I believe it is the norm for us to share our struggles after we have conquered them, our lessons after we have learned them. They say hindsight is always 20/20 after all. And to talk about something painful, when you are no longer in the crux of it, has always been a safer place to tell your tale.
This has always been the defaulted way I have shared the stories of my life too. That is, until my daughter died at 25 weeks of pregnancy and suddenly I had no choice but to share my story from the deep dark center of it. The thought of having to do that was incredibly unnerving and uncomfortable. I had no happy ending to pacify myself with, no lessons learned to lean on, no answers – only questions. All I had was the chaotic unravelling, the burning grief and the unsettling uncertainty of the unknown.
Since this, I have found myself living more of my life this way, and sharing more of the things that are my in-betweens – and not the polished final product that is safer and more beautiful to share.
One of them has been my struggle with not working. I graduated from medical school in 2016, I started studying for my steps (3 exams I need to take in order to apply for residency in the US). 2 years have passed and I am not much closer to my goal of working as a physician. In those two years, I gave birth to two babies; one who lived and one who died. I had two high risk pregnancies, both of which I spent about 80% of with my head in a bucket. I am now mother to my sweet rainbow baby who fills much of my time with her introduction to the world.
I am now attempting to study for these exams for the second time.
These exams are more than just tests to me – they represent the doorway to my dreams, my meter stick for questions like “am I good enough? Am I failure? Do I deserve this?” and I can feel the dreaded heaviness of them that I begrudgingly drag around with me everywhere I go. The anxieties that perch on my chest as I sleep at night. The worries that tell me that everything has gone wrong, that i’ll never be able to do what I love, that i’m falling farther and father behind. On life.
I suspect I have anchored and tied a lot of my sense of self worth to this. Probably not the greatest idea but…shrug.
Truthfully, this time things are going better – I am motivated, making progress and slowly but steadily inching towards my goals. Time is also so much more precious to me now, because I get so little of it. My productivity has gone up 200% since having a baby.
It would be so much better to share this journey of uncertainty and struggle once I eventually do start working. I can look back and package it all in a nice story of a girl who was lost, struggled, worked hard, and achieved her dream. We all hear stories like that, and they are inspiring. I need to hear stories like that from time to time.
But my story is right in the middle of that. I’m a girl who is lost, struggles, is trying to work as hard as I can and that’s as much as I can tell.
It’s unsettling to be in the middle of your story. It’s scary. I don’t know how all of this is going to end.
I write to you today, after I asked myself “if a friend of mine was in my exact situation and came to me for my thoughts on it – what would I tell them?”
And this is what I have to say;
Adore your detours
So you had a destination in mind and you picked a path to get there. Half way through the journey, you changed course. You took a detour. You took the scenic route.
Decide to enjoy it. Stop and smell the flowers along the way, because this is the road you are on now and there is beauty here too. This is the story of your life. Can you make peace with it? Because only once you have made peace with this, can you see all the gifts it has to offer.
This detour of your life is just as much a crucial part of your story as any other part of it is. And it’s only going to happen once. This too shall pass. Life will move on. And things will be different one day. You will only be this young once. You will only be in this particular situation once. It will not come again, not in the exact way it is happening now. So embrace it!
For me, I understand that this is a defining year for my career. I respect that and I must embrace it. I also understand that this is the first year of my daughters life. I respect that too and must embrace it. I will never get either of these exact circumstances/ opportunities back ever again.
There is no right or wrong way
I believe that whatever we put 100% of ourselves into, will work out well.
There is no better or worse, only different.
I know that when we begin walking down the road less travelled, or when we take a different direction to our friends or our peers, it isn’t long before the fog of doubt and inadequacy settles around us.
But when your fear starts to creep in and whispers into the pit of your stomach “you are going the wrong way.”
You must say;
“I’m going a different way. And I will make sure that I will see this road through to it’s highest possibility. This too, will work out well.”
So whatever path you choose, do it consciously.
And then commit to it.
Sooner doesn’t necessarily mean better
Maybe sooner doesn’t mean better. Maybe sooner is good for some, but maybe not for me. Maybe sooner is just different.
As long as we are doing the best that we can, there will always be certain things in life that we cannot predict or control. Timing is one of them. Many things have to come together on an energetic level before something manifests into the physical.
We have to trust the timing of our life.
“Everything happens for a reason”
I try to stay away from cliches because they tend to make my eyes glaze over when I read them. Yeah yeah yeah, everything happens for a reason, tell me something I don’t know.
But there is truth in what is being said.
The sequence of events we choose in our life eventually tie in together and make sense. The dots between seemingly minuscule, irrelevent or random events in our life eventually connect.
