My life has never really run the conventional path. For the most part, I’ve always worked for myself. So much so that I joke now that I’m largely unemployable should things not go the way I intended them to.
At 18, I got a scholarship to university to study law and communications- something I had channeled all my energy into achieving the years prior- only to discover a few weeks in that it wasn’t really for me. A decision that untethered me from all the expectations and certainties that I had come to rely on and left me free floating and rudderless for a number of years after.
In my 20’s I travelled extensively. I worked as an aid worker all over the Indian subcontinent and middle east and found my way in parts of the world that feel quite unbelievable to me now. As an adult, people tell me I am lucky, that it’s wonderful, and how amazing. At the time, I was seen by those at home as more of a loose cannon. People would look at me and joke, what are you up to now Jane? Or, of course you are! In response to my answer of where or what I was doing next, whilst rolling their eyes and going back to the predictability of their daily lives.
I did not tell them my stories proudly. I told them shyly. Like my adventures where an illegal foray away from what was expected of me.
I thought what fuelled my decisions at the time was a fundamental search for happiness. In my law lectures, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the understanding of how my future would roll out if I continued this path. And I knew, that’s not what I wanted. This wasn’t what was going to make me happy. And so, despite it going against everything that I knew would be supported, easy and expected, I packed up my little car and drove two states across Australia home.
It was the right decision, and yet, still, I wasn’t happy. If anything, I was even more lost.
When I travelled and worked, I reveled in everything that it brought, and I loved to explore. But I wrestled with a constant restlessness. I would often feel sad for not explainable reason. I felt homesick, but I didn’t know for where. I felt disconnected, but I didn’t know from whom.
There are many decisions I’ve made more recently that mirror the fierceness within that’s always guided my way and has served me ever since. If I was to identify one of my positive traits it would be my willingness to change, my willingness to follow what felt right, regardless of where that left me or what I was leaving behind.
Where I went wrong was to understand this voice as one that was guiding me towards happiness. This flaw in my understanding was what created much of the suffering after. I made this decision, I told myself, because what I was doing didn’t make me happy, and yet, here I stand, still not happy.
What is wrong with me? I thought. What is wrong with me?
I understand now that the fierce voice that was guiding me was not the guru in search of the happiness elixir. It was, instead the voice of Not This.
That voice was telling me that this moment wasn’t for me, but it wasn’t guaranteeing me that the ones that came after would be easy. That was not the role of that voice. The role of that voice was solely the reverberance of my bones saying Not This. Not This.
And the only thing I had to do was listen. And then to leap.
The idea that happiness is somehow the goal is what removes us from our ability to leap and then further on from that, to trust ourselves. I leap now not with the idea that my landing pad is going to feel better, but with the knowledge that whatever comes up, I can handle it.
I can handle it.
I walked yesterday and then I sat in the paddock with my horses, and I reflected on the last 12 months. It’s been a big one, and it’s challenged our addiction to certainty that many of us cling to to feel safe.
Over the last few months, I’ve become more and more committed to myself. I’m practicing letting go of the need to allow my thoughts to navigate me through the world and I’m surrendering more and more to feeling my way through.
Feeling your way through the world is not easier. In fact, by definition, feeling more means the full range of possibilities become open to you- of which happiness is only a part.
But as we go into the new year and leave this one behind, I’m not wishing anymore for it to be easier or different. It might be. But it might not be. Instead, I’m resolved to holding on to the fierce flame of self-trust that says, no matter what happens you can and will handle it.
We can handle it.