We Get What We Need
You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.
–The Rolling Stones
About seven months ago, I started this job search / professional rediscovery / identity reclamation thing. And I told Alan and my friends and whoever was listening, “It’ll be okay. The Universe gives us what we need. I really believe that.”
And I did.
Except I didn’t.
I did the same thing I have done for so many Big Leaps in my life: I parroted all those wise theologians and philosophers and said that I would Let Go and see what came to me. I would not get Attached to outcomes. I would be Zen.
And then I subconsciously (or not) put in my order to the Universe: double-stacked perfect new career path, with a side of fulfillment.
Why couldn’t I hear the Universe laughing? That sound would have clued me in. It’s the same sound I should have heard when I worried about getting a bridesmaid’s dress or taking a new position at work because I might be pregnant by then. Ha.
It’s the same sound I should have heard when I perused wedding dresses online, thinking there were only a few more weeks till I would get engaged. Ha.
It’s the same sound I should have heard when I got my one-way ticket to California, believing I would surely have interviews set up before I leave. Ha.
Every time I make vast plans for big life events, they do not go as planned. This should not be a surprise to me at this point. Nothing has ever gone according to my timetable. Because life does not happen according to the schedules I set forth in my neat-and-organized planner.
I almost didn’t write this because I was worried that readers would think I sounded whiny. I am often paranoid that talking about internal struggles makes me sound whiny. Growing up Irish Catholic near Boston, the prevailing culture was that you keep your problems to yourself. You think you have it tough? At least you’re not [insert horrible life situation here].
But I read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, and I wrote a three-page response (which I will spare you the agony of reading), essentially saying, “Thank you. Thank you for making me feel like these conflicts between parenting and working are not all in my head.”
I do not seem to be any closer to having a job for the start of the school year than I was a month ago. I’ve expended more energy toward that goal–job fair, more applications, more networking–but still feel like I’m in the dark and second-guess my direction every few days.
Then I reread some very old e-mails last night, from what was then the hardest time I had ever experienced. I wrote agonized pages to my two best friends, asking them to call me at my dorm in Oxford, feeling the most lost and alone and despairing I had ever felt.
I reread those e-mails. And I reread some of the responses, including some from one of those friends who was wondering about her boyfriend at the time, her future, her career plans.
This person subsequently moved across the country, went to grad school, started a new career track, and is now happily married to someone who is so much better for her than that previous boyfriend.
I am in a much better place than I was a decade ago. I am stronger, more compassionate, more comfortable with myself.
We didn’t get what we wanted. We got what we needed.
So I tell myself yet again: The Universe gives us what we need. And now that I have done what I can in order to manifest what I think should be my future, I need to step away from the desk. Be patient. Know that what is supposed to happen will happen in its own time, not mine.
This Letting Go thing: we learn how to do it over and over again.
Whatever comes will probably be hard. And good for me. And joyful. And hard.
And I have no idea how it will happen or what it will look like. So instead of worrying in the darkness, I am currently resting in this:
No more waiting for the sea change, at least for the moment. I’m weighing anchor, “throw[ing] off the bowlines. Sail[ing] away from the safe harbor” (Mark Twain). Resting in the strength of the currents and my internal compass, and listening to the laughter of the Universe.