Groundhog Day Is Real And You’re Living It
I’ve been thinking a lot about tenability, sustainability and the long term lately.There’s the idea that if you just keep on keeping on that you’ll eventually catch a break. Dues will be paid, you’ll figure out a system, things will get easier. But what if they don’t? What if the path you’re currently on is never going to level out, never going to get less rocky and will always force you to march uphill (both ways, natch)? And for a lot of people (chronic illness, systemic poverty, workers whose skills are of little value in the knowledge economy), that’s the reality.
Photo by scazon
What happens when you subtract future-focused hope from the equation is that you force yourself to confront the here and now on its own terms and not simply as a stepping stone to the notion of a better and brighter tomorrow that you may be clinging to. Maybe a glut of education grads means you’ll have to spend the next 10 years as a substitute teacher. Maybe your freelancing will never take off and you’ll always be living pay check to uncertain pay check until you trade it in for Social Security. Maybe you won’t ever get out of the mail room. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Your fortunes may skyrocket or they may not. Counting on the upswing keeps you from critically assessing whether you could live happily without that upswing or whether it’s the mental crutch that makes now tolerable. Time to see if you can stand up without it.
It’s not about frantic back-up plans and escape hatches and freakouts, it’s about deciding whether you’re willing to live your today as your tomorrow and what that would look like. In other words, is today tenable? Does it make you happy enough to be okay with repeating a version of it for the next 40 years? Hand on heart, answer honestly. And if it doesn’t? Well, right now (and not tomorrow) is the time to start thinking about what you’re willing to do about that in practical, concrete, non-panicky terms.
If your life on its current trajectory was never going to be any more fulfilling for you than it is right now, would you still live it the same way or would you make changes?