The problem with focussing on end goals is we miss out on the most important bits: the odyssey, the process, the in-between. We forget how to live out loud. This circus is about existing on the edge, you know—and living a little dangerously.
I went through an existential crisis around the time I moved to Rwanda. On the cusp of 30, I ditched a long-term relationship and quit my first real job. I spent two months making arrangements and packing three suitcases to the hilt, stuffing all the pieces of my European-built life inside them.
The job in Sub-Saharan Africa was a game changer because it was a reflection of everything I’d sacrificed and worked hard for up until that point. A way out of the dead end I’d hit in Copenhagen, the opportunity was exciting and inspiring. I was curious where the path would take me.
But let’s get real—I was also terrified beyond measure, gripped by a fear linked to uncertainty. I fielded all sorts of ambiguous questions that bubbled to the surface. How can you be sure? Is this the best choice? Look at what you’re leaving behind! What will you do if you fail?
But beyond the uncertainty and the risk were deeper fears linked to feelings of acknowledgment and worth.
How do you stack up against others? Why don’t you have a picket fence? Where are your 1.8 children? Why are you lagging behind?
‘Society-says’ you should be further ahead.
I’ve come to realize my angst about “getting things right” is linked to the (wrong) notion that there is only one timeline for achievement. Now and then, I give into the idea I’ve failed if I don’t hit a certain milestone by an allotted timeframe. Or I believe I’m too much/not enough of something to embark on a new endeavour.
Although men experience something similar, it seems women (perhaps because of physiology?) are tried more vigorously. We must have it all! Get a Ph.D. by 23 and a man by 27. Marry and pop out kids before your mid-30s. Spend your late 30s climbing the corporate ladder so you have your first million to spend at 42. By 49 you should be able to kick back and retire.
The problem with focussing on end goals or superficial wants is we miss out on the most important bits: the odyssey, the process, the in-between. And when we succumb to external pressures we don’t consider what we really want, instead slipping into various roles we think we ought to take on. It’s easy to forget not everyone is keen on going to school. It doesn’t occur to us that some women long to be married while others prefer to spoon, happily, with a set of like-minded lovers.
Not all women are interested in being managing directors. And quite a few, despite their uteruses, are not meant to be mothers. Too busy trying to one-up Jane Doe, we put all our efforts into reaching some unattainable apex or making someone else happy.
We forget how to live out loud. This circus is about existing on the edge, you know—and living a little dangerously.
I’ve been late to most of the *big* things in life thanks to circumstance, opportunity, and personal choice. Why go from point A to B when I can hit up H, K, and N before circling back? At least I’ve come to accept my route will be highly circuitous.
I started boxing in my late 30s for fuck’s sake. I’m the poster child for the idiom, “better late than never.”
And while I still, on occasion, worry about missing the boat (in America, accomplishment and acclaim seem to be the only things that carry weight) I no longer equate tardiness with a lack of success. Fast and irregular isn’t always the best beat.
Sometimes, it’s best to rock to a rhythm that hums slowly and steadily.
Beyond the glitz is a process. It doesn’t matter where you start or where you’re going. What counts is caring enough, about anything, to set yourself in motion. What you encounter along the way is what matters.
How you get ‘there’ is the real journey.