The Next Thing

February 9, 2022

There exists immense pressure on young people (all people, actually) in the Untied States and other culturally similar countries to find their purpose in life, to follow their passion, pursue their dreams and their happiness before they die. That’s a heavy load to place upon a millennial with limited resources, a crumbling economic and political world, and a mind that’s constantly being distracted and turned into an addict by social media tech companies that refuse to regulate their products, compromising the health of your brain over shareholder dollars. So, yeah, it can be hard to know what you want to do in life.

I’ll soon be turning 30, and while many will still call that the “spring chicken” phase, there’s a lot to be considered and reevaluated at this time. How did I spend the last decade? Did I invest enough time and energy into the “right” things? What hard lessons have I learned? What patterns of behavior do I seek to leave in my 20s, and what do I want to carry with me for the next decade? Will I be financially independent in a manner befitting my lifestyle and the environment? Can I feed myself?

If all my survival needs are met (which, they are, a privilege afforded to few alive today), what is it that I am to do with this privilege? What am I to do with the many privileges afforded to me in a culture that relishes power imbalances and capitalist dynamics and has a history of socioeconomic imbalances favoring one race over others?

For today, I’ve decided that it’s okay to not know. Even though not knowing triggers my hypothalamus to freak out. Even though not knowing elicits dirty looks from grandparents’ at friends’ weddings. Even though not knowing is the opposite of everything we learned as students, needing to always know the answer to pass the test, to be given a grade that will determine whether or not you succeed. In the real world, staying present with the not knowing can be the most radical and uneasy course of action to take. But, there is something special that comes with the not knowing.

Not knowing is trusting that the seeds you’ve planted are already coming to fruition. Not knowing is trusting that with time, consistent effort, and attention, something will come. Not knowing and not rushing to figure it out is patience.

Humility comes with the not knowing- admitting that you may not know the best course of action to take. That, paired with a commitment to stay open to the possibilities, puts you ahead of most others still spinning their wheels trying to “figure it all out.” If you don’t know what you want, but you know it’s something, and you’re not worried or rushed to figure it out, you might be able to actually enjoy where you are (cue the Cheshire Cat). For the first time since you were put on the hamster wheel of western culture, maybe this time isn’t about achieving, growing, getting, gaining, and all the other dopaminergic-driven systems that encourage us to be in a perennial state of motion. Perhaps the not knowing is the surrendering to what is here, now. Looking at the people in your life. Looking at the community that serves you with food and water and maybe, just maybe, participating in the life around you instead of constantly trying to gain, to get, to acquire. Maybe you put down the internalized misogyny and capitalist thinking in favor of appreciating what is here- staying put, slowing down, and smelling the freaking roses.

Is it exciting? Not in the way a roller coaster ride is, no. It is nourishing. You are no longer on a cliffhanger in your life, waiting for the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. Maybe, for the first time ever, you are actually just here. You’ve stopped wanting. You’ve stopped striving. You’ve stopped and realized that you were fine all along, before you ever started this quest to achieve worthiness in a culture that will always reinforce the idea that you won’t be enough until you buy this car, marry this person, or acquire the next thing. The next thing doesn’t exist, because it always comes before the next thing. There is only this. There is only this one thing. This one day. It’s time to enjoy it.

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