"You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you." – Joseph Campbell
Up until two years ago, I thought I knew where my life was heading. I was about to take a big leap into something unfamiliar to me, but not entirely unknown. I had given notice at my job, and I had been accepted into grad school. I thought I knew what my next two years would be like, at least, though I didn't know what would happen after that. I thought maybe I'd even come back to Apple.
But then I discovered I was pregnant. And in the next few months, all of the plans I had been so sure about unraveled.
I am a planner by nature. I am anxious when I don't have a plan. I definitely have had moments of anxiety in the last couple of years. But I have been surprised more by feelings I never expected: Peace. Trust.
Six months before I left Apple, before I was even sure I was going to leave, I had an interview with a financial planner. We had the most surprising conversation. She looked over my papers, then sat back in her big black leather chair and looked at me. Just looked at me for a long minute. Then she said, “I’m not going to work with you.” I'm sure I looked at her like she had lost her mind. “I don’t think you want to go to business school. I think you just need some rest. I think you need someone to give you permission to quit your job so you can rest.”
I remember tears coming to my eyes. I was so relieved that someone recognized how tired I was, but also I didn’t know what to do with her words. I was there to get her help and she was saying she wasn’t going to help me!
She didn’t comment on my tears. She just gently said, “I give you permission to rest for a while. You will be just fine.”
If I believed in angels, I would say she was a guardian sent to give me a message. I had never met her before and that was some pretty heavy advice to offer someone who doesn't know you. But somewhere deep inside I trusted her. It took me a while - I did go to the first semester of the MBA program - but when it came time to decide if I was going to go back or resign from school that conversation came back to me. I felt the trust again. Not just trusting her, this time, but trusting myself. Trusting myself to find a new path in my life, even though I didn't know what it was going to look like.
Most days I still don’t know what that’s going to look like, but I’m learning to be OK with that. For the first time in my life I have clear goals but not a specific plan for attaining them. I want to be home with my daughter until she goes to school. I want to do work that feeds my brain and my heart, that allows me the financial flexibility to work at home part time. I want to see my words in print. I want to tell stories that touch other people, and I want to be a part of a community of mothers and writers, and writers who are mothers, and mothers who do other things, but all of us doing what we do intentionally. I want to encourage mothers to nurther themselves, alongside their children.
I have a turquoise blue, fat-bellied mug that my love makes my morning coffee in every day. It says, "be like water" on the side. I bought it for that saying, because I value my ability to flow with whatever is going on around me. Adjust, adapt, flow around.
I am slowly, slowly, building a writing business. I am forming the habit of writing. I am getting braver at marketing myself (though I have a long way to go yet!). I am learning to say, "I am a writer." I’m learning how to interview, how to craft an essay, how to edit away the excess words to find the pure thread of what I’m trying to say. I’m learning to cut words I love too much that don’t further my point (I just cut a whole paragraph about my daughter that was right here).
I'm learning to flow around self-doubt and my inner critic. I'm learning to flow through the process of learning the craft of writing. I'm learning to flow past unanswered queries and rejected submissions.
Be like water.
It is a reminder I appreciate every morning, as I slowly come to consciousness and think about the day ahead of me. Flow through, around, over. Never stop. If I am clear about what I want, and persistent, it will happen. Water can wear down mountains, cut massive canyons through the earth. Patiently, but persistently. And also water can collect in deep, rejuvenating pools. Resting before flowing on.