A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to go on vacation with her to Europe in September. Initially, I leapt at the idea. After much consideration, though, I had no choice but to turn her down. I have no idea what my life is going to be like in September. I don’t know if I’ll have a job, and I’m not sure where in the world I’ll be, and it would be silly to commit to something as big as a Europe trip with so many things up in the air. So, with a very heavy heart, I had to ask her to go ahead without me.
Lately, the uncertainty of my immediate future has been bothering me a lot. It’s hard not knowing what my life is going to be like tomorrow or next week, let alone a few months or a year from now. Being someone for whom life has sped on without stopping for 25 odd years, it’s a bit alarming to suddenly find myself at a standstill and not really moving in any direction.
All through my childhood and adolescence, life always had direction. I wasn’t always certain about where I’d be or what I’d be doing at any given time in the future, but things were always moving forward. Education provided a sense of flow – school, junior college and then college – so even when I was feeling indecisive, there was very little helplessness because things always had to keep moving. After that, work followed, which meant another 4 years of life happening with no time to stop and think about anything else.
Now that I’ve taken a break, though, it feels like everything has come to a screeching halt. After a lifetime of forward movement, I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator and let myself slow down to a stop for the first time. And honestly, it does feel good. It feels good to wake up in the morning and not have to think about being somewhere, it feels good to not worry about deadlines or assignments or work reviews and it feels good to have all the time I want at my disposal. I’m grateful for that.
But now, the restlessness has crept in and I find the days getting longer. I feel physically jittery, but at the same time, I feel a purposelessness to the things I’m doing, a passivity that has settled in my bones. I can’t sleep peacefully at night. I’m waiting for something to happen to kickstart my life again, to give it some direction, to get me up and moving again. I know I should do the kickstarting myself, but sometimes things feel out of my control, and it feels like all I can do is sit back and wait for the stars to align. It’s frustrating.
I feel more like an adult now (and I use the word liberally) than I ever have. Maybe this restlessness is what they call the ‘quarter-life crisis’, maybe it happens to people regardless of their work/life status. The uncertainty about the future, looking out for a sign to tell you what to do next… maybe as we grow up, physical restlessness turns into a restlessness of the soul.
Who knows, maybe it never goes away.