Maybe this period of your life is not a time for connecting dots. Maybe it’s the time of making dots.
And when the time comes to connect them you will be able to think “Ahhh, if it wasn’t for this decision, then this would not have happened.”
Keep making your dots!
Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve
Please stop saying “If I had done A, B and C instead of X, Y and Z, I would have been happier/more successful/better.”
I know how tempting it is to say that. But this is not rooted in any kind of logic.
There’s no way we can know for sure if doing something else would have made us happier, or if it would have worked out better. In my experience, every situation in our life comes with it’s own unique gifts and challenges.
For example; My dream is to start residency. It’s tempting to believe that once I’m in residency all my problems will be solved and I will be truly happy – after all this is something that I have wanted and have worked for, for so long.
But I know that once I start working, new challenges will come my way that will seem even more urgent, more pressing, more dire than the last.
And I will once again, learn my lessons, fight my fight, let some things go, do some hard things, and live as gracefully as I can through it. It’s always been this way.
This “if only I had…” type of thinking is a huge disservice to ourselves, because it puts our power in something that doesn’t exist. It leaves us powerless in our life now. I don’t know about you but I’m tired of handing over such important parts of myself.
The grass only appears to be greener on the other side. The grass that is truly greener is the grass that is watered. And guess who’s got the watering can?
Stop working for a trouble-free, easy life.
If this is what you are searching for, I’m going to stop you right there.
It doesn’t exist. Life will always throw curveballs. That’s what life is supposed to do. Wanting life to be smooth sailing, where everything is predictable and we are free of hardships or adversities – that does not sound like life to me. That sounds quite like the opposite.
If you are climbing a mountain and it’s proving to be very difficult – we cannot make the mountain easier. We can only become better climbers.
In that same way, I am not aiming for a trouble-free life. I’m aiming for a life where I am resilient and capable enough to do these hard things with joy and grace.
Focus on your own journey
We are on our own path, isn’t that beautiful? I wouldn’t want to live this life hoping to live another one the entire time. I would miss what I have right now.
It’s so hard not compare yourself to others. But for the sake of my sanity, I have to stop. Why – well for all the reasons I’ve listed above.
But also for one other important one; the more you focus on others, the less you focus on your own journey, and the slower you move.
So do your best to eliminate distractions, things that make you stop in your track and think “Oh, why isn’t that thing that just happened to that person, happening to me?”
Every time you feel that, use that feeling as a reminder to put your head down and get to work. We can never effectively get to where we need to go, if we keep stopping to look at others.
The antidote to fear is action in the now
I know how paralyzing fear can be. There are moments when I feel the weight of the unknown. There are moments when I wonder if i’m cut out for any of this.
In these moments, I first share these thoughts with my husband and/or my mom. I like to call them my untanglers. Because they untangle me when I’m all caught up in myself.
Then (usually due to their prompting), I act. I do something. Anything. I take a step. It might be the meekest, tiniest, quietest step, but it is a step in the right direction and I take it.
…Because the antidote to fear is action in the now.
It’s the only weapon that can take it down. No amount of talking about fear will shrink it. It will only expand it. And every opportunity that I do not act, it grows.
So take action. Take a step. A small step, or a big step, it doesn’t matter. But take it.
(A cute thing: When I do take a small action against one of my fears, my husband always puts his arms around me and says “One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind” lol. He gets me.)
Stop making long term plans
I used to love goal setting, and a big way that I have changed over the years is that I no longer set long term goals. Life is too unpredictable. I want to be able to adapt without having to grieve the plans that turn to dust.
It came down to the realization that all I really have is today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Certainly not next year. Just today. And all I need to do is make the next right move. To do the next right thing. This is the only real thing I have. Everything else is an illusion.
This is especially true when you are going through a delicate phase of your life and everything seems to be in flux and you feel terribly self conscious of how life is unfolding. Stop. Making. Plans. and just start living with 100% intensity in this present moment. Can you be your best-self, at your full potential for the next 24 hours? That’s enough. Ask yourself this question every single morning that you wake up. That’s how you change your life.
This post was was written by me and for me. I need this. I need to read and re-read this.
I’m glad I wrote this because it gave me a chance to reach out to myself with kindness. It is very easy to be unkind to ourselves, isn’t it?
So here is a reminder to myself, and to you, my friend – that when you are in the middle of your story, remember that this is just the middle. And middles are designed to be tough and juicy and middles are meant to be confusing and tangled up. So as we wade through these murky waters, let us try to be gentle and kind to ourselves. Let us be a friend to ourselves.