It seems that at times of monumental change in life there is a ‘before’ time, and an ‘after’ time. For example, the time ‘before’ graduation, and the time ‘after’. It feels appropriate for the moment. Over the other side of the summit is unknowns. Unknowns about the future, about ones place in it, and about what changes might come next.
While it is convenient at moments to make distinct ‘before’ and ‘after’ perspectives, it is not accurate. Life marches monotonically from change to change, and each before time is a composition of all previous ‘before’ and ‘after’ times. After one change, another will come, and the current ominous ‘after’ time, and its unknowns, will become a ‘before’ time, with less unknowns.
Getting offered a new job brings to a close one ‘before’ time, and brings about the ‘after’ time of needing to start doing that new job. Ascending a mountain to meet one peak will, often necessarily, cause one to gaze longingly at the next peak. To define an ‘after’ time with these new eyes.
At times a, not necessarily consecutive, series of changes could be part of a larger, overarching change. Larger peaks are still peaks, though some can carry additional emotions and weight. During other moments, perhaps the rate of change is accelerated, or decelerated. Sometimes this is under ones control, at other times it is not.
Still, changes will occur. They will need to be handled. The choice to not handle change is still a choice, and rarely a good one. Instead, move with intention, build momentum, and support those sharing the journey. The choices and changes that come with them, should be informed not by advice or momentary framing, but instead by long term intentions and aspirations.
Weathering the Storm
In times of strife and uncertainty it’s tempting to shut down or lash out. It’s easy to get desperate, to panic. To do something destructive, something against intentions and aspirations. It’s these times that not rushing, where stepping with the right intention pays off.
Lashing out at a colleague for finding a bug in your code, or calling someone an idiot on IRC won’t help the situation any more than dealing with the situation properly. Instead, it causes harm and division.
Often though, the problem is not a want to solve a problem correctly, it is the problem of how to solve a problem correctly. This does not come easy. It requires tact. In the moment, when ones ears are burning, it can be hard to find that. Easy, poor choices present themselves at every ledge, every handhold during ascent. If chosen, they wobble, crumble, and fail, threatening the journey.
In some situations, there is no option for failure. What can be done in such situations?
Moving from one side of the planet with a few hundred in the local currency to your name does not have an easy fallback. Failing a course often means you can just retake it.
I have twice now crossed an ocean with only the possesions on my back and a handful of bills. Both times I could barely store shivering on my way to the airport. Both times I have dreaded the forthcoming changes. Both times I have not regretted it for a moment.
While preparation, both physical and mental, can assist ultimately in dire storms of change there will become a point that is met unprepared. Then, all that can be relied on are intention, and aspirations. They must be a strong, stable foundation, even when the storm has stripped everything else away.
Even then, sometimes the wrong handhold, the wrong footing, is sought. A small slip can be stabilized with the help of those along for the journey. A bruise or scrape can be mended by companions.
Refuge Sought, Refuge Offered
It is only in moments of true hardship and strife that the truth of companionship is discovered. When those storm worn travellers are able to find refuge in each other they are able to recover and begin anew on their path towards the peak. Perhaps these companions will join for a long ways, perhaps not. Like all things, relationships are temporal and ever in flux.
This does not need to diminish or extinguish the flame that is held for another. Some companions are best admired from an entirely different peak, others just can’t be let go. Don’t ruin the ‘before’ time with an ‘after’ time that is toxic. Instead, this is possibly just another ‘before’ time, and paths will cross again. Best not to set off firecrackers in the loose snow on the path below. Avalanches often beget more in unpredictable places.
At brief moments in my life I have both been homeless (but stayed with a friend), and hosted friends who were in bad situations. With many of my good friends I have a standing offer that they can ask me for help or a place to stay whenever they need. I know they’d do it for me as well, but that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that they are still able to make their journey and share it with me.
During times of slow change, or of high stability, it’s possible to find fulfillment in helping others conquer their peaks. During times of instability it’s hard to help others, but it can be very reassuring to watch a companion achieve even their smallest goals with, or without, help. It reassures us that it is possible to reach our own peaks.
Find the Right Peaks
It can seem a tragedy to make a journey only to realize that the something is just wrong. It happens. Find a new trail, move on. While the path to the peak, or even the peak, may be different, the only thing to do is to ascend. So ascend we must.
Being able to adapt to a new path, or adapt the path it meet ones needs, is critical to finding the right peaks.
Just because your dream job is at NASA (cool!) doesn’t mean that a new junior position working on temperature sensors isn’t a good thing for you. One step leads to another. This new job is still a peak, albeit a small one.
Applying the idea of a feedback loop to how you evaluate peaks can help use past experiences to help influence the choosing of the right peaks to ascend. Chosing wrong peaks, while unfortunate, helps influence future choice.
Choosing what one thinks is the right peak, only to discover it is wrong, can dramaticly shift the overarching path in ones life. These moments are deeply interesting, and often feel horrifying unstable.
If the situation is correct though, it is in these moments that we truly can rediscover ourselves, that we can align our intentions and aspirations to their new truths, and that we can start again on our ascent.
Okay, good rest. Time to climb again.