BOO! Did I scare you? No?! Okay, What will your life look like in ten years?… Did I scare you now?
A fear of the future, something I think most of us face. At any stage of life, there always seems to be big forthcoming unknowns that we can’t control – what will our career look like; what will our family look like; where will we live; will death, illness, or relationship breakdown throw a wrench in the plans we have made? This uncertainty can invoke profound fear of the future, mostly based on our natural and counterproductive human instinct to fear what we cannot predict.
As a freshly graduated young adult living amidst a global pandemic, there is a big question mark that fills my future. The unknowns of career, relationships, education and how long it will take to figure all of this out create constant fear in my life. The hope and excitement of my “potential” often become overshadowed, by the stress of how I will actually start living into my potential.
Potential is a funny thing. We all have it, these ideas that people and society hold for us of what we can grow up to achieve. These preconceived stories of what the ideal life looks like, “The American Dream”. We write these stories for ourselves; society’s expectation influences the plotline, but we are the writers of these stories, these stories that we use to predict and dream how our lives will play out. Are these conversations of potential productive? Do they hold us to a higher standard of hoping for our best future, or do they evoke anxiety as we fear not living into our fullest potential? My issue lies in viewing my future life as a linear plot with my big glowing ball of potential waiting at the end. We write these life stories for our future selves that sometimes seem more like “success-to-do-lists” instead of a happy and full life.
At this point in my life, I find myself getting trapped in this “success-to-do list” as I write and rewrite my future life story, with that triumphant final chapter where my potential is heroically achieved. Dreams of crushing grad school, a flourishing career, a multiplying family all topped off with adventurously travelling the world are plots that arise over and over in my future stories. These dreams are idyllic and typical for many of us looking to have it all.
Before I lose you, I am NOT saying we should stop dreaming; please, dear Lord, keep dreaming as your heart desires, but I would like to change how we structure these dreams to help us find more value in the present.
I heard a keynote this summer at a virtual youth conference speak about life planning and future-anxiety. She spoke of how young people often write their life plans using stresses and fears as the ink due to our generational challenges of job insecurity, mental health crisis and a global (freak’n) pandemic.
When we view our life as a garden, each season of life is valued, and each experience adds to the diversity and beauty of our personal growth. Having a to-do-list can lead to stress and disappointment when we fail to hit each checkpoint in the right order at the right time and can also lead us to miss some great opportunities and experiences along the way. Life often presents us with unexpected challenges or delayed timelines that can be viewed as failures when cross-referencing our master plan. When you consider your life as a garden, where each experience and phase adds to who you are as a person, teaches you new skills, brings new connections or maybe shows how strong you are, these flowers have value and grow to create your life.
In some seasons of life, you are planting seeds such as education, new relationships and ideas. Some of these seeds will grow, and some won’t. This is your garden. In other seasons you are pruning those weeds or old plans that are hindering your growth, such as saying goodbye to toxic relationships or a stressful job. This is your garden. Some seasons you are doing nothing but sitting in your pain and sorrow, letting the rain fall around your roots with the hope that this season brings new life and growth when the storm passes. This is your garden. And there will be seasons of flourishing, where all your hard work blooms and grows into beauty. Celebrate these times and know if not for the planting and the pruning and the rain, the spring would never come. This is your garden, just as it is meant to bloom.
Amidst this pandemic, I am in a season of planting. As a young person planting seeds of career, relationships, connection and education, I often struggle as I wait for growth and blossoms. I want everything to bloom right now. I want the spring now. And I am getting sick of the (COVID) rain. This garden analogy helps me settle in as I plant many seeds, knowing that some will bloom and some won’t even sprout. I can sit in the rain with the hopes of new opportunities and growth when it passes. This is my garden, my only expectation being to grow and care for my beautiful life. What my garden will look like exactly, I don’t know yet, but I am striving to value the growth and planting season while I wait to see what blooms.
Amy is a fresh grad with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. University does not come naturally to a person with a learning disability, making Amy uniquely proud of her undergraduate accomplishments. Amy is working to be more open about her disability and strives to view her learning challenges as an opportunity for growth in resilience and creativity.
She has worked with rehab patients, people with disabilities, veterans and mental health clients searching for more equitable access to community recreation. She believes wholeheartedly in the therapeutic benefit of doing what you love, as often as you can.