Updated: Sep 22, 2020
As I rushed on here to start writing this post, I was hit head-on with the daily dose of inspiration that Google Chrome never fails to deliver on its homepage. Today's wisdom, arbitrarily generated by a computer, was eerily fitting: Good things take time. The Google robots even address you by name to make it feel extra personal, so it actually looked like this: Good things take time, Talya. It felt too intimate to be coming from a computer, almost like it was an attack at who I am at the core of my being -- my fatal flaw is that I take everything so very personally, even if it comes from a robot that has never met me and even then would not be able to form a proper judgment of my character -- but I kind of needed to hear it.
As I'm sure many people are feeling right now, I feel incredibly stuck. I feel so stuck it is sometimes painful. Seeing as I recently graduated and am working a job that is nowhere near my end goal (whatever that might be), it is almost excruciating to feel like there are no opportunities for new work experiences in the (un)foreseeable future. Though I am still tremendously unsure what it is I want to do with my life, I know it is not this, and it is disheartening to be sitting in this place that I can best describe as being uncomfortable. I feel uncomfortable with my life right now, and it is emotionally taxing to be at a standstill that feels more like a full-stop than a pause.
This discomfort arises from an eagerness to move forward with my life, to change directions onto a career path that feels right for me and that maybe even involves moving to a different city. Those are two things I most want to do right now, and yet they are almost impossible given the world's current state. I have been struggling with settling into the moment and accepting my circumstances for what they are. I know there is nothing I can do about the pandemic that is changing not just my little life but the life of every single person on Earth. I also know that we must learn to accept the things we cannot control, but it is so hard. I want the future so badly that it is hindering my ability to enjoy the present. This is a feeling I'm familiar with from my experience doing long distance. When I was living in Victoria and only saw my boyfriend once a month, I struggled to appreciate each day without wishing it away so I could be that much closer to seeing him again. Now, don't get me wrong; I was living with two of my closest friends that I absolutely adore, and our time living together made for some of the most special memories of my life that I will cherish forever. But no matter how much you love the people around you on a day-to-day basis, it is difficult to be apart from your significant other for an extended period of time. Because of this, I often found myself wishing I could fast forward the mundane parts of my life and get to the big moments I was waiting for.
This chapter of life feels a lot like doing long distance, except in this version I'm in a long distance relationship with my future self. This future self has always been a distant person, one that I knew I wouldn't become overnight, but now it feels like she is even further out of my reach and there's nothing I can do about it. I know that, pandemic or no pandemic, I would not miraculously land my dream job and have the means to move to a new city. But it's knowing that there is no possible way of this happening right now, or even in the coming months, that makes it feel that much more unbearable. When you have the ability to simply coast along and not think too much about your next step, it is easy to settle into a routine and become lazy about working towards your goals. I know I'm guilty of this. I also realize that the collapsing economy and resulting lack of work opportunities likely plays a role in this surge of motivation because when there aren't many job postings online, I'm suddenly convinced I would be applying to every single one of them if they existed. I'm not oblivious to my own shortcomings. But now that there is very little I can do, I want to do it all. It's funny how that works. Or maybe it's just pathetic. You choose.
I guess the only thing to do, other than complaining on the Internet, of course, is to use this discomfort as fuel to do all the things I want to do once this is over. If there's one thing this self-isolation has taught me, it's to stop putting things off and being complacent, to stop allowing myself to settle into what is easy and available. When doing what is easy and available becomes your only option, you realize just how much more you want out of life. So while I can't exactly start a new job or move cities right now, I can work on myself so when the time finally comes, I will be prepared to take my next step. I can read more, I can write more, I can take online courses, I can gain new skills, I can research topics that interest me... There are a lot of things I can do to work towards my blurry, ill-defined, but very real goals; the options are just slightly more limited.
