“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” ~Unknown
I was entering a completely new stage in my life. It could have been the beginning of something great, but it was entirely foreign to me. I could handle being productive, I could handle struggling to survive, but what was hard to handle was wading through the unknown.
After working for six months in Italy and six months in Brazil I was back in the US—floating. I didn’t feel any closer to having a career. I was without a car, job, and permanent housing. My boyfriend still lived in Brazil, and my friends were scattered around the globe.
I didn’t yet have the answer for who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do.
I had such high expectations for my return to the US. I had spent the last year working small jobs in Italy and Brazil like teaching English, being a personal assistant, and whatever freelance crumbs I could gather.
I was sure coming back to my home country would give me the luxury of landing a job I would love with an international company. No such luck.
So, for the first month I was helping my mom settle in her new apartment, and then I was on the other side of the country for two weeks to give some emotional support to my sister while she finished up her last semester of college.
I was helping people make it through their daily processes. So far, that’s all the direction and answers I had.
I was happy to be helpful and supportive of my loved ones, but to my goal-oriented mind, I felt like a failure.
I was having trouble sleeping at night. I found myself awake in the wee hours of the morning, with thirteen tabs open, trying to research and apply for jobs while emailing contacts and just generally having a panic attack.
The days were passing rapidly as I sat numbly pecking at my computer from dawn to dusk, without significant results and definitely no peace of mind. I was busy, but not productive.
My mind was divided between trying to solidify my future and beating myself up for not having made a solid plan sooner. Would I ever be successful? What if I never found a job I liked? How could I live around the world and make money at the same time?
I didn’t have answers and it was driving me crazy. I was in uncharted waters and I felt totally lost.
I felt like I was supposed to be getting a real job, supposed to know what I want to do with my life, supposed to be saving money to have a life outside the US.
Or was I?
Just because my life wasn’t fitting into my plans, was I doing something wrong?
Or, what if everything was going exactly according to schedule, but I was missing the beauty of it because I was stuck on what should be happening?
By rejecting my life as it was, I was missing out on the gifts of now—helping my mom hang the pictures in her new apartment, sitting with my sister while she did her American History homework, seeing old friends and simply being present with them.
When I came to this realization, I decided to change. My anxiety about the future was making me miserable. I discovered that these five steps help me stop panicking and get back to the beauty of the moment.
Just stop and take a big breath. Then take another one. Continue doing this all day. It’s amazing how much deep breathing has helped me calm down when my mind is in a panic about the future or the past. As you breath slowly and deeply, it helps to slow your thoughts as well.
2. Be intentional.
When I tend to my true responsibilities, I feel much more at peace. When I am intentional about my choices, it is easier to live in concordance with my values and interests. To keep myself in check, I ask myself: What do I truly need to do but am avoiding? What do I need to at that moment?
3. Focus on abundance and not on scarcity.
It is often said that what you focus on expands. When I focus on scarcity, I will always be able to find things that are not perfect, areas that are lacking in some area of my life. When I focus on the abundance around me, my perspective improves and I am able to be grateful for what I have now. It even enables me to imagine more good entering my life in the future.
4. Take good care of yourself.
It’s hard to be my personal best when I am neglecting my body. I found that I am better equipped to face challenges and uncertainty by getting centered first. If your body is feeling healthy and cared for, it will be much easier to take care of your other needs during times of transition and uncertainty.
5. Let Go.
Every day I need to let go of my expectations, my worries about the future, and my regrets about the past. When I am focusing on the past or fearing the future, it’s difficult to have peace in the present.
We need to let go of what we think should be happening so that we can enjoy what is happening.
Letting go is not one-time step, but a process that needs to be repeatedly chosen moment by moment.
The truth is, our lives are encapsulated within each passing moment. The present is the only thing we can affect, savor, and fully dive into.
Life takes unexpected turns; we block ourselves from the beauty and lessons of life’s circumstances by resisting and rejecting our lives because they are not what we expected or planned on.
I still don’t have all the answers, but I am focusing on staying peaceful and enjoying the moments for what they have to offer. I choose to trust that all is well and that my life is happening just the way it needs to, even if I don’t know why.
Maybe you are in uncharted waters right now. Although it might not be fun or easy, it will definitely stretch you. Although we all like a happy ending, it’s the luscious middle that makes the ending meaningful.
There could be incredibly great things waiting for you to slow down, open your eyes, and let go enough to be present in the moment.
Photo by Justin Ornellas