Saturday, September 28, 2013

how to get un-stuck

When I was at my lowest, following my first breakup, I spent hours researching international universities I could transfer to... because obviously a new home-away-from-home would make everything better. Similarly, while heading towards my last breakup, I blamed my dissatisfaction on the city of Paris and applied to a handful of jobs in London. I emailed a friend about my restlessness during that time, writing, "Note to self: a change of scenery doesn't solve all of life's woes." And it's true. I knew it even then. Though I trust with certainty that my tireless wanderlust is genuine and I embarked on this experience for all the right reasons, I'm also aware that those doubts and worries haunt me without concern as to whether I'm staying or going. It may be easier to run away from rather than face our inner demons, but the escape hardly sets us free. It's a lesson worth learning. So, assuming I'm not the only one struggling with "stuck" from time to time, I thought I'd share how I recently came to embrace "settled" instead.
It's never just "the way it is." The French love the phrase, and yet, ironically enough, it was Marie who offered me this reasoning. As much as you're busy, she told me, you still have time to do those little things that make you happier. Try a few new recipes, pick up running again, find low-commitment, and better yet, free events and activities that excite you. Don't let your mind get away with believing you're more "stuck" than you are. You play a vital role in dictating how good you feel in life right now.
There is a bright side. While meandering through the Swedish countryside, I found myself complaining to Ariel Waldman about my restlessness. Why can't your flaw be your strength? she asked me. It's probably the force that's gotten you out into the world in the first place, the reason you have all these incredible experiences behind and ahead of you. Try celebrating it. If you're self-aware enough to know you're not quite where you want to be, then you now have the chance to better determine how to get there.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Do not even think about comparing your current condition to that of a friend. Just... don't. Everyone is on their own unique journey. (Right, Christine?) No matter if you're hoping to build roots in the town that's always been your home or hoping to challenge comfort zones in a new city. As Lara reminds me frequently, both are okay, just as is every other plan of attack (fulfillment) in this game we call life. For me, this has always been the hardest part. I seek to explore the unknown with as much gusto as I long to revel in the familiar. I blame it on my Gemini-ness :). The thing is, our journey is as much up to us as it isn't. We must find a balance between keeping our eye on the prize and appreciating the gifts we've already been given.

New York Magazine's The Cut recently published Why I'm Glad I Quit New York at Age 24. I was especially drawn to it because I too left the city at 24--though I realize I didn't so much quit as much as New York and I took a break. I know I'll be back. I call myself an expat ( I recently reflected in a comment on someone's blog! If you're the blogger or know who is, please let me know), but I'm hardly set on being one forever. As such, I was struck by Sara Tolzmann's critique of Ann Friedman's words:
"The article annoyed me for many reasons, but mostly because of this ridiculous notion that a place should make you happy, or that one is entitled to happiness outright. I think one of the enlightening truths unveiled to us as adults is that you must choose happiness, no matter the circumstances. It is not giftable, earnable, or stealable. It does not come from Instagram likes, blog comments or retweets (even though these are fun.) It does not live in the future or on an unreachable ("the next thing to come") horizon line. Everything is fleeting, and finding/keeping happiness takes work because of that."
Then I stumbled across How to be Home on Thought Catalog. The writer, Leslie Finlay, moved from New York to South Korea and aptly concludes that, "no matter where you go, you’re leaving behind a dependable life brimming with dependable people on dependable schedules." She nailed it, I thought to myself. That was the scariest part. The only thing scarier was settling for how stuck I had felt before leaving. And she continues with an enlightening conclusion that I couldn't have found more true:
"Because we can shift all across this planet, chase new experiences and take control of our own story, but at its core, our narrative only shifts so much. Every day we smile, plan, pursue our dreams. We drink too much, lose sleep, we turn off our phones and tune the world out to bad Netflix movies. We worry, we risk, we take the harrowing, damning chances to give all of ourselves to everything we do, to everyone we love, regardless of what we get in return."
Just as we are only as stuck as we let ourselves believe, we can also find comfort in letting go of unnecessary attachments and discovering that, "home is the people who remind you of who you are." Recently, I left a comment on Breanna Rose's blog about these positive relationships: "It’s interesting how life’s ebbs and flows can bring certain friends to the forefront while others take a seat back; and mostly, I mean this in the sense of who keeps in touch and continued support, and who, just, doesn’t. Those who matter most always find a way to stick around." Trust me when I tell you not only are you not actually stuck, you've got lots of support as you work to get out of it. And hey, good news: our lives are already unraveling just as they should.


  1. Love this. It's so important to pause every once in awhile, take stock of where we are in life and then be grateful for how far we've come. I like the idea of using what we perceive as weaknesses as our largest strengths. As a restless soul myself, I definitely identify with you :) xxx

    1. I completely agree! And I loved that, too. Some people are so wise :) xo

  2. A place doesn't make you happy on its own, but having lived in several countries & cities by now, there are definitely some places that are more able to give you the things you're looking for, and that are more (or less) conducive to happiness. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what those things you're really looking for are, and it's easier to just get frustrated with the place. I don't know how people who always stay in their home cities deal with this, but then all by friends "back home" and not flawlessly happy all the time either... they just don't see moving to a new place as the obvious escape valve.

    1. Interesting point, and I'm sure you're right. It's funny how we don't always know where our ideal place is though, and so much of that (I think) is based on who we surround ourselves within those places.


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