There’s something I’ve been pondering for several weeks now, which I feel has a direct bearing on how the next stage of my life is going to go … something which has ruled my life for a long time, which I want to change and don’t entirely know how. At least I’ve spotted it, which is a start. But that in itself doesn’t go far enough.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a follower, a joiner, a wait-and-see-er, a do-what-you’re-told-er. I built a lot of my personal sense of value on approval from other people, and that came in great degrees from doing what other people wanted and doing it well. Right through school, right through college, right through my early temporary jobs into the one I held for a decade. I got really good at carrying out other people’s wishes; I can also be good at taking someone else’s plans and suggesting improvements, but the ideas and efforts were always initiated by someone else.

I’ve been pondering how this has kept me too still and static, how I think this personal tendency helped to keep me in a job that I was done with long before I left, how it has kept me from doing a lot of things that I think I might like to. Right now, when I’m in an in-between period of life and needing to determine what happens next, it’s not helping me move forward. I’m a grown-up now. I don’t get assignments and grades, no one is giving me work projects, no one is going to tell me what’s right and wrong for me to do. I am, in that sense, free. But I don’t know what to do with my freedom, and some part of me is still sitting around, waiting for someone else to give me directions to follow, so that I can please them and keep being valuable.

A lot of the people I really admire are not like this; they decide to do a thing and do it. They take action. They learn things they don’t know yet. In a practical (if grandiose-sounding) way, they make the world. The things that exist, exist because someone decided they should be made; the events that happen, happen because someone did the work to make them happen. That really appeals to me, but I struggle to do it. I’m good at having ideas, but I don’t make them happen. I’m good at helping other people do their things, but not at starting and doing my own things. And that’s not really how I want to be anymore, but I’m kind of at a loss how to change it.

The problem isn’t ability or lack of opportunity; it’s something mental, something emotional, something I haven’t laid hold of yet. I see the shape of the problem, but I haven’t found the practical levers to help me shift it. In that weird, contradictory, human way, I’m not sure if I really want to move it — some of me does, but I’m well aware that a lot of the time, people don’t really want the things they think they want, or at least not all of them does, and I don’t trust myself here. I don’t understand myself. I’m really not sure what to do.

I have been trying to make a point of writing, because I feel like that’s one part of what I need to do next, but I don’t know what shape I want it to take. I’ve been thinking about turning a collection of my essays into a book, but I’m not pursuing it as wholeheartedly as I could. I feel that I’m drifting, and I don’t want to be, but I’m not taking up my paddle, either. So can I really say this isn’t what I want? Judging by my behavior, I find it hard to justify.

So I don’t have a tidy conclusion today, just something that I’m trying to come to grips with. The world really needs people to take hold of good things and make them happen; there’s so much need, and so many things to make, and things to do. I’d like to be part of it. But I’m afraid I’ll keep sitting here, watching the world pass by, and the wish will stay wistful and unformed, drifting away on the wind.


2 comments so far

  1. Lynn on

    Remember learning how to spin? And how long that took, and how awkward you felt? (OK, maybe that was just me.) Well, in my experience, it takes practice to get good at and comfortable with initiating stuff. So, go practice. Make a list of things you could initiate, whether they are easy (cast on for a new shawl) to hard (write a book), and do a bunch of the easy ones (yes, this does mean you can cast on 23 shawls tonight).

  2. Brother on

    Don’t loose sight of who you are. There are loads of people out there that want to drive the bus, but there are very few that can take something from inception, through creation, past revision, and onto production by themselves. The world needs people like you (and me) to make sure things go right. Please don’t get me wrong, always have goals and reach toward them everyday, and it’s always good to stretch your boundries, but be true to yourself. Sometimes it’s just as good to play to your strengths.

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