They say that in times of transition that we learn the most about ourselves. I think its mostly because we are caught in our most vulnerable state, like bathing in an outdoor shower. You’re outside, so its out of your (and society’s) comfort zone and feels a bit risque, but yet so nice to bask in your vulnerability. The more you let go and enjoy the freedom, the closer you dance with the danger of being caught by a passersby, or unsuspecting comrade. If you are caught in this excruciatingly mortifying predicament, you find yourself making a crash landing back to reality and become acutely aware of your surroundings. Once you recover from complete mortification, you try to grasp at whatever reverie you were in because you were on the brink of some wonderful revelation.
That whole process, though painful for the psyche and the accidental Peeping Tom, is how I have sort of felt after each transition: graduating from college, graduating from graduate school, and accepting the fact that I was unhappy with where my life was, etc. I would find myself lost in the calamity that is the ending of a phase, only to be left with the acute awareness of the beauty and the foul nature of our reality. For example, when I completed graduate school I was completely overwhelmed with the opportunities and the deeply held belief that I could single-handedly be involved in “saving the world,” but I was also overwhelmed by the possibility of becoming a complete failure left to live off the streets for the rest of my days.
But as I have been navigating this current transition, the quote from the great philosopher Epictetus continues to come to mind: It is not what happens to you, but how you react that matters. You’ve gotta trust a man that was once a slave, then became a philosopher, and then was banished when it comes to dealing with life’s challenges… and if he was able to focus on the present, then why can’t I?
I, as well as the rest of my type-A peers, get so wrapped up in “the plan” and when things don’t follow it exactly, we feel like the world is crashing in on our outdoor shower. How have we let ourselves see these “bumps in the road” as negative and wrong, when really – it’s just life? If we just embraced ourselves —childhood battle scars, muffin tops, and all— for who we are, would we be able to see through these catastrophes and see them for what they are: unfortunate events? Well, while you scramble for a towel, I’m going to practice flaunting and celebrating the spontaneous for it is a practiced skill, not a talent.