A couple of months ago I made the somewhat impulsive decision to abandon my comfortable life and move to New York City. Well, it wasn’t that impulsive. For the past two years, I’ve dreamed of moving to New York, but in my mind it was just that–a dream. I remember a friend saying, “If you want it badly enough, you’ll make it happen,” and I was like right. Fuck you. Why don’t you tell me to “manifest it?”
I didn’t want to let myself believe the idea that I could actually “make it happen,” because that left me feeling vulnerable. If I let myself believe I could actually get there, I risked feeling shame if I didn’t succeed.
But I did get there. I got offered a (legal!) job while visiting a friend whose company I write for, and knew I had to take it.
So I flew back home to Vancouver and told my boyfriend, colleagues, friends, clients, soccer team, and family I was leaving. They threw their respective tantrums or gave me their respective high fives, while I sold my car and purged my closet.
You’ve heard a tale like this before–where the protagonist gives up the corporate job and becomes a yoga teacher or travels the world. Best decision ever. End of story.
I thought the intention behind my move was something like that. “I’m so comfortable here with my job and social support and certainty,” I kept telling everyone. “I want to keep growing. I want to feel lonely and challenged.”
In part, this was true. I’m always going off about stepping out your comfort zone and exposing yourself to difficult feelings, and I’ve definitely felt some of those difficult feelings since being here (Amusing sidebar: in the middle of the night before my first day at my new job, I walked into to the wall on my way to the bathroom and cut up my face. Great first impression haha. Less Amusing sidebar: I’ve had 2 pretty full-fledged crying sessions, and I’m realizing my relationship may not survive the distance).
But there’s a whole other demon I’ve unveiled in the shift. Let me explain:
See, I’ve always attempted to advocate against blindly living for socially constructed milestones. I’ve written loads on how the dominant narratives in our media and society suggest we should graduate high school then go to college then go to grad school then find a well-paying, stable career and be in a relationship and be fit then get married (and not divorced) then buy a house then have and raise healthy, agreeable children until college then retire then travel then die a peaceful death.
And the whole time I’ve tried to expose these ingrained, external markers of a “good life,”warning of their dangers, I’ve followed them. Not entirely because I’ve felt I should (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself); rather, because it’s just so happened that becoming a therapist–which has always been my path–involved grad school and resulted in a stable career.
But the clarity in my path ended there. I didn’t have goals after settling into a fulfilling, father-approved career. I was (and still am) on the fence about marriage, kids, and a mortgage. I didn’t have intentions to pursue a PhD anytime soon. And so, unsurprisingly, 4 years out of grad school, I felt restless and absolutely fucking panicked at the thought of domesticating.
When the New York opportunity arose, I saw it as the answer to my existential anxiety. Empowering, yes; a writer’s dream, yes; but more significantly something to cling to. Something else to look toward, so I could avoid those feelings of inadequacy that bubble up to the surface when not suppressed by a future focus. Long work hours and new challenges and all the distractions possible to keep restlessness at bay. A narrative with a less predictable plot. And thus less expectations to potentially not meet.
And so here I am in this new, lively, exciting (mother-of-god cold!) city. It feels like it’s the perfect antidote for my previous discomfort–no room for boredom here 🙂 ! But I also now have a sobering understanding that this adventure might be camouflaging a sense of mediocracy I’ve so wholeheartedly tried to embrace. And that’s unnerving.
My instinct, upon realizing this life revamp may in fact be another goal to focus on (and in turn dampen the deeper feelings), is, ironically, to make more goals! Reach a greater audience! Meet Taylor Swift! Find a way to change the world!
Yet I know myself well enough by now to refrain from that control and certainty-seeking goal-setting, and instead to make space for the discomfort; to remember that all we have is this moment, and that “fully living” is about actually experiencing that continuously in-flux awareness–not trying to determine which measurable “successes” are of most value in life.
So my message to you (but more to me, haha) is this: It’s OK to not have clarity. It’s OK to not know what you want out of life, or to not feel fulfilled by what we’re told will make us happy. It’s OK to be conflicted, frustrated, ashamed, defeated, uncertain, and scared. I’m many of those right now (amidst many positive feelings as well), and it’s wondrously liberating to permit it all. Be kind to yourself. Know you’re not alone in whatever you’re experiencing. Know this is living, not always resting your sights on the next task or traditional milestone to accomplish. I’m right here, living it all with you. We’re all in this together <3.