“Don’t you get, you know, bored?” people ask with equal parts curiosity and skepticism.
It’s not an unfair question, given that I have so radically down-scaled my activity. I’m consulting maybe 10-12 hours a week for my former employer, down from the old 10-12 hours a day. I’m not chairing anything – no PTA, no board, no event. I’m not even taking any fun art classes right now. Nothin’.
The goal of this step-off-the-merry-go-round was to understand who I am when I’m not going a million miles a minute, when I’m not overextended. Not saying “yes” to nearly everything that comes at me. Which, as best I can tell, was my steady state for about the last 40 years.
I confess: I feel a little adrift.
The change in warp speed is unnerving. Not being at full speed feels like not moving at all. Is that a bad thing? For now? And wasn’t that the plan – or am I stuck?
My urge is to get busy, find something to attach myself to. I resist calling that feeling an “instinct”, believing the impulse is learned — instilled, not innate — and trying to break free of old habits, or at least to understand them for what they really are.
So: drift happens.
I’m working on believing that’s a good thing, or at least not a bad thing, but it doesn’t feel normal. It isn’t hard to imagine it could come to feel great. Relaxed. Chill. Like floating down the river in an inner tube on a sultry summer afternoon. But I am not there yet. I still need to work on the whole just being thing.
And while I know I need to work on just being, I also know that I miss complexity. My previous life was riddled with issues that needed close and immediate attention. I grew weary of the personal drama that accompanied much of it, but I appreciate now that I genuinely liked wrestling with needs and ideas that were in often desperate tension with one another. I liked finding the delicate balances, the elegant solutions, the hard-won compromises. I liked figuring things out.
E. had a wonderful insight on this as he thought about his own career path. He was able to distinguish between wanting work that is difficult (intellectually demanding, hard-to-solve technical problems) and something complicated (lots to keep track of but not necessarily breaking new ground). He, too, craves complexity. Not fidgety stuff, meaty stuff. Stuff you can sink your teeth into.
Can I have my cake and eat it too? Can I find a path that is both chill and complex? And if such a combination is possible, how do I cultivate it?
Is there such thing as drifting to a goal?