Your story unfolds in a way where you’re so close to it, word by word, day by day that sometimes it’s hard to see how the chapters come together. It’s hard to see when the plot may turn–when it’s about to get good or tragedy strikes.
I remember a phone call with a college friend one afternoon last summer. I got off work early and biked a few blocks from the office to nearby Tompkins Square Park. I found a comfy place in the grass, the trees blowing in the breeze reminding me of how nature swayed gracefully unlike the concrete that shadowed over the city. We talked about life in New York City, her being back after college working in the small Canadian town she grew up in. The city is amazing, I told her but not everything felt perfect. I tell her that even working and living in New York, a dream for many, doesn’t feel like I’ve made it. That I still struggle with the daily monotony and loneliness, struggle to learn who I am and what the world is just the same way that people struggle wherever they are or whatever they do. I was just trying to learn who I was in a bigger, more expensive city. I wasn’t satisfied that I had “made it” in NYC or even had even really decided if that mattered much to me.
“It’s probably good that you’re never satisfied no matter the great things you’re doing. That means you’ll always keep on seeking something more,” she told me, in that way that friends can be so matter-of-fact and still so profound.
And in the time since that conversation a lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same. I’m still not satisfied. I’ve gotten better at dealing with the flow of life. There are seasons, cycles, chapters that happen in your life story and I was trying to be the author of all parts of them. I was trying to control something that was uncontrollable and the down cycles would just be harder because I felt I needed to “fix” what I had done “wrong” even though nothing was broken and nothing was wrong.
There’s been chapters where I used words to help me seek out who I am–much like I’m doing now–and to say the things I feel people and myself need to hear, times when technology has been the focus of my time, to learn this new way of helping people by building platforms, tools, and digital experiences. And sometimes neither of those would be important and I needed to seek out being around people to share conversations and ideas, or the opposite and be in nature and share quiet.
But it’s easy to get caught up in it all. We try our best to get through our list, to stay afloat. We do what we need to do and lose track of that bigger picture again of where we’re going and what we want to become. We feel a need to finish this sentence before we can really think too much about how the chapter is going to come together. You keep an eye open for signs that may point you in the right direction but you’re not sure you even know what kind of signs to look out for. So until then, you keep doing the work, even though you’re not sure it’s the right work. It’s the best work that you can think of doing to help keep you from being too overwhelmed by wide open canvas.
Or at least that’s what it’s been like for me in the past few years.
But for me a new chapter begins. I start a new job tomorrow. The past few weeks have been a chance for me to look at things from a higher altitude and attempt to map some of the seasons and chapters my life has gone through in the last couple years. From this perspective, things start to make a little more sense. There’s a clearer thread I can see now from comparing the things that I’ve been successful at and the things that drive me. I better understand my trajectory now and can better focus the work I want to be doing. But I wouldn’t say yet that I’m feeling any more comfortable.
I’m nervous about how well I’ll be able to achieve the things I set out to do under this focus. I have a clearer understanding that I can help change the way people work, learn, and communicate with the technology I help build. This focus may be tighter but the work is much bigger and it’s not comforting to be setting out on such a pursuit.
That insatiability has constantly lead me to more interesting and adventurous chapters and, at the same time, greater challenges which usually mean being uncomfortable, stressed, and feeling lost.
But I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.