Through all of this, I've been thinking a lot about how we really do choose our lives. No, we can't choose the life we are born into or what opportunities and privileges we are presented with as a result, but we can choose what we do, where we go, and who we are around. I am so shamefully guilty of scrolling through Instagram and seeing people with what appears to be a "dream life" and thinking my own life could never be that way, but the only thing stopping me is myself; it's just these "nevers" that I keep spewing in my head that make feel incapable and unworthy. And I'm not talking about people with luxurious mansions and blacked-out Range Rovers (though I wouldn't be opposed to such things); I'm talking about people who get to wake up each day to do something that is impactful and rewarding and creatively fulfilling. Of course, I would love to own a beautiful home and afford to maintain my high-end skincare routine, but more than anything, I want to have a career that I genuinely enjoy. My greatest goal has always been to live a life I chose for myself, not one that I simply fell into. One of my worst fears (among many, many others) is to be 50, 60, 70 years old and realize I never lived the life I had hoped for myself. On the other hand, I know how important it is to be grateful for what we have, and I know that life is never going to be perfect or look exactly how we imagine it in a fantasy world. But I'd like to believe it can come pretty damn close, if only we take the reins and make it happen. This is much easier said than done, and "take the reins and make it happen" is maybe the most barf-worthy thing I have ever said on the Internet.
Because my own advice is corny, repulsive, and entirely unreliable, I thought I'd share some quotes from people who are all-around better than me (probably; I've never met them). I've been an inspirational quote junkie for basically my entire life. I think I get that from my dad. No, I definitely get that from my dad. He used to have a wall of quotes in his home office (sorry, dad, if I'm outing you for your love of motivational cheesiness right now), and I once wrote my own, much less inspirational quote and put it up with the others as a surprise gift to him. I'm sure it was a very pleasant surprise, just as I'm sure my words of encouragement were the most inspiring on the wall. Winston Churchill, who? It's safe to say my quote was in good company up there, but the point of this ramble is that I am one of those lame people who is actually inspired by inspirational quotes. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to them. Before that, my Tumblr page was flooded with them. And before that, before online spaces like Pinterest and Tumblr existed, I hoarded all my favourite quotes in a ten-page Word document. Now that you've heard my whole life story, here are some words that have resonated with me lately, especially in this time of uncertainty:
"May the space between where you are and where you want to be inspire you and not terrify you." -Tracee Ellis Ross
"How long will you put off what you are capable of doing just to continue what you are comfortable doing?" -James Clear
"Take hold of your own life. See that the whole existence is celebrating. These trees are not serious, these birds are not serious. The rivers and the oceans are wild, and everywhere there is fun, everywhere there is joy and delight. Watch existence, listen to the existence and become part of it." -Osho
"You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life." -Mary Oliver
"You know what? Certain people think they will feel good if certain things happen. The trick is: you have to feel good for no reason." -Richard Brandler
"Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life." -Omar Khayyam
"Life sucks, then you die." -Someone sad, probably.
The Omar Khayyam quote is such a simple, lovely reminder to slow down and enjoy the moment. Even in the pursuit of our dreams, we can't wish away the present. I am mostly talking to myself here because this whole situation has me feeling antsy and anxious, but maybe someone else needed to hear that too. After all, this is your life. This! Right now! These words you are choosing to read. (I am honoured!). The cup of coffee you had this morning. The never-ending work emails. The afternoon walk with your dog. The overwhelming conference call. The conversation with a loved one over dinner. The book you read before bed. Every second of every day is your life. The fun parts, the boring parts, the sad parts, the amazing parts, the scary parts, the hard parts, the unknown parts, all of it. It's all these little moments strung together that make up our lives, so we should learn to appreciate them for what they are. It's easy to get caught up in this idea that your life only truly begins when you get the promotion, when you buy your dream house, when you find your perfect person, when you lose ten pounds, but none of this is true. Pardon my disgusting overuse of already overused clichés, but we really only get so many days here on this earth, and no one knows how many they will be granted. So if you're waiting to achieve some accomplishment or reach a milestone to finally start enjoying your life, you might be missing the point. I don't mean to sound like a preachy expert over here because I couldn't be further from it; I'm constantly repeating this to myself whenever I feel the urge to rush to the next exciting moment in my life. I'm working on it, but sometimes we all need a reminder to appreciate where we're at, even if it's not quite where we want to be. The robot motto-generator said it best, after all. Good things take time.
I saved my favourite quote for last (yes, I still have more. I could go on forever and ever.) When the chaos of our world leaves you feeling a little bit lost, I hope some of these might offer a sense of peace. Or maybe they launch you into an identity crisis, but that is not my hope. This excerpt comes from "The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver:
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?