I ended the last post talking about the importance of remembering what is necessary for me right now, in the present. Oftentimes, we pursue a dream or a goal with a single-minded myopic-ness that drowns out everything else. And every so often I think it is important to look up, look around, and figure out if that dream/goal is still the same, and is still meaningful to your current life.
My mom sent me this article a few weekends ago and it resonated a lot with my current pursuit of understanding life outside of work. I particularly loved these lines: “During this time [the time we are relentlessly pursuing success], our passions might have shifted, or our dreams might have been deferred. We might have told ourselves that doing what we love would come after we’d proven ourselves, worked our way up the corporate ladder, achieved a certain net worth.“
How often does this happen, I wonder? You spend years, decades, on one path only to look up and discover it is not all you thought it would be and you would quite like to change it. What happens then?
Well, as someone who is currently on this path of discovery, let me tell you. There is a whole lot of frustration. Of rubbing up against your old self, and your new emerging self. There is a lot of tension. There is a lot of anxiety. I read a letter from Sas Petherick on Saturday, and she spoke so clearly about the space I am in right now, it was like she was writing for me.
Sas writes, “I’m in the in-between in so many places in my life. I’ve not quite left the old behind, and the new is not here yet. I’m in the liminial space“. And I was like oh hello, this is me right now.
I am in a liminal space.
I have not left academia entirely. I am still trying desperately to get words on a page for the new book. I still have journal articles in review. I am collaborating on some research. But I am also not returning to full-on academia anytime soon. I was rejected in the second round (of four) of the one research post I did apply for this year. Everyone says I should try a different route to get the project funded but, in truth, I am not sure that is right for me anymore.
But I don’t know yet. I am in that interim space where things are changing, have changed, and will continue to change, and actually, I just have to let things develop. And it is so hard! I want to know what is going to happen. I want to control this change but of course, that is the whole point of change, you can’t control every ending. You can’t know the map of every path you take. Sometimes you just have to go with it.
There are various things I am doing to help cope with this time of uncertainty and change. I’ve already written about identifying values and starting to incorporate them into my life. I’m also learning that sometimes it is okay to quit, give up, and pivot to a new horizon – that there is no shame in deciding something is not for you. Taking time out – for reflection, quietness, and just plain relaxation – is also super important. How often do you work out a complex problem in your sleep? Or figure something out over your holiday?
Remembering these moments of clarity, when your anxious mind is telling you that you need to have everything figured out now, is helpful!
Autumn is a time for letting things go. As the natural world starts to bed down for the winter, autumn is the perfect time for removing whatever is no longer serving you, to let it die along with the leaves falling from the trees, and allow space for reflection and renewal as the year draws to a close. Clocks go back next week and my own hibernation mode begins. With it, I want to let go of needing to have everything figured out, of needing to have a detailed plan. I want to open up space to just live in the present.
So here’s to that liminal space. The unknown future. And all the messy, difficult, complex in-between times. May you have them too.
Things I loved this week
Artworks of our universe
Sensible work lunchbox advice.
Read The Testaments in an unputdownable frenzy of sorts. I was going to wait a while for the hype to die down but a friend had a copy I could borrow. I was captivated by the story entirely.
Autumn light – eternity in this moment.
And here is Pan Cat, who continues to be a delightful joy in our lives.