How Do You Deal With Change and Finding Your “Next” ?

(Reposted from January 5, 2020)

I graduated y’all! I officially added a comma and two letters to my name! Unfortunately all I have to show for it is a 2-second clip of my name and picture flashing across a screen in terms of visuals but I can say this little adventure in grad school and in North Carolina in general was worth it.

As I slide into my new responsibilities and roles, I’ve been struggling with integrating my recent achievements. I was thinking about writing a new post about it, then I remembered this one I wrote over a year ago, pre-pandemic. What got me here, won’t get me to my “Next”. Here’s to my new beginnings and my old dreams.

What happens when you reach the next level? Of whatever you’re working on, whatever calls out to the core of your being? What happens when you’ve made it, after “faking” it for a while? What do you see? 

It always seems like we’re never quite prepared for it. Yes, we’ve visualized it, we’ve worked at it, obsessed over it, dreamed of it, manifested. But here we are, at the summit, finally grasping the saying “dèyè mòn gen mòn” (behind the mountains are more mountains). The landscape is lush, abundant, the peaks reach far above your initial finish line. What happens then? 

Do you set up camp where you are? Settle in for the view? Or do you go back to the drawing board, tracing a new map to higher destinations, now finally within reach? Spend enough time on it, and you suddenly realize you’ll need much more than a new vision. You’ll need tools, references, stories, warnings, and if you’re really smart, a team.

What got you here won’t get you there. That seems to be law, in anything I’ve attempted. Sometimes I fall into the trap of “minor tweaks”. All I have to do is shift this little thing right here and we’re back on track. Soon I realize however, the amount of effort matches the yielded results. A small shift produces a small outcome. 

Some goals in our minds require a complete shift in consciousness. The foundations of everything we’ve learned before, everything we thought we knew, have to be shaken, sometimes completely destroyed, allowing our knowledge and experience to take completely new forms in our eyes. This process is excruciating. 

Our ego is often wrapped in what we’ve accomplished. We are now this thing we’ve done. I’ve completed a book. I’ve graduated. I built a house. We’ve reached higher ground. For many of us, we ARE higher ground. But suddenly your agent tells you major parts of the book have to be rewritten if it’s to be published. You’re tasked with all the undesirable aspects of your new place of employment as the recent graduate. You realize your new house is empty and deprived of life. 

There’s always a Next, we’re convinced. Maybe that’s the human curse. But we can always get better at the moment of transition. That time when we’re still full of gratitude for the surmounted obstacles and full of anxiety about the next step that is not fully formed before us. Take pleasure in this buffer time, and “do” nothing. “Think” everything. 

This is what I’ve been learning recently. 2020 is upon us with a bag full of surprises. I’m at a point where a lot of my plans are falling into place and I, into alignment. New goals, my oldest dreams, are appearing within view, pulling at me. I know where I’m going next, but I’m not convinced I know where to start. Until I realize that I’ve already started, eons ago. 

You ever get together with childhood friends, and on the drive home, you start thinking of all the ways in which you did or did not turn into the person you thought you or someone else would? My old friends and family members I grew up with often have that effect on me, showing me the ways in which I was on my way to myself a long time ago. Old mementos saved by my mom show my early affinity for words, before I recognized writing as an avenue for my life. Half manuscripts from the time I was eleven or twelve still come back to mind, begging to be reimagined. 

Sometimes we run ourselves into the ground, trying to find our thing, our purpose, our Next. All it takes is to listen to ourselves, past, present, and future. To trust and craft the energy around our intentions in the certainty that we are able to accomplish it, whatever it is, and that we trust ourselves to know and seize the exact opportunity as it presents itself. We already know what we want. It’s most likely the thing we believe we could not possibly do, even if it never leaves our mind and we do it in secret. Or we “fake” it in attempts of making it, drowning in the anxieties of being discovered as an imposter; not realizing that we were actually faking it to ourselves the entire time, and are well on our way to our deepest desires. 

It’s almost as if sometimes we believe that if we admit to ourselves that we want something badly, it’s almost a sure fire way of not getting it, of “jinxing” it out of our existence. We tell ourselves stories about it. “I could never be that good, it’s just for fun.” “I couldn’t leave my job for that, there’s no future in it.” “I don’t share it, it’s just for me.” Sometimes these lies are helpful, and we give ourselves into our craft, with no real pressure. 

But when the universe responds, when the world within us stands at full attention and the one around us starts to pay attention, this strategy will stop working. You will no longer be able to hide from your greatness, or couch it in equivocal energy. You will have to Seek your Why. 

That’s what you learn to focus on in your buffer time, atop of the hill you just climbed, contemplating the mountains before you, just outside of your view up to that point. Why are you here? Why do you want to go there? Why do you think you can make it? Why do you believe you can’t? Why there, out of all the places? Why you, out of all the people?

If a deafening silence erupts after each of these questions, breathe. Don’t make it up. Definitely not based on what you believe your audience (hypothetical or not) thinks is a “good” answer, or the “right” answer. Find it. Let that be your side quest, where you find the key to your How, which will inevitably get you to your first step. 

What got you here, won’t get you there. It’s all in the mind, but it’s the hardest work you’ll have to do. You’re your own critic and obstacle, and while you’re a formidable opponent, at one point you have to realize that you hold all the keys. You have to be willing to be brave, the kind of bravery that exists in the vulnerability of exploring something new, of flirting with success and failure, both terrifying outcomes.  

In that moment, trust in the wisdom of your own new understandings of who your are, the lessons you’ve accumulated thus far up the hill, leaving behind all your negative beliefs and ambiguous energy. Admitting to yourself what you most want and having the courage to promise to yourself that you’ll do it for you, helps you cut through a lot of detours and red tape. And when you get there, do what it takes, open up to the world and let it swallow you, see what emerges. 

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