Existential Angst

Yesterday I was in a meeting that began with introductions and an icebreaker question: what is the thing that has you the most distracted right now?

As we went around the room, there were a variety of answers: staff with elderly parents who were struggling, staff whose kids had some major life changes ahead of them, and the typical work-project-related distractions that you might expect. And then we came around to me. “I’m thinking a lot about where I want to be in five years, what I want to be doing with my life.” Everyone laughed (some a little nervously). We moved on.

But it’s true. I don’t know if this sense of existential angst around my career is a product of being about six weeks out from my 30th birthday, or if it’s because I’m nearing five years at my current job – the longest I’ve ever been in one place. (I’m also a bit on the manic side this week, which is an added facet of the angst but definitely not the cause.)

I started asking myself last week, as I was pondering these questions, “What if, instead of thinking about what I felt I ought to be doing based on external pressures, I gave some thought to what it is I want to do?”

In the past, when I’d asked that question, I was too afraid to answer (or was in a place where I was more focused on survival and conserving energy, and didn’t have the bandwidth to think of an answer). That’s shifting, though. As I continue to work to get the rest of my life sort of in order, as the non-career areas of my life stabilize, I have more and more bandwidth to consider that, while what I’m doing now is somewhat interesting and I’m pretty good at it, there are other options that might be more…fulfilling.

See, when I entered the workforce, all I wanted was a job that I could leave at work, that would pay the bills, and that would leave me time outside of work to do the creative things I love to do. I didn’t care if my job gave me any sense of purpose or meaning, because my creative pursuits did that. As I near 30, though, I’m starting to consider that perhaps it does matter to me that the thing that I’m doing 40 hours per week is meaningful and fulfilling in some way.

I have some ideas of what the future might look like. I’m putting together wish lists and five/three/one year plans. I’m not ready to put any of my thoughts on the internet quite yet, but I’m starting to talk with my partner, my therapist, and a handful of friends about the directions my brain is taking me. It’s overwhelming, but also incredibly exciting – it’s been a long while since I felt like I could plan further out than six months or a year for more than one thing at once.

And maybe I’m just high on the sunshine that finally came out today, but…the future looks bright. So here’s to bright futures and finding meaning in the mess of life. May we all work to get there together.

Grateful, Centered

My first thought when I sat down to write this week’s blog was to whine, at length, about the horrible day I had on Tuesday trying to get to and from jury duty in the suburbs without a car. But I am trying to be a more grateful, centered person, so I’m not going to do that.

I’ve been feeling…a little off, lately. Not grateful or centered. I’ve been feeling frazzled about work, questioning if this is really where I want to be, or if I’m just staying here because of the good boss and good health insurance, and whether that actually matters. I’ve been having a lot of complicated feelings about gender and identity and privilege and what that all means (I regret none of the decisions I have made, but living in a world married to the concept of binary gender is frustrating). I’m trying to balance long-term planning (I’ve charted out how to pay off my credit card by 2020) and living in the moment. To be stable and flexible. And I feel like I’m not doing a very good job of any of it, like I’m just hanging on as the world spins, desperately wishing it would stop for a few minutes (or days) and let me catch my breath and figure out where I am and where I’m going.

I guess I’m in the midst of a minor existential crisis?

How irritating.

But back to the original point I think I was trying to make…I want to be a more grateful, centered person. I’m not doing a great job of it. But I do feel like the Universe is gently nudging me in the direction, despite the fact that I’ve felt like a cranky mess for the past few weeks. From my no-longer-daily-but-I’m-trying tarot meditations to sweet messages from friends to cute pictures of puppies on the internet, I run into reminders pretty regularly that really, I am okay. Even if I feel off-kilter, even if my allergies are driving me crazy and fogging my brain, even if I feel overwhelmed by a lot of things, even if I don’t know what (or possibly who) I want to be when I grow up, even if there’s plenty in the world at large to be terrified of right now, right now, in this moment, I am okay. And that’s really all I can ask for.