There’s a downside to being encouraged too much as a child. Growing up, I was always the Golden Child, although I think I was only eager to please because I found it so easy to please. I could get by with little effort and even excel in some areas without trying. I was always told I could do anything I wanted, be anything I wanted. And I knew I was smart enough and talented enough and driven enough that that was true.
But here’s one of the internal hiccups of being me: I get option paralysis. When any and all roads are open to me, I can’t pick. I was always told and believed that I could do/be anything I wanted…but what did I want?
What I’ve always ended up doing is just settling into whatever is good enough. I slip into the comfort zone of what I’m good at so that I’m satisfied to a passable degree and don’t feel like some kind of floundering failure. I make myself comfortable with my surroundings, my regular activities, the people I regularly see, etc. And I just kind of… accept that comfort zone because it’s good enough without having to try, even if I have no idea if it’s what I really want.
Fortunately, somewhere along the trail of growing up, I whack-a-moled the Golden Child reflex to please everyone. I know perfectly well by this point that I meet expectations without trying, so woo-hoo for me. Except, not woo-hoo for ME. Internally, I know that settling for what’s good enough is still settling. Is my comfort zone really what I want? This question has always, always plagued me – What do I want? I don’t think I’ve been able to answer that question for myself at any point in my history.
So what do I do? I stick with my comfort zone. I DO like my life, don’t get me wrong – if I was miserable, I’d change things. I have a pleasant life. Close family. Good friends. Beaches within a reasonable driving distance. More local breweries than I can possibly visit in a week (I’m sure some could, but I’ve apparently become a lightweight). I’m generally content. Comfortable. But is this all I want? Or have I gotten so comfortable that I’m a bit in denial about being…satisfied?
It doesn’t help that I work at home, alone, with buckets of time to think. As generally content as I am with my life, still questions of “What if” creep in to fill the hours. What if I’d made an ambitious pursuit of a vocation at…something I’d wanted? What if I’d said “yes” any number of times, maybe making mistakes but maybe not? What if, at any point, I’d wanted something so passionately that I’d been driven to aim for it?
I’ve always been a quietly restless person, probably exactly because I’ve never known what I want. I’m just not comfortable with being comfortable. I need to be shaken up semi-regularly. I need stimulation from the norm. I hate feeling stagnant. I hate ruts. I go through periods (now, obviously) where I get restless and twitchy and question every life decision I’ve ever made. But still – what do I want? I have no idea.
I’ve always rolled my eyes at people who adopt the personal mantra of “All who wander are not lost.” I’ve known people who can’t settle anywhere and “want to see the world” because they think that’s going to solve their problems that they’re carrying around with them everywhere they land. I’m self-aware enough to know drastically moving or traveling is not going to be a cure-all. At the same time, some of my best decisions were drastic, made on a whim, and excellent examples of my inability to control my impulse-control issues. (I’m looking at you, move to Detroit.) There is something beautifully freeing about hitting some kind of reset and throwing yourself into new surroundings. There’s something wonderfully freeing about being surrounded by nothing you know.
I’m pretty sure this possible solution entered my brain because a friend recently pointed out to me that I would “never move.” This bothered me because:
A) It’s frustrating when someone knows you disturbingly well in so many ways that you have to wonder if they’re right about you all the time.
B) A John Locke (LOST) voice in my head always yells, “Don’t tell me what I [won’t] do!”
Also, it got me thinking. In the back of my mind, I know that moving is always something I’m quite open to if presented with a good enough reason. In fact, I think that’s why I rent. So IS that what I want, right now? A drastic move (literally), a shake up from this comfortable, pleasant little life I’ve settled into? Or would that just be a quick fix?
I’ve never been comfortable being comfortable. Maybe that’s all I want – to not be so damn comfortable – although that’s a terrible wish for a pessimist to throw out into the universe. But I am restless constantly, and I can’t blame it on winter anymore. I need…something. I think – I think – I should find baby steps to shake things up where I’m at rather than some drastic move (say, Iceland, for example…Iowa is easier to resist), but I don’t know. I guess I’m just trying to stay open to possibilities (good ones, please, universe) that I can jump on if they’re what I want.
Yep. As you know, I tried the Iowa thing. : / Don’t bother with that one ; )
We should definitely talk on this subject when I visit. I feel this way all too often, myself.
Same boat, you and me. Maybe it’s part of the draw to being writers and creators too? Because it’s not a comfortable life, and things get shaken up almost on the daily with whatever story you’re working through. You constantly have to confront the things you think about yourself and God and the world. We work these things out on the page, and then offer it up for consumption by whoever happens to big up our book or stumble across our blogs. But the flip side, of course, is that you end up alone a lot at your laptop and life can get to feeling a little one-dimensional. And then there’s always the puzzling look people give when you tell them that you’ve forgone the “safety” of a 9-to-5 to be a writer. (This is where I’ve been camped for the last month, since I posted my blog about quitting therapy to be a writer instead.) Those looks alone can make you question every life decision you’ve ever made!
But…I think maybe what I’m realizing as I pray and talk to my pals who know me so well and allow myself a little quiet to process these things is that there’s always an internal prompting toward one or other. I tend to think that’s a little Holy Spirit action, but maybe that’s just me. 🙂
And I think maybe you’re onto something here when you talk about staying open to the possibilities. A friend of mine once told me that as a parent she’s learned to “hold it all loosely,” and I think maybe that’s not true of parenting alone. I think maybe that’s the whole point of life and of faith – don’t limit God, and by extension don’t limit yourself. And then I think we’ve got to trust that goodness will come out of whatever decisions we make, even the wrong ones.
Also…the East Coast is lovely. I highly recommend the corridor between Philly and Washington, D.C. 🙂
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