I figured out last year, as part of my big break-down, that my life plan was not going to work out. I imagine this revelation has hit many people over the course of their lives so I don’t see myself as terribly special for having had it (especially because I’m reading a book about how it is the common life passage of everyone around my age).
The thing that surprises me is that I figured out that it isn’t simply my life plan that didn’t work out. It’s that life plans, in general, never work out. What’s that John Lennon line? “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”? I always loved that line. So profound, yet simple. (The most profound things usually are.)
I get that, truly, for the first time in my life. Whatever my job, wherever I live, whoever I try to secure relationships with- nothing is guaranteed. My health may vanish before I recognize how lucky I am to be healthy and able-bodied. My job might be taken away from me despite my best efforts and innate abilities. My house could (god forbid) burn down. My car could be stolen. The people I love could die, or just change into people I don’t love anymore. Nothing is guaranteed.
As I list off all these vital things that may vanish in a second’s time I may sound like someone who doesn’t really get it- how devastating it is if these things do happen. And I agree that of the list I’ve only experienced a few. But I’ve experienced enough to believe that last statement. And, amazingly enough, I think I’m beginning to actually accept it.
The whole job thing, for example. I used to think the whole 9 to 5 thing wasn’t a choice, it was a survival tactic. It was something you had to do. And yet, all around me are people who have made a living and continue to do so by working in areas I never thought of as real jobs and in areas that are as far removed from an office as you can get. Not to mention that me with my safe 9 to 5 got screwed over like everyone else, so I know that doesn’t actually work.
I’d like to say that, knowing all this, I have the bravery that comes from knowing you have nothing to lose. And yet, as I look for another job I find myself searching in offices, preferring schedules that resemble 9 to 5. Is it fear? Partially, I’m sure. Habit? Again, it must be partially that, too. But the main reason is that, even though I KNOW from experience that the whole 9 to 5 office life doesn’t work, I don’t KNOW what does.
And there’s the rub, as they say. You can do the leg work, collect the evidence to disprove your world view and your operating theories about how things work. But you can’t destroy an entire belief system without replacing it with something else. Once you wipe the hard drive you have to put on a new operating system in order to get anything done.
So that’s where I am- trying to find a new operating system. It’s scary, for sure. I don’t know what to believe. And because my previous OS crashed and burned so painfully I’m trepidatious when examining new beliefs, understandably so. I don’t want to fully buy into anything because I don’t want it to blow up in my face.
My fear, I think, makes perfect sense. You get burned, you handle with care next time. What doesn’t make sense to me, and what actually confuses me, is how everyone else around me is continuing on with their life plans as if nothing’s changed. Getting married, having kids, getting excited about new jobs… Despite my disillusionment the American Dream continues, unabated. Except that now as I watch those around me pursue theirs I don’t feel envy anymore. I just wonder when it’s gonna blow up in their face.
Perhaps this is just another phase in the process…