I had big plans for this summer. So many adventures. So many projects. So many goals.
Having an end-of-the-season birthday always makes the beginning of summer somewhat of a renewal time for my New Year’s resolutions. I was going to lose weight, exercise, write, have adventures and become the woman I imagine I can be in my head.
Here I am, a couple of months later, having just celebrated said birthday and my life seems to have passed me by in a blur of days. When I think back to what I actually HAVE done this summer, it is impressive, but it is not interesting. I have spent the majority of the summer stuck behind a computer screen, inside an air conditioned office, with very little outside time. Sure, I’ve accomplished a lot at work – we’ve deployed new equipment to our entire company, migrated servers, updated two major operating systems and put out numerous fires associated with all these changes. I’ve also accomplished a lot in my personal life – completely moving out of the cabin and turning it into my first rental property as well celebrating nuptials, nursing to health an ailing dog and supporting a significant other who has been working even more than me. Despite all this, I find myself wondering over what I’ve lost.
I lost all of July. Most of August.
Do you ever feel like this? Like you’re losing time, it’s just dripping away into nothingness? Fizzling away like the bubbles in champagne?
Maybe I’m the only one out there, feeling as if life is passing me by. As if one day just fades into the next and you look up and where did it all go? Maybe I’m not, I tend to think I’m not alone in this.
Over the past, oh, ten or so years of my life I’ve often felt this way.
In sitting with this feeling, I’ve begun to tinker with and unpack where it comes from for me.
It’s not that there is a lack of things to do. Nor is it a lack of desire for change or for things to happen. It most certainly is NOT due to a lack of responsibilities or an absence of stressors. It doesn’t arrive from a lack of passion or a lack of drive.
For me, it’s a lack of focus.
I have been struggling with it ever since I left local church ministry. For a while I thought that I would return to professional ministry in the form of chaplaincy, but that didn’t end up working out. Professionally I have fallen into doing things that I am good at, which help people and which make a decent wage. Namely: tech support.
I don’t have a particular desire to change my profession at this point, but a year into full-time work at a desk and I am acutely aware of just how easy it could be to fall into this and look up twenty years from now and wonder where my life has gone. It is a bit too comfortable of a job and not quite comfortable enough. It is challenging in the day-to-day minutia but there is no big-picture challenge for me to sink my teeth into.
Basically: it makes it very easy to come home at the end of the day, exhausted, and flop onto the couch to watch an hour or two of TV with my partner while we eat dinner, then go up to bed and do it all again the next day.
I want something more, and as I am stable at my job (finally) I will need to craft it elsewhere in my life.
Do let me take a moment and acknowledge the beauty in this – because there IS beauty here. There is the beauty of the snooze-alarm cuddles before I rush off to work. There is the camaraderie and friendship with my colleagues. There is the satisfaction of knowing I have done a good job and fixed a problem. There is the delight in a shared meal at the end of the day. There is the simple joy of laughing with my love as we watch nonsense TV. There are all the little moments of beauty.
Those little moments of beauty, they are so very addictive.
It becomes so easy to do it again and again. To get stuck in this moment and never chase my dreams. To avoid the blank page of my writing. To avoid the pain that precedes the sweat in the gym. To avoid the weight of the backpack, the struggle of the logistics, the fear of the unknown that it takes to have adventures.
In Los Angeles there is a wonderful Holocaust museum. When I was taking classes on education as part of my Master’s degree, we went and studied the way in which the museum is structure because it is designed as a powerful learning environment.
Relatively simple exhibits that gradually become more and more lifelike, each one comfortable enough that you can still hear and listen to the lecture but each one slightly increasingly uncomfortable. Eventually the realism becomes SO real that you find yourself walking into a model of a gas chamber. Finally, you emerge on the other side with your empathy aroused and are brought, for the first time, face to face with real historical objects and the stories of actual people who lived through it. Simply by being there, by experiencing the exhibits, visitors are pushed to a new level of understanding – beyond the academic understanding to a level of empathy and compassion that encourages you to see yourself in the other.
The key to creating a learning environment that produces change is to make it comfortable enough that the student isn’t put onto the defensive (which inhibits learning) but uncomfortable enough that they must continue moving forward (because self-directed learning has implicit buy-in).
Moving beyond this feeling of being stuck is going to require me to turn my life into a learning environment. To keep the things that enable me to be comfortable enough that I don’t go into overwhelm mode or flight mode, but also to actively seek to push myself to find that ‘more.’ To figure out what my fears are and embrace them.
Here’s the kicker: I don’t think that the something ‘more’ is a thing. I think it’s a mental skill.
I also think it is the very definition of adventure.
I find myself coming back to my goal that I set at the beginning of the summer, which has been back-burnered for a few months. The goal of learning to be tenacious.
I think that if I can learn to maintain focus on a goal over a longer period of time I can not only achieve more, but also find more fulfillment in the day-to-day working towards said goal. We’ll see, it’s the current working theory.