in Support of uncertainty: A brief Ode to Patience
Understanding how to navigate uncertainty comprises a massive part of adult life. The better we get at tolerating unease, and the more comfortable we get with being uncomfortable, the richer our experience becomes.
That’s when we begin to actually feel what it’s like to live our life, and not just look forward to it.
There are some people who wake up one morning and know that they want to be a lawyer or a doctor. They may study hard in high school, graduate from a prestigious university, pursue their dream job, pair up with a significant other, make mini others, buy a house, pay a mortgage, and go to nice places for their summer holidays. They may feel a sense of joy and contentment within this life. It may be that individual’s very best expression of living. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Nor is there anything wrong with those for whom this path doesn’t fit. It would be ludicrous to suggest a one-size-fits-all approach to living — despite our human similarities, we are all different! The example given is one possible way to move through life. But there are a myriad of other possibilities. As many ways as there are humans.
If you feel lost, confused, or crippled by uncertainty, although it might not help to hear this right now; you are not alone. Many people will experience these feelings throughout their life. And many people wont. It doesn’t really matter.
When it comes to creating a meaningful life for ourselves (ergo for those we’re sharing it with), what matters is that we refute unnecessary comparisons and keep bringing our attention back, time and again, to our own lives and our own paths. Focussing on the way someone else has done it, and whether or not it “worked”, only inhibits our capacity to earnestly occupy the path that is our own. A path that cannot be walked by anyone else.
Along this path, I think patience is a majorly overlooked tool. I'm familiar with it as a concept, but find it hard to actively adopt. (This of course isn’t made any easier by most societies’ preoccupations with rapidity, productivity, and acquisition.)
Even when we are encouraged to pursue our passions, develop our unique talents, or engage with what we love doing, questions can arise: What if I’m not passionate about anything? What if I can’t see what my talents are? What if I don’t yet know what I like?
I think it's okay to have these questions. And to not have answers for them. This is where familiarity with unease becomes an asset. This is what a lot of life is made up of, for a lot of people. Unanswered questions. Indecision. Uncertainty. Doubt.
Can we cultivate a sense of ease even when wandering this nebulous territory?
If we can, I’m confident in the rich quality and diversity we’ll encounter as we each learn to unabashedly inhabit our unique and spontaneously-unfolding lives.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” — Rilke