I moved halfway across the world at the age of 30, and it felt like double jeopardy.
Turning 30 already felt weird and unsettling. I was battling feelings of lack of accomplishment, trying hard to find my place in this vast universe and feeling like I was failing at it. Add to that the stress of culture shock, discovering I now officially had a ‘race’ and making sense of Latour and I was simply running on fumes.
I had panic attacks thinking about my future. The road ahead looked foggy and unclear. I needed clarity, certainty, a definite plan but all I felt was only confusion. I couldn’t get a grip.
I needed a strategy if I was to survive.
Here’s what I did.
I suspended all my expectations.
You see expectations are both a blessing and a curse. You need some level of expectation in order to pursue a certain path in life. You expect to succeed and with that general expectation comes specific, definite desires. You expect to have been at a certain place in your life by now, and you probably have a fuzzy if not clear picture of what that should be.
All that is well and good, but what happens when life throws you a curveball, and you have to recalculate? What happens when decisions made by other people happen to affect your life in ways you never anticipated? What happens when your body or mind betrays you, and you have to find a new plan, create a new strategy or find new players to keep your team in the game?
What do you do with your initial expectations and plans?
Many times we try to apply old standards to new strategies. We measure our current realities by former expectations. This could work, sometimes. But in my experience, it backfires, big time.
It’s what happens when you change jobs and expect the same rules of engagement from your past positions to apply. You’re dealing with new structures, new players new ideologies.
It’s what happens when you move halfway across the world and expect to climb the same kinds of ladders leaning against the same kinds of walls. Recipe for disaster…and physical and emotional stress.
In my situation, I realized that the old rules certainly didn’t apply. My plans needed restructuring, my expectations needed to be revisited and I had to do that within confines of the system in which I now operated.
Here’s what happened when I let it all go.
1. I slept better at night. Granted, I still had the occasional angst when thinking about my new plans and strategies, but I was no longer trying to fit my old round pegs in these new squares holes. I stopped fighting the change. I stopped wishing I had done things differently. I accepted my situation for what it was.
2. I gave myself time to form new expectations and chart a new course. Reinventing oneself isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It’s painstaking, can be embarrassing and there are no guarantees of instant or eventual success; which is why it is okay to take your time (the definition of time here being highly relative, of course).
Note: The period in which you’re reshaping your reality and designing a new path might look to others like an excuse to laze. You might be accused of being a slacker or not being driven or motivated enough. Hang in there.
3. I stopped feeling like I was behind. Because I had suspended my former expectations which, if I am honest, was a deadly mix of both mine and others’ ideas of where I should be, I now was able to stop the constant comparison. I no longer measured myself by standards that didn’t apply to where I wanted to go. I was free to just be.
Starting over, whatever that means for you, will be a difficult and messy process. The best way to do it is with a clean slate.