I love keeping in touch with my former students, getting updates on what they are up to and how their life journey is progressing. College is such a transformative period in our lives, and it’s an honor for me to connect with young people during this time and then see how they move forward. I bring this up because I received an email update from a former student of mine yesterday.
She was a student in my lab in Boston for many years, and I am incredibly fond of her. She is an impressive and talented young woman. One of the things that impressed me most about her was her willingness to step off the planned path in order to follow what was in her heart. She had been a Biology major and was a true research superstar in my lab, and then she applied to grad schools (she could have gotten into any school in the country) and she decided to go to one of the top grad schools in Europe. But then, right before she was about to leave, she realized that it wasn’t what she really wanted. It’s what she was “supposed to” do. But not what would bring her joy and meaning in her life. And so she changed her plan at the last minute, even though she wasn’t really sure what she was going to do instead. And she gave herself a few more years to just “be” and figure out what her next step would be. And she taught yoga for a while, and now she is in training to be a Physical Therapist. And as far as I can tell, it seems to be a great fit for her. And I am so damn proud of her.
But I bring her up now because of what she said to me in her email update yesterday. She wrote, “I do keep thinking that I’ll have my life all figured out if I can just “get through the next few months” which is of course never going to be totally true since I always think that.”
Oh my God, yes. I think the SAME thing, all the time. Do you? I assume that many of us hold this fallacy in our minds, that we just need to get through these next few months and then our life will finally be how we want it to be. That the anxiety and stress that makes up our daily lives is just a temporary blip, we are just going through some shit right now, some stuff we need to do, but then it will all be better…in just a few more months…
Yesterday, my 12 year old child showed me a book he was reading that he liked and this quote from Oscar Wilde was on one of the front pages – “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
I’m 43 years old, and I have been existing rather than living, off and on for much of my life. I’ve been thinking that everything will be smooth sailing “if I can just get through these next few months” for as long as I can remember. I finally recognized this as a problem a number of years ago, and so I’ve been working to change this mindset. For years. But damn, it is entrenched in my mind. It’s like a thorny weed that has taken root in my head and has to be extracted over and over and over again. I have to keep reminding myself that I am living my life RIGHT NOW, that I can find meaning and joy and balance RIGHT NOW, and I don’t need to wait a few more months, when things settle down. Because that day will never actually arrive. Not if I keep thinking this way.
Coincidentally, just this past weekend, I was in my yard, preparing for winter’s descent upon the Northeast, and I was pulling out a thorny vine that likes to take over my yard every season. It’s a never ending battle. But those thorns are sharp and dangerous and this particular vine likes to smother everything else, and so I am committed to this work. And instead of feeling like I am being punished like Sisyphus (being forced to push a boulder up a hill for eternity), I see it as a meditative practice, I see pulling out those vines as an analogy to the never-ending battle of also removing those mental thorny vines that creep into my head and hurt my heart and smother the love and compassion.
When will I finally stop telling myself, “if I can just get through these next few months”? Hopefully soon, if I can just get through these next few months… 🙂