Dropping the penny
This worked for me before. When I am feeling stuck, lost and unable to progress, I have set myself up for a change. 100 days worked for me best - a commitment to become something else in roughly three months!
This is one such time. Pandemic is over, at least psychologically, and I am in the middle of a flurry of activities. But I am starting to feel burnt out. Too much bad work, the sort one has to do at a workplace but which leaves a bad taste at the end of the day, is cramming my schedule. On top of all this, I have this feeling of going in circles, not moving forward. I know I have to change something quickly.
The pandemic has taken its toll. It induced a strange career see-saw: My work stalled at first and then I took on a project that sucked me in. I initially enjoyed getting back into action and did more than I was required to do. But, at the same time, I got into my comfort zone. The regularity of this engagement made me more secure than I like to be. I enjoyed some of the work, ideas and friendships that came with it.
But, then, I tried to push the boundaries. Instead of working, I tried to create. This was irrational: I knew the environment and its limitations. The mandate that 'nothing new must not be tried' was written all over my brief. But that is against my nature perhaps: I am only a reluctant corporate warrior, and that is indeed key to all my suffering. My boundaries between work and being are so thin that I could hardly ever maintain it. And, therefore, I got stuck again.
So much for my lament. But it's not my failures that bother me so much; it's my inability to imagine a fresh start. That attachment I always dread has come to me. It's a good thing, perhaps: I have not felt so attached, to ideas, people, things, for a long time. But it's a circle: More attached I feel, more I feel the urge to follow my heart and be original, which makes it more difficult for me to sustain the status quo. This is why I am forcing myself into another 100 days' plan, with a commitment to be true to my heart, master the courage and start afresh.
I shall keep what happens to work outside this. My key aim is to separate work - which I have to keep doing for financial ends - from my identity. I have dithered with my PhD, but my aim is to get back to doing it. I have always wanted an academic career, but never had the courage to pursue it: I always thought, even when I was much younger, that it was too late. It was a strange mix of lack of confidence, practical considerations and disdain about bureaucratic life that kept me from it. But now that I have done the time in the purgatory of for-profit education, I know that I have to find my way into the world where people do not work for money alone. The first step is to make the commitment and start my PhD again by September - and this is at the top of my plan.
Related, but not exactly the same, is my plan to try and build a writing career. This is surely even more ambitious but a kind of life plan which would make me the happiest. Again, I always dreamed and talked about it but never had the courage. I have forever been living a 'regular' life, being responsible and making compromises, and therefore, never got into doing this seriously. But as it stands, I have been too regular, too boring, too conservative in my life. The pandemic has tested those limits and exposed the pointlessness of all of it. This blog started as my morning pages 18 years ago - and the fact that I can't regularly post anymore shows me that I have really lost my way. This, then, is my second big agenda: To write again.
The overall idea, then, is to find a way to a creative life. Within the boundaries of work, there is little point in exploring new ideas. Someone lectured me today that one must not be passionate about what one does, but rather about the money: I think that is my penny-dropping moment of sorts, when I accepted the obvious that I need a new start.
Hence, I imagine a new life of all sorts of things: A new career perhaps; living in a new place; an escape from the conventional and those of habit; being irresponsible; giving in; doing madness; breaking the neatness; loving again; finding the words; being indefinite..
Things I have never done before. Things I can't plan for. Things that I couldn't let happen. Things that will not mean anything today but will be everything tomorrow.