Lately I’ve been feeling distinctly unseated. Everything is in transition. My exams finish Friday. I’m apartment hunting this weekend. It’s year-end hectic with a dash of ugly: I’m growing out my increasingly-unruly hair.
This morning I had breakfast with one of my favorite people. C is a spectacular, positive person similarly waiting to arrive:
What will I do with myself for the next thirty years if I don’t have kids?!
We want questions answered. To train our periscope to the future and see how the dust has settled. What will I be when I grow up? Where will I live? What if I still feel awkward even with long hair?
This yearning for arrival can be addictive. What will you do with kids for the next 30 years? The answer to her question is, of course: What will you do today?
So much of happiness is letting go and trusting instinct. I’m moving this month after only a brief stint at my current apartment. Before my last move I found myself (forebodingly) filled with panic, uncertain as to whether I was making the right choice.
Instinct. Open any women’s magazine and find page upon page advising ladies that our craving for chocolate is really just misplaced sexual or professional dissatisfaction. Do we really fail so completely at being frank with ourselves that we don’t know whether we’re satisfied?
Talking about instincts this morning C relayed a story from a teaching seminar. A prof who’d written her dissertation on instincts advised the room to line up according to height, then birth month, then birth order. Everyone cheerfully followed her instructions, arranging themselves accordingly.
Arrange yourselves by sexual satisfaction. Those happiest with their sex lives should be at this end; those of you who are least satisfied, over there.
Interesting, no? It seems that arrival has everything to do with taking responsibility. It seems that this is an area where a bunch of professors totally responsible for their fates should be in control, or at least wield some neurotic sense of control.
Everyone reacts to an order like that. We proudly move to the front of the room, or flinch at the idea of comparing our marginal satisfaction to the next guy’s. If you’re asking questions like “what will I do in my childless adulthood?” then certainly this affects questions like satisfaction.
It’s arrival, again. There will always be more cracks that need filling. And here’s an important hint: Chocolate won’t do the trick.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time ignoring my instincts, burying the present, and yearning for arrival. I have been fastidiously determined to assume penance, to punish myself for decisions I’ve made in the past.
Penance is not investment. Investment yields better opportunities moving forward. While penance can be important, it’s silly to focus on the miserable parts of law school, insulting to create interpersonal pressure points to displace career stress, and ridiculous to bemoan awkward hair lengths rather than just buy barrettes.
Life is indeed what happens when we’re busy making other plans. What will you do for the next thirty years if you don’t have kids? What have you done for the last thirty years?
I have no answers. I don’t know where I’ll live, and I don’t yet understand Tax. I have no idea how things will look when the dust settles, but I know I can quell the dust storm if I stop distracting myself from the present to bide time in sound and fury.
It’s satisfying to realize that the answers exist not in the future, but in the present. To relax and trust and remember that I’ve spent 27 years training to pick up the pieces when my decisions are wrong. There is something peaceful about deciding to focus on the battles, knowing — trusting — that the war will take care of itself.
It’s satisfying to stop looking to chocolate, and start looking to God.