From an early age, our time is allotted for us in a calculated way, using, seasons, vacations and holidays as time pieces in our yearly calendar. We start the school year, looking forward to new beginnings, embracing the “uncertainty” that gives us a feeling of excitement and exhilaration. By mid semester we feel the need for vacation. Right on cue, here comes Thanksgiving and then the winter holidays! Sick and tired of winter sluggishness by mid January, we wait and wait and wait for spring (and as a true New Englander knows...it’s takes a while!) We get psyched up again for a spring semester filled with the promise of new classes, lessons, projects, and teachers. Finally, the oh so, exciting summer pokes it’s head into our spring awakening and we get that fever for heat, vacation, and time away from anything stress related...and then...Come on....you know the drill! You, like me, have been trained relentlessly in this monotony! It’s fall again! Yay for new and exciting “uncertainty!” From the day we start Kindergarten to the day we graduate high school, college, or graduate school, we willfully follow this patterns in complete and blissful oblivion. It’s not our fault. It’s how we were raised. But I’m here to challenge it. I like to challenge things that are so called “set in stone.”
My little sister and I right before a first day of school!
So...here I sit today at the ripe old age of 25 (I know I hear the laughter) and everything around me is dark. I’m not talking “evil” dark or “dismal” dark, just dark. Uncertain might be the optimal word. I managed to hang onto my happy seasonal pattern even till this very year, actually. But now, I have released it. And I’m wondering if it was the right decision....
Three and a half years ago, I took a job out of college and was able to craft a system for myself that felt comfortable. I’ll stay for a certain period of time, and then I’ll take an exciting and exploratory trip. Then I’ll make sure I get some comfort from home for a while and when I get antsy again, I’ll go back out and explore. I’ll just never sit down long enough to feel the discomfort of being stuck in one place. I’ll always allot for fall to be a time of new beginnings, winter to be about family, comfort and a little gluttony, and summer to be about exploring and allowing some risk to seep into my otherwise settled life. I even had a motto that I lived by when I was in college: I’d be 100% ok with settling into my small New England state if I could travel all over the world and just leave whenever I felt like I needed to. And as exciting as that sounds, it’s actually not at all what I want. It’s not freedom! It’s being “stuck” somewhere and always having the option to escape. And I refuse to become a professional escape artist!
I’ve abolished my previous “motto” and I’ve embarked on a new journey. But it’s freaking dark here! And you can imagine how it feels to sit in the dark. Technically, it’s winter, but only in appearance and weather. I don’t see spring, I don’t see summer, I don’t see next fall. (I know I have a future, I’m not hopeless, but I can’t see it.) All I can see with my little flashlight is one tiny step in front of my current standing point. Just enough light to allow me to safely step without tripping and falling (although there is always the occasional stumble) With my old patterns engrained in my being, I wonder almost daily, is this a positive thing? Or is this utterly terrifying?
I’ll get straight to the point. On one hand, I am completely living in the present, tackling just one action at a time, and totally remaining focused. On the other hand, I’m FREAKING OUT!
So I’m in a pickle of sorts. I understand that my actions lead to reactions. I see that there has been history of certain actions leading to certain reactions. I’ve watched other people take particular actions that lead to particular reactions. But I can’t see the results for myself. I’m totally blind to it, because for me, it’s never been done. For other people, it has been. So I know it’s possible. But is it possible for me?
So what am I supposed to do? I’ve been trained to wait for the next thing to happen. I’ve always been able to see spring and summer and the new school year. But here I am and I see nothing! Will I still be living in Springfield 6 months from now? Will my circle of friends remain exactly the same, by this time next year? Will this be the work I am doing in 8 months? Will I own a house in 2 years? What is going to happen when it’s fall and the summer is over? WHEN DOES THE SCHOOL YEAR BEGIN?
The answer is it doesn’t. It’s not real. The school year, the fresh start, the clean slate, the new teachers, the new clothes, the fancy school supplies, the fall, when it all begins is not real. We’ve made it real. But it’s a concept like anything else. We put value into it as a group and we’ve created something that may have never been otherwise. Why don’t we start school on May 7th? Why isn’t that the school year’s beginning? Either way, it doesn’t matter. We have to stop waiting for the beginnings and the ends and the events that supposedly represent when we start and stop our actions. We must always act now. We must always be here in the present. Even if it means being in the dark sometimes...
I’m not suggesting we walk blindly, because we always have the option of using a light. Sometimes, we ourselves are the light, pushing ourselves through the tasks. Sometimes God is the light, helping us with the burdens. Sometimes a friend is the light, listening and understanding and helping us through the hard steps.
My husband has a symbolic way of describing this concept. I give him full credit for this. He says: These dark times often feel like you are falling. Falling, perhaps into what seems like an infinite well. You look down, and see nothing. You pray for a safe landing, looking for the end of the agonizing anticipation. The uncertainty can sometimes feel eternal. But suddenly your feet (and admittedly sometimes your butt, cause we do fall on that now and again) touch the ground. We look up to see how far we’ve come and it’s so bright up there that it’s actually illuminating everything around us. The formerly dark surroundings are now bright and clear and completely visible. And we’re no longer in the dark. But could we have ever seen this well in its current luminescent state if we stayed at the top?
The top is where we stand safely in our school-year calendar. We start when we are told to start. We vacation when we are told to vacation. We celebrate when we are told to celebrate. We think about jumping down the well at certain times but often we don’t. Sometimes we even stumble too close to the well and fall, accidentally learning some incredible lesson. But we need to be able to jump willingly into the darkness and have some faith in what we have decided. Keep doing the actions even when you can’t see the exact ending. It’s not going to happen “next fall” or “in the spring” or “just after the holidays.” We have to stop waiting and do something now! Even though it’s dark. The floor will be there every time. And the light will always come. I promise. So, stop waiting and start navigating!
Just don’t forget your flashlight ;)