Fearing the future — and why I don’t anymore

Some things are terrifying, and you can’t imagine how you’d weather those storms if they ever came. But then they happen, and you survive — and the experience, for better or for worse, probably was very little like you expected it would be, but you survive, and then you realize you’re not afraid anymore.

I’ve been afraid of lots of things that I no longer fear. Most of them are stories for another time. Tonight, I’m thinking about the future.

I’m a planner. For years I desperately wanted to be a spontaneous free spirit, but the fact of the matter is I like to have plans. I like to have outlines. I like to be prepared. The most spontaneous thing I have ever done in my life was booking flights to England when all of 24 hours earlier the prospect of traveling abroad was just a vague possibility for sometime far down the road. It was exhilarating. But there was a solid gap of four months between when I booked the flights and when I will actually step foot on British soil, and since the moment I clicked Okay on the travel site, I have been researching, plotting, making lists, doing calculations, figuring out all the logistics down to the most meticulous detail. It makes me feel safer, somehow.

Because I am so inherently a planner, not knowing what is coming has long been unsettling at least, and terrifying at most. I had no real idea what I would be doing upon graduating from college until the day after I crossed the stage in my cap and gown, and so for my entire last semester, a ball of anxiety lived in my gut.

But I survived that transition. Exactly one year ago, after a brief Christmas break, I left the house where I spent the greater part of my childhood and began my move to my new town and new job. I have become settled here — and yet, not fully.

At some point, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, when finances and other practicalities allow, I’ll have an engagement ring on my finger, and that part of my future will almost certainly require me to live in L.A. (He wants to pursue television production, and L.A. is, of course, the most natural place for him to do that, whereas my line of work is portable.) But that plan is only a very vague one. We could be married this time next year, or maybe not for two or three more years. I’ll have to find a new job, but I haven’t the slightest idea what I’ll be doing, or where, or when.

I’ve begun, at the encouragement of several friends and mentors, to consider grad school. I’ve shocked myself already by even entertaining the possibility. I’ve also toyed with the idea of a work-away program somewhere in Europe, in which I’d volunteer on a family’s farm or in a shop or so on in exchange for room and board.

What it all comes down to, really, is that I have no idea what the next year or even the next few months of my life hold. But for the first time, rather than being petrifying, that fact is exciting, even freeing. It’s the kind of excitement you get going up the first hill of a roller coaster you’ve never been on before. You don’t know what to expect, but whatever it is, you are locked in and have no way to avoid it. And while there’s a decided element of fear to that, it’s also thrilling.

It’s unlikely that any season of my life will be more ripe with possibilities. It’s unlikely I will ever be more mobile and less tied down than I am now. Later on, my life may be more stable, certainly, but greater stability almost always necessitates greater commitment. And that will be good, in its time. But for now, I am unstable. And what peculiarly wonderful thing that is.

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Aside

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