Being What You Want To Be vs. Doing What You Can

I find it really easy to get stuck in ruts. Like, I’m a pretty good off-road driver, but man, in life, I get bogged down very quickly when things take a turn for what looks like the worse. Although I’m persistent as all get-out and hold on like a bulldog, I have a hard time regrouping and forging a new path when big changes throw a wrench in my plans — even when those changes are the direct result(s) of choices I’ve made.

So I think a lot about how one goes about becoming “who they really are” when they’re stuck for a long time in a situation that’s less than ideal. Like, a farm kid raised in a tiny Canadian farming community in a remote valley in the Rocky Mountains, suddenly (by choice, no less) finding herself living in crazy hot, freeway-ridden suburban Southern California, with no clear terminal deadline. That’s the most uncomfortable part about eldercare, is that there’s just no predictable end to it. You know the end will come, but you have no idea when. Making plans gets awfully hard, and I find that when the future is unpredictable, I don’t make plans, I get by.

Problem is, getting by gets old real fast, and you stagnate. Stagnating is easy, and insidious. You don’t really notice it creeping up until you’ve been doing it for several years, and you realize you’re in about the same place you were three years ago. That’s scary, and hard, and very frustrating to realize. The big question then becomes, though: What next? Because if you don’t figure out what’s next… there probably won’t be much of anything (except more reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and Game of Thrones.)

It’s better to look at where you’re at, and assess the possibilities. Sure, you might end up being free to leave in 6 months; realistically, though, it’ll be at least a year. If you need to, decide arbitrarily: I will be here for at least 2 years. And then get started. What can be done in 2 years?

Some school gardens could get started.

Projects could be volunteered on. Trees could be planted, and established (2 rainy seasons, even three if the timing is right).

Connections can be made.

It’s hard not to have a geographical stake in the ground; hard to convince people you’re committed when they know you’re always on the knife’s edge of leaving. But c’est la vie, that’s what it is. Someone I knew who to me, was just so-L.A., so local, so SoCal, just packed up herself and her new (less than a year old) business, left her part-time job, and moved to Portland. Because why not? (I’m actually not sure why, but whatever. That’s not the point).

The point is to do what we can, when we can do it, with what we’ve got. I’ve been here 3 1/2 years now, getting frustrated because I’m not where I want to be. As a result, I haven’t really gotten any closer to it, never mind getting there at all. But I do have great connections, and have made good friends, and could do plenty of things that I find fulfilling and satisfying and that deeply improve my quality of life, friendships, peace of mind, and capacity to do more. And that’s as good a place to be as any.

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