame and/or embarrassment over having to rely on my family for a few months while I got my proverbial shit together.
I did my best to hide it–from others, as well as from myself.
But part of me felt like something was wrong–and I allowed that to affect my confidence, which in turn has affected my writing.
My writing was coming from a place of wanting to hide from my insecurities, and therefore it was dead. I sensed that, which is also why I never hit the publish button.
In all honesty, it was probably premature to think that I could go from writing an article here and there to writing full-time and turning it into a viable career.
But you know what?
And, in this moment, I’m not ashamed for taking my first premature shot at it.
But when we start hitting our head against a wall, or when our wheels are churning and we’re not moving forward, it’s a good opportunity to step back and take inventory.
Is this what I really want to do?
Might there be something that comes more easily… more naturally?
Is there an easier way to do this?
Just to invite these kinds of questions is courageous.
A few weeks ago I had this thought: maybe I should get a job on a yacht so I can travel.
Fort Lauderdale might be THE yachting capital of the world. The boats here run in the hundred-million dollar (or more) range. In fact, people park their hundred-million dollar yachts right next to their twenty-million dollar mansions.
(Just an average-sized yacht in Ft. Lauderdale.)
I quit that idea when I found out that my two real options were a) working as a deckhand, doing hard labor in the sun all day; or b) working inside the yacht, listening to women talk about the deckhands all day.
Thanks–but no thanks.
But how funny is life?
Not a few weeks after considering the idea of working out at sea… my phone rings. Ok, it started as a fb message: Alex, what are you doing this fall?
Next was the phone conversation: want to travel the world for the next four months and work with college students?
But allow me to rewind a little. Four months earlier, I was living in Atlanta and trying to decide whether I wanted to sign a lease to live another year in Atlanta or not.
My heart didn’t want to–but my fear kept me there. I thought, what am I going to do down in Florida?
I had no plan.
The question I got from my brother: Sure, you can come and stay with me for a few months, but what are you going to do after?
I had no answer, and so I stayed.
Well, I should have listened. A lot of drama went down because I didn’t listen to that inner voice telling me it was time to leave Atlanta.
So, instead of leaving on my own volition, life basically forced my hand. But isn’t that how it often goes? Instead of quitting a job we know we should leave, we often wait until we’re fired.
Same goes for our relationships.
Many of you might have a voice trying–in varying degrees of desperation–to reach out to you:
It’s time to quit your job and start something new.
It’s time to break up with your partner.
It’s time to move.
It’s time to make up with your brother.
Are you listening?
Are you even aware that you’re being called?
Or, are you so busy that you didn’t even notice that something (or someone) has been trying to grab your attention for some time now.
The call can come in very different ways.
In my experience, it often starts as a distress signal that takes the form of an emotional state, and which symbolizes that something in my life is amiss, askew… off.
Common symptoms may include:
This is life sending you a message:
step back and take inventory; take time to ask questions, to reflect, to wonder–and then listen for a response.
Isn’t it high time we invite a little bit of wonder back into our lives?
(One of my friends and mentors, Eric Saperston, who believes wonder is so cool that he created a t-shirt–and a movement–to remind us.)
It’s certainly not easy.
I won’t lie.
The idea of relinquishing the solid ground beneath our feet and take a leap into the unknown goes against our survival instinct.
Especially as we get older.
And, yet, if we are merely living from a place of survival is that really living?
Please don’t take this the wrong way!
If you’re in that place right now, you’re in fabulous company!
Indeed, most of the human race lives from a place of survival.
However, when we allow ourselves to get present to the sadness or uneasiness that we’re feeling inside–to our feelings of helplessness–something new emerges: an opening, ever so small, but large enough for the Universe, via our soul, to send us a message.
Hey, you. Yeah, you. You’re not very happy. We see that. But you know what? You don’t have to remain in this situation forever. If you’re open to getting a little out of your comfort zone, amazing things await you. Trust us.
But it’s going to require something.
More likely than not, you’re going to have to give something up.
Hopefully, you can now see that those bad feelings (i.e., symptoms) are really blessings in disguise–guiding us, telling us where we’re off, where we’ve given up, where we’re pretending.
And that’s the necessary first step.
So, my life is not linear.
I’m about to take a trip around a good swath of the world, and I have no idea what will come after. It’s not a very mature way to do things (not in a conventional sense, at least). I don’t even know how I will support myself after I arrive back in the states.
But here’s what I’m thinking:
I don’t have to.
I can trust that if I was led TO THIS… getting paid to travel the world and making a difference, then I can be confident that I will be led to the next step.
All I have to do–my responsibility, if you will–is to give myself over completely to the here and now.
And then to trust that the next step will appear right on time.
And the next…
And the next…
And the next…
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. ~Hellen Keller
A book that changed my life forever. Thank you, Ram Dass.