I lost my job a month before Christmas. I adored the company, so it came as a shock when they had to go through downsizing to save cash. It’s all part of the start-up industry: while it’s a thrill to build something new and meaningful with a team, the flip side is dangerously unstable. And suddenly I was the one being rocked off the boat.
While I’ve been getting used to longer morning coffees and always having time to plan dinner, there is a level of paranoia that accompanies me through this phase, which is not uncommon for the unemployed.
But it’s not the dwindling bank account or job search that’s freaking me out, but something bigger than that.
I want to tell another story and I promise to turn back to this—just hang in there with me. While listening to a Radiolab podcast, I heard a story that’s stayed with me ever since I heard it. From the perspective of a tour guide, Sean Kelley shared the story of his mother’s friend who served in the Peace Corps. At that time he was living in Gabon Africa, in villages deep jungle where the vegetation was so dense, it grows back in just two weeks if left alone. Villagers would carve out only the space they needed for their gathering places and homesteads. After two years living in this thick jungle, he left the village to visit a friend in Kenya, on the plains. When he got there, he said his eyes couldn’t physically focus on anything beyond this ten feet. He’d been so focused on what was only just in front of him he lost the ability to see in the distance. So the entire time he was on the plains, he felt incredibly exposed and vulnerable, like there were things behind him he couldn’t see.
Back here in the present day, writing from a typical Vancouver coffee shop, I don’t have a plan in front of me. Where do I go from here when I don’t even know what I’m seeing?
My journey is not unfamiliar from others — after high school I went straight into University, and the months leading up to my graduation I launched into a full-time role at a Vancouver tech company. Full speed ahead, I reacted to decisions as they unfolded before me. Picking a school, the courses, and a major, all while earning a pay cheque felt like the typical pace of my generation. Even after my paid-for education, “go, go, go, don’t slow down” felt like an ethereal chant humming from the office walls. This grace period of me-time has shown me that I made very few long-distance decisions in my career. I live in a world of reaction over reflection.
I’ve noticed that I am very hard on myself so easily. It’s almost a reaction to tell myself that I did something wrong, that I could have done it better. I react this way even in my personal life, like when I make a dinner, and think that I could have seasoned more, or roasted longer. So before I have a chance to give thanks for the thing I did make, I’m onto the next thing. Too often it’s behind me and the only memory I have of it was doing it not-quite-right.
Life is far to precious to think we could have done it better. If right now, you’re only able to see what’s right in front of you, let yourself experience it from a place of softness. One decision at a time, one tree at a time. No more blurs, only beauty.