A meditation, if you will, on the cycle of the new season and the spiral of development it provides.
I grappled with a number of personal issues near the end of this past year, mostly dealing with aspirations around my career. I had not accomplished my simple (though in retrospect clearly daunting) goal, which was to gain a full-time job after graduating with my Master’s degree. I shifted perspective from what I thought I should be to what I actually wanted. I turned down a job in another city–for a variety of reasons–and had to go through the harrowing process of accepting what I really wanted from my life. I had to reevaluate my values, my desires, and my abilities. I had to consider why I was so anxious about my financial outlook and whether it was even objectively necessary. I had to accept that I was not harming the people in my life who had offered financial support, that I was not taking advantage of them or disappointing them. I had to accept that I did not–in fact–deserve to struggle.
I had to consider where I was receiving the most positive feedback and attention. When you are grappling with self esteem issues and impostor syndrome, it is difficult to take compliments and tally them to get a clear view of yourself and your strengths.
I was very angry for a while at myself for my perceived failures and at our society for its obstacles that very likely kept me from the success I was seeing in my peers. I had to accept that my ability to get a job I was qualified for and wanted was dependent on other flawed people. People in a society that preferred workers with a more white name, more male, with more “hard” skills.
I have tried, in vain, to try to fit myself to a standard more palatable to mainstream employers. But what I found when I allowed myself a certain level of audacity and sincerity, was that the right people took notice. Whether it was asking for a higher than average salary, or applying to jobs that I had no “formal” training or experience (journalism), or sending a writing sample of more personal and honest nature, I was suddenly getting actual feedback. Not, perhaps, solid job offers…but feedback where there had been none in my former and more formal NGO, government, and security route.
When I began to accept my strengths, when I allowed myself the audacity to release my restricted creative self in job applications, when I finally accepted certain realities of my financial situation, something interesting happened.
In November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I wrote my first novel, which was an eye-opening process to say the least. I surprised myself at my own competence, energy, and discipline to write 150 pages in 30 days.
I finished a novel, and almost immediately my father offered to pay me to write his memoir–something family, friends, colleagues, and others had been clamoring for for nearly 20 years.
All of these things in the past few months have collected and percolated to make a peculiar (and not entirely focused) picture. I have found myself, unexpectedly, facing a long-suppressed desire of turning writing into a career. It frightens me because I comprehend just how much work and luck that entails.
It electrifies me because I have realized how capable I am to do that work.
I have a regular spiritual practice that encourages me to be aware of the cycles of the seasons. Winter and the end of the year is often a time of rest, reflection, itemizing of resources and finishing up certain projects or goals. I have been careful to incorporate this philosophy into my life this winter. I have made sure to hold off on starting new projects or commitments through the winter and into January.
The beginning of February marks what some call the “quickening”, when saps starts to flow again in trees. It signifies a stirring, a time when things haven’t started to bud or bloom yet but are beginning to shift and prepare. As February 1st came and went, I am readying myself for (and implementing) certain commitments and activities for the new year. New habits to be formed that are complimented by the timing, new plans to be implemented, new job searches. I am grateful for the relative rest I have gifted myself in December and January. That reprieve was necessary for me to accumulate energy, perspective, focus, and resources for the new year.
I am still anxious about the future, my potential to continue to fail at my objectives. I am still anxious about my financial situation. I am still frustrated at my current job, with it’s shifting schedule and lack of challenging work. I still bristle at being under someone else’s authority and being financially dependent on others. I had a tattoo done almost two weeks ago and it itches–the old skin peeling away and new skin growing and healing in its place. I suppose it’s a decent enough metaphor for feeling too tight in my own skin, too constrained in my environment.
But I also think I am at the point in my life where that is normal and expected. I have decided to buy a car this summer, after five years without one since a major accident. I have been driving with Zipcar, but owning one will be different. I feel like I am ready to take a little more control over my life, a little more freedom and responsibility that goes with it. A car is probably another good metaphor. I have the resources, and support, to take that step further into adulthood.
Some people wish that the rest and vacation that winter symbolizes would last forever–the perfect escape. Others hate it, despise the slowing of their bodies and minds in reaction to the colder weather. They want it to be over as soon as possible. I try to accept the middling way, grateful where I am allowed to rest and yet I am not satisfied to be resting all the time. There is a point where restlessness can be a good indicator of readiness.
I am feeling the stirrings of restlessness. I am ready.