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I’ve been on a journey of self-becoming that hasn’t been rift-free or linear by any measure.
I think most of us understand this experience. When our intended path is met with the realistic path and they both sit down and have a talk—and it’s a hard conversation.
I’ve been through lows and highs so cyclical that I’ve often wondered if consistency has left the chat in a “Bye, Felicia” kind of way. It seems like the only constant is change these days.
From having multiple jobs and sources of income to moving houses to relationships coming together and falling apart, then throw a pandemic on top—the ball is rolling toward an unpredictable future, whether I like it or not.
There probably has never been a time when the future was fully secure for anyone, and even though we can often be nostalgic for how things were like “back in the day,” was it really better? Or have we just traded different items of security? Maybe we miss how our childhood was screen-free and less affected by social media, but at the same time, how would I have gone through this global pandemic without connecting through Zoom and FaceTime with my friends and family? This very screen was a lifeline. And maybe I forget that when I was younger, I wasn’t influenced by toxic pressure of Instagram, but I was still reading CosmoGirl and wishing I had flat abs, feeling like I wasn’t hot or pretty enough.
Maybe every generation simply prepares itself for the same challenges but packaged differently, in the way that is most relevant and most keeping up with the times.
Now that I am 28 years old, I find myself under the immense pressure of achievement and personal growth. The “if not now, then when?” hangs over my head. There’s an expectation to have your career figured out and that you should be on your next degree or next baby. Truthfully, I’m still trying to find out what my deepest calling is. Trying to grow on a personal and professional level whilst managing life’s demands on a practical level whilst, also, making sure my body is in shape, and my mental health is sharp. It’s a lot.
The one thing that has, without a doubt, kept me going has been learning something new. Learning is growth. It’s a kind of hope; it opens up the imagination and the world of possibility. Understanding something new every day contributes to better self-awareness and world-awareness. Taking a new course or reading a new book (even when I’ve felt exhausted) has always pulled me from the shadows of apathy.
When the future is riddled with so much uncertainty and anxiety, we can at least be certain that moving an inch closer to understanding who we are or how things operate allows us to grasp our existence more clearly. I have truly felt at my worst when I’ve moved away from this kind of curiosity and thirst for knowledge. When I get stuck in work patterns and I feel like just another cog in a wheel, the beauty and wonder of life slowly dissipates, and hello, anxiety.
Tara Westover, in her book Educated says:
“The decisions I made after that moment were not the ones she would have made. They were the choices of a changed person, a new self. You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.”
What I love about this quote is how it digs at the basic truth of it. It all comes down to simply educating ourselves or getting educated by others. Often, both together. Not necessarily in an academic sense, though that’s commendable.
I went to a Tony Robbins seminar once, and I remember him saying how “certainty” shouldn’t be a core value to live by. His definition of certainty being “assurance that you can avoid pain and gain pleasure.” His argument was that we basically need uncertain times—we just have to learn how to thrive in them. Easier said than done, of course, but I think that he makes a good point.
Whilst learning and growing is important, I’m careful not to let that mask an inability to be still and just be. We need to get comfortable appreciating a simple, mundane day. Not everything is about making every day count like there’s no tomorrow; that’s too much pressure from toxic self-help books and hit songs that, frankly, we don’t need at all.
I think the best way to navigate these uncertain times is to understand that walking this tightrope is an art. It’s learned. It takes a lifetime to find ourselves in that place, we don’t just magically appear there. It takes nurturing our mind, body, and spirit with basic intentions and allowing the work to happen without fighting an imaginary clock.
We grow with sincere attempts, we grow with life lessons we learn in unexpected ways, we grow with hardship—we also grow with peace. We grow beyond academia and perceived ideals of success. We grow from our illusions as much as our truths. Most of all, we grow when thrust in the chaos of uncertainty in ways we would’ve never thought possible. We just need to hold on, retrospect is coming. It will show us how uncertainty was possibly our biggest teacher.