Sometimes, in order to move forward, everything has to fall apart.
A little over a year ago, I wrote what I considered my worst case scenario. Then I stepped back and thought on it. If everything went awry, could I handle it? Was I okay enough with my worst case scenario to take a chance? I decided I was, and thus, I took that chance I’d been plotting. At the time, I considered my worst-case just that, the worst thing that could happen. And then it actually happened. And you know what? It turned out to be the best thing.
Here’s what I’ve realized: when you’re smack dab in the middle of a situation that isn’t working for you, it’s often hard to see the forest for the trees. It’s hard to know exactly what isn’t working. For that matter, it’s sometimes hard to know anything isn’t working. You trudge along, perhaps feeling something is a bit amiss, but you don’t really see it. And so you keep trudging.
That’s what I was doing. I was moving along through a life that wasn’t quite right for me. Yet I didn’t know why it wasn’t right. Being a typical American, I figured the problem was my career. If only I could find the perfect job, things would be better. Validation through occupation. That’s what we do here in the States. We work, and we work, and we take few vacations, and we have few close ties, and we assume life equals a good living and a decent paycheck. So that’s what I focused on when I started this blog (and this whole search for squid, in fact) – I focused on getting on the right career path.
I quit the job I didn’t like, started writing every day and moved out of state, all far from my comfort zone. And then everything fell to shit.
My relationship fell apart. I found myself back in Las Vegas (the last place I ever wanted to be), living with family, searching for work, ready to accept pretty much anything with a paycheck. My worst case scenario manifested itself almost in exact accordance with my imagined worst-case. (Perhaps I should get into the field of reading fortunes?)
But that’s not the important part of this story. The important part is that I finally started living. I finally let go of preconceived notions, stepped out of my shell even more that I could have imagined, tried for things I had no shot at. And I stopped stressing. My life was in shambles (as an outsider looking in would tell you), yet I didn’t really care. I wasn’t stressed. I wasn’t worried. I had pretty much hit my own personal version of bottom, and I decided it wasn’t so bad. So why not apply for jobs I probably wouldn’t get, send my application to the Peace Corps, vie for acceptance to grad school, surround myself with good friends, tell people how much they mean to me and, essentially, lay all my cards on the table? Yep. Why not?
I didn’t even bother telling people I was doing this. I made vague mentions on this blog. I told a few people that helped me prep applications and came through for me as references. I started writing just because. Just because I enjoy it, not for any need to publish. I focused on friendships and the people I care about. I put myself out there without holding back and felt good about letting the pieces fall where they may. (Boy, I’m full of cliches today.)
Eventually, I got a few job offers, started working and moved forward. I had no idea what, if anything, would come through. I figured most of it was a long shot. But at least I could say I tried. I let go of expectations. And I really started to enjoy myself.
Fast forward. Life is good. Life is really, really good. Grad school came through. The Peace Corps came through. I received an exciting job offer I never expected. I’m having fun. My friendships are strong, as is my support network. I’m learning, as John Mayer would rejoice, to say what I need to say. I’m putting myself out there and not feeling afraid to do so. Rejection seems a hell of a lot less scary. I’m going to travel this summer. I have made a few decisions about what this next year holds, but past next year, I’ve made none. I figure, when the time comes to decide, I will, and that will be that.
Life isn’t nearly as scary as I once thought. Options are abundant if they are sought out. I have let go of rules. Who cares what other people think? I’m finally starting to live my life for me. I’m not afraid to go after what I want. I’m not afraid to fail. Because fail, I will. And that’s kind of a beautiful thing because that means I tried. That means I lived, I chose a path, I made memories.
And so I’ve come to realize — sometimes, in order to move forward, everything has to fall apart.