Is it just me, or does it seem the older you get the higher the stakes seem? For instance, when I was 18 the world was mine, I could do no wrong! Heck, I did a year of college to determine what I wanted to do. I wish I had that kind of leisurely approach with decisions these days! Ten years after high school I sometimes find myself nearly paralyzed of making the wrong decision with fear of not progressing towards this ideal life set before me, established by either by myself or society. Through our current experiment in farming, we are confident we know what that ideal life looks like: land to farm, kids, and a meaningful existence. It’s easy to get frustrated by the steps in between now and reaching the destination and uncertainty mixed in, but something I’ve been doing lately is reminding myself that we are going to make some mistakes on the way. It would be unfair to place expectations on us to nail it right away. My thinking is that by decreasing the importance we put on our next step the fear of failure and of uncertainty will be less. Let’s talk about some of the uncertainty we face and how we are attempting to embrace it.As many of you know, we took personal leaves from our positions back in Edmonton. What you may not known, is that we recently informed our employers that we aren’t returning. That’s right we’re jobless! Therefore we find ourselves back in transition, this time between being casually employed with jobs waiting for us in Edmonton to being unemployed and having to support and sustain this chosen lifestyle. Having cut the safety net, however, we are facing an uncertain future once again, which is both liberating and terrifying! Everyone, including ourselves, is wondering what we will do to follow-up our 7-month experience-of-a-lifetime? There is self-imposed importance on the follow-up as we need to demonstrate, to others and ourselves, that our last 7-months were more than some fun adventure to be followed by our returning home and spending the next 25 years working towards retirement. A few days ago we overheard an interview on q between Shad and author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert. She has a new book entitled Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear, which sounds like a good read about creativity. I highly recommend listening to the 20-minute interview, which can be found here, as Elizabeth has this amazing energy and boisterous laugh. How does this relate to uncertainty? Well, I strongly resonated with her analogy of the creative mind being a border collie; in the sense that you need to keep your creative mind occupied you will face negative outcomes. I’ll quote Elizabeth, as she says it better:
“If you have a creative mind, which is to say a human mind, it’s essentially like owning a border collie for a pet. You’d better give that dog a job to do or it’s going to find a job to do and you’re not going to like the job that it finds. So, you have to keep that thing occupied… find a thing to do so that it can chase a stick all day because my experience is; if I’m not actively creating something, in my life, the odds are very clearly that I am destroying something and it’s going to be my own piece of mind or relationship… so just keep that dog running even if it’s not in the direction that you intended.”
I can relate in that an idle mind for me can lead to self-doubt and destructiveness. To combat this, I try to stay busy with creating things (writing entries for the blog, trying my hand at sketching/art, woodworking projects, cooking), an active job and land hunt, reading, contemplation, etc.To pull from Zen Habits again, they have a post called The Truth About Your Uncertain Life Path and Purpose, in which Leo Babauta lays out some recommendations to dealing with uncertainty (with the comical caveat that he is uncertain about the recommendations he is making):
“Realize that it is all uncertainty. When you’re procrastinating, it’s because of uncertainty (of whether you can do this). When you are jealous of what others are doing on Instagram, it’s because of uncertainty (of whether you’re getting the most out of life). When you are feeling anxious, it’s because of uncertainty (about the future)…”
He goes on to say, and I’m paraphrasing here:
“The uncertainty that you’re feeling is unpleasant. That’s perfectly OK… Don’t run from it. Instead, stay with this uncomfortable, unappealing uncertainty… Turn to the moment and find the excruciatingly beauty in it…. realize that you’re trying to know the unknowable. You can’t know what the perfect path will be, you can’t know what the perfect you should be, you can’t know what your purpose in life is until it starts to uncover itself… So instead of spinning your wheels with the unknowable, focus on what you actually have right in front of you… There is a crazy amount of beauty to be noticed here, if you pay attention, before it slips away.”
Having the opportunity to apprentice to farm on Hornby Island makes us extremely lucky. Whatever happens next we are equally fortunate. We may not love uncertainty, for obvious reasons, but we are not blind to how fortunate we are. Turning on the news is all that is needed to remind us of how blessed we are compared to others. Last week, while skyping with my Grandpa, Ted, who is turning 90 in December, his message was simple: you’ve already made the decisions that found yourselves living on the west coast… now we just need to carry on. Amen to that!