This is the kind of post that a better writer would start, put away, and come back to when there’s an ending. But I’m not that kind of writer, and I want to share with you this unfinished, half-unearthed stuff that’s happening in my head right now. Because that’s the kind of friend I am.
As some of you may have picked up from various things I’ve written here and around the web, I’ve been floundering a bit in the career department for a while. Like, two years or more a while.
It’s not that I’m not happy with what I do or that we haven’t been just fine financially. It’s not about paying the bills or being stuck in a job I don’t like. I write for a living, every day, and I get to do it from anywhere in the world. That is amazing.
But I’ve been paddling around in a duckpond.
It’s pretty here, but it’s not quite right. It’s not authentic, or something, because I know it’s a duck pond and I’m supposed to be in a river or stream or ocean somewhere. But it’s fine, and so it’s easy to stay when the choices get overwhelming.
The choices are always overwhelming.
Choosing one thing, to me, always means not choosing another. It means missing out, and I am terrified of missing out. I’m the girl who stays up late with everyone else so she doesn’t miss a joke – but actually ends up falling asleep in the middle of the party.
I told my productivity coach (yes, I’ve hired one) that I feel like I’m in a dark, round room and there are doors all around me, but I don’t know which one I’m supposed to pick. I’m afraid of going through one and missing out on what’s beyond another. I’m afraid to open a door, start down one path, and find myself totally lost, penniless and longing to be back in that room with those old choices.
I’ve tried to get other people to tell me what to choose. I’ve taken quizzes and hired coaches. I’ve sought out mentors and hounded friends for advice. I’ve gone to conferences and taken courses. But at the end of the week, I’m never able to choose one door, turn the knob, and walk through, turning my back on all of the other closed doors.
Instead, I keep paddling around in circles.
It might surprise you to read that I’ve played it safe. I did, after all, recently sell all of my stuff and live in an RV with my family for a year. And then I moved to a brand new city just because we loved it.
But neither of those was picking a door so much as tunneling through to a new round room.
It was easier to make big, dramatic moves than to choose one path down which to steadily plod.
I am really, really good at this not choosing thing.
After three meetings with my productivity coach, during each of which I’d offered her a different goal towards which we should be working, she finally called me out on my shit.
“Draw a circle,” she said.
“Now write those things that each of those doors represent for you outside of the circle.”
“Put yourself in the circle.”
Then she said something about lightly erasing the words outside of the circle. I’m not exactly sure why (something about nothing being certain), but I did that, too.
“By refusing to choose anything, you’re never going to get outside that circle.”
And I realized she was right. I also realized that there aren’t a bunch of doors leading down separate paths to alternate futures. There’s only in the circle… or out of it.
“So, I don’t actually have to pick! I can do a little of this and a little of -”
“No,” she said. “You have to pick. You have to find a way to make a choice about what comes next, or you’ll never get out of the circle.”
So, now I’m reading Jonathon Field’s Uncertainty and I’m working on a list of “things in my life that are certain.” I’m not sure how that’s going to help me escape the circle, but you have to trust a woman who can spot – and call you on – your commitment issues.