I’m a planner by nature. I always have been, and I suspect I always will be, likely because I am also a dreamer. I sit sideways in a desk during lectures, or on a park bench under a lazy tree, multi-hued leaves falling around me, and I imagine what life has in store for me.
She’s intoxicating, this future me. She has her shit together. She works her ass off to help other people, and then, to help herself, she pours words on a page. She has a tabby cat named Idgie, lives somewhere where there are more trees than people, and maybe even has a companion who understands her love of solitude and Pad Thai from the local hole in the wall. She is more sure of herself than present me, and she never forgets to call her Grandma. Most importantly, she is doing everything she can to make the world around her better. She is happy.
Present me, while bombarded with moments of happiness, is not exactly happy. Unlike future me, I do not have my shit together. I just resigned from the job I thought I’d keep for years to come (four to five if you consult my flimsy yet seemingly well thought out life plans that seem to change on the daily). This was a job I felt passionate about, a job where I could help others, make a difference in my community, and be surrounded with like-minded people. But this was also a job that made me shrink into myself at the mere thought of everything that would have to fall into place for the dream to become reality. It made me put pressure on myself that I in no way needed to take on, yet shouldered out of a sense of responsibility and love towards the community I would be serving.
What I realized when I made this decision, and am continuing to conceptualize, is that I tend to put so much of myself into others that I rarely have anything left for me. If someone asks a favor, the “yes” is already off the tip of my tongue before I can even consider how realistic it is for me to do that favor. If I’m sitting in front of a pile of homework trying to figure out how I’ll get it all done, and a friend calls with a crisis, the work is forgotten and the listening ears turn on. If I have someone I consider to be a friend, I invest a lot of energy into making that friendship “real” (read: time consuming), and will often neglect the alone time that I enjoy, and truly need. None of these practices are necessarily bad things, and could even be considered positive, but it is easy to drown in what I feel are necessary acts and forget about myself. I make decisions almost solely based on how they will affect others rather than if they fulfill me in a sustainable, healthy way.
Making the decision to resign from this job, even though it would have benefited many people, and given me stability, was a step towards putting my happiness in the forefront of my own life. I feel out of control right now, and I don’t have any clue about what comes next, but I also feel a sense of freedom, of possibility. Instead of moving in the direction my life on paper always seemed destined to move in, I’m taking a step back and seeing what my life could look like in the confines of a new reality, this time dictated by movements towards self fulfillment. It would be easy to say that’s selfish. It would be easy to say that’s easy. But for me, my most difficult, or at least the most infrequent acts, are those in service of myself rather than others.
I can only hope that by going on this journey with myself I can grow creatively, grow in self love, and grow in a direction that feels good, rather than simply right. With the societal pressures to transition from full time school to full time work, it definitely feels weird to be graduating without a super clear plan of what comes next, especially since planning things is in my top five favorite activities). I wish I could say that I this will be a fun sort of break for me, or that I won’t feel weird seeing many of my peers move on to “bigger and better” things, but I’m not there yet. I feel the impulse to search for jobs, apartments, and the like pretty much all the time, even though I know that I am lucky enough to have safety nets in place all around me (previous employers who would likely hire me again, gracious family friends who would be more than happy to let me stay with them if need be, etc). I am so used to having control, and this is an exercise in letting go that I’m not I’m prepared for.
Day by day, though, I’m trying to teach myself that it’s OK to struggle. It’s OK not to know where I’m going to be in the next day, month, year. It’s OK not to feel happy all the time. Really, it’s OK to not be OK. I have never really been much of a floater, but maybe my plan now needs to consist of no plan at all. I’ll continue care giving on the side to keep myself afloat. With more time available than I’m used to, I’ll actually be able to dedicate myself to my writing. I am finding small bits of success and fulfillment with simply submitting to a few publications and completing school assignments, so it will be incredible to see where I can push myself with more time and less stress. I am surrounded by people who love me in a city that feels like home. I have a family who would do anything for me, and who support me no matter what. With care-giving, I have a skill that will always be needed. With writing, I have a craft I’m incredibly passionate about, and, hell, I’d even say I’m good at it! Really, I’m pretty damn lucky. And, some day soon, I’m going to be OK.