Isn’t it funny how time, even small amounts of time, can change one’s perspective? I have been thinking about this all week, especially since I reviewed my business development plans for the United States, written just 3 months prior, realizing that none of the projects or ideas I had in mind were even a thought today. All of this analysis reminded me of a writing project, albeit a small one, that I took on earlier this year. Many of you might be aware of the women’s magazine Skirt!, a collection of essays written by aspiring women across our vast nation. I prepared a small essay entitled: Embracing Uncertainty: A wish for all women around the world. I was confident that my essay would be chosen for the June 2010 edition, mostly because it followed the theme of the month that focused on women and their strength to overcome obstacles. Well, much to my disappointment my submission was rejected. With all of this reflection lately, on projects that seemed so certain but never came to fruition, led me to this short essay. I would like to share it with you today, as I think many of you can relate. Looking back, in early 2010 when this was drafted, I did hold much uncertainty toward the path I was on. But now, just 9 months later, I love my path.
I love it.
What does it mean to embrace uncertainty? Is it about having the courage to take chances when the outcome isn’t crystal clear? Is it about being true to yourself, admitting something is not cooperating with your ideal way of being, and making a change?
There, I said it. CHANGE. The most feared word in the English dictionary, worthy of 9 definitions as a verb according to Merriam Webster. The most applicable definition of change is “to undergo transformation, transition, or substitution” (Merriam Webster). I have a hunch that a handful of you, possibly more, will never embrace uncertainty because it means something will change in your life. And that change, however rewarding, enriching and positive it could be, UNCERTAINTY overcomes you like an oversized red light on the road of life.
Embracing uncertainly isn’t a part of your genetic code, readily offering itself up through a molecular cascade of events in the human body. Rather, it’s a unique ability; something unrealized in my life until one special day. One day, January 1st, 2010 to be exact, when this 36 year old, North Carolina country girl decided to relocate cross country: San Francisco.
It all started on that anticipation filled day, back in 1991, when I received my senior yearbook and recorded my well thought out plans for the future. There it was, recorded in black ink, my declaration to the world. Where would I be in 10 years? This was a question with multiple responses, all of which took no more than 10 seconds to come to mind. I aspired to be a teacher; I wanted to shape young minds into leaders and instill confidence in these inexperienced souls (meanwhile I was still an inexperienced soul myself mind you). I was to live in Florida; that I was completely sure of (although at this point I had never even been to Florida). The cool winters of North Carolina could easily be forgotten when surrounded by warm, tropical breezes. As for my marital status, there was no question in my mind that MY prince charming and I would be happily married and truly, forever and always, in love. This I was most certain of because I had carefully planned our meeting, courtship and marriage in my mind since my early childhood. Years of daydreaming, of acting out my adult life through Barbie dolls and pure make believe offered what I thought to be a realistic and achievable scenario. And last but not least, I was to be a mother. Of all the certainties I fantasized about, this one contained the most passion and intensity. The unconditional love experienced between mother and child wasn’t an option but a necessity. It seemed to stem from a loss of my own father at an early age, possibly a desire to re-create the parent/child bond we once held and carry it through a lifetime.
Today, nearly 19 years since I first proclaimed my destiny, I couldn’t find myself in a more different situation. My carefully crafted plans never suggested I move so far away from my family, let alone California. An idea such as this at the youthful age of 17 would have surely sent me into a definite state of panic. Yet today, at 36, here I am. I have embarked on an inspiring journey into a diverse, heterogeneous society that couldn’t be more unlike my homogeneous roots.
Much as I did at the age of 17, I have a plan. I plan to enrich my life with culture, business opportunities, new acquaintances and fitness challenges. I have detailed goals with set timelines for completion, yet there is a clear distinction between today and yesterday: acceptance of uncertainty. Life is full of uncertainties, yet as an innocent and naïve child you fail to see this or at least understand the concept. Sure, I suffered my share of disappointments, physical and emotional loss, unresolved relationships and those occasional not-so-happy moments. However, it still never occurred to me, in my youth, that my plans would not be. A deviation from the course, let’s say.
Today I am still a dreamer. I stare out my 12th floor apartment window, counting the series of illuminations lining the steel frame of the Bay Bridge, gleaming like tiny twinkle lights that once adorned my family Christmas tree. I hop on the MUNI bus #5, taking the 30 minute trek to Golden Gate Park, positioning myself in the Japanese Tea Garden and saluting the majestic trees, strong yet weathered from years of existence. I jog along the pier, towards Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping briefly to smell the ocean and bask in its vast and powerful unpredictability. I am reminded of the uncertainty found in the ocean environment itself; much like human life it is a balance between sheer survival and a courageous attempt at adventure.
Today I am still a dreamer AND I accept uncertainty. I see its power and I embrace it. For it is uncertainty that causes us to re-examine our lives and sometimes, maybe just the right time, make a change in our lives for the better. It is the acceptance of uncertainty that helps us to understand life may not be exactly as we had planned. It may be a slight deviation from the path or, as in my case, a totally new direction.
Accepting this, embracing this, gives you the power to adapt. The power to deal with whatever comes. The power to start a new career, change your look, take on a new hobby, end a relationship that is draining your energy, or possibly fly across the country and live in a new place… and smile.