Look at what you want, not at where you are

29 Sep

“Stop worrying where you’re going
Move on
If you can know where you’re going
You’re gone
Just keep moving on”
— Dot, Sunday in the Park With George

I’m leaving Berkeley a week from today, and I’m way less anxious about it than I thought I would be. The act of moving itself is stressful, but the idea of being in a new place no longer fills me with dread. I’m ready to go—not just to adjust to life in LA, but to deal with the feelings of loss that come from leaving a place I’ve lived for seven years. Ask me how I feel next Thursday, I guess. Right now I’m strangely calm.

Also, I turned 25 on Tuesday. The day passed without incident. It’s just another arbitrary designation of time passing. It means as much as you let it mean.

And I’m choosing an uncharacteristically zen approach to all of it: the move, the aging, the uncertainty about my future. It’s time to embrace this time in my life as a period of transition, to not think about the path to success as a straight line. I’m giving myself the freedom to meander a bit in the hopes that I’ll eventually end up where I want and need to be. It’s not easy, and it’s not instant: I can’t expect to stumble into my ideal self. The more I relinquish control and allow for failure, the less I worry about actually failing.

This goes against my standard approach. Cynicism has often been a comfort to me. On a practical level, you’re never disappointed when you (vaguely) hope for the best and (concretely) expect the worst. And I have, for a long time, maybe for always, outlined all my aspirations with the caveat that they were unlikely goals. But really, who can tell? It’s too soon to know where I’m going to end up, and as long as I’m moving in some direction, I can’t be too down on myself for not being there yet.

At the same time, I have to allow for the possibility of disappointment. It’s not a matter of assuming it will happen so much as knowing that it’s out there. I think I can temper my expectations with realism without killing my enthusiasm, and that’s the real key. Finding motivation when you’re a neurotic person can be tough—or rather, it’s easy to find reasons not to try. You imagine the negative outcomes, and when you picture everything that can go wrong, it’s hard to make the effort. Sometimes, it’s close to impossible.

I’m writing this here even though it’s very personal. Not in the sense that it embarrasses me, but that these are very much my feelings. I’m not sure anyone else will get anything out of it, which is OK, I guess. You don’t have to read it.

The reason I’m writing is because last night I found my old journal, the one I kept when I moved to Berkeley at 17. I’m glad I have a record of my thoughts then, even though I cringe at a lot of it. (Get it together, teenage me!) But regardless of my lingering anxieties and quirks (oh my God, the quirks), I can see how much I’ve grown. Like, ideally, I’d be totally fine right now, but maybe being less crazy than I was a few years ago is enough.

Because it’s hard to see the bigger picture. I’ve always had trouble living in the moment: I dwell on the past, or I obsess over the future. So I ask, when did I get this way? And when will I be better? But there’s so fucking much in the middle, and who’s to say how long “the middle” lasts?

Let that sink in. Remember your mindfulness training. Focus on every step. You move forward whether it’s conscious or not: you age and you change locations, and over time, you stop feeling like there’s nowhere you belong.

And in five years, maybe, you look back on this blog post. You laugh at what a tool you were at 25, then you smile because it’s been a long time since things felt so dire.

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One Response to “Look at what you want, not at where you are”

  1. Molly September 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    Who are you? You’ve totally summed up my transitional state of life and mind right now and I’m a 45 year old woman. I totally get your comfortable cynicism too. I always brace for the worst and am mildly relieved at anything less than that. Those optimists must have a lot of disappointments … not me.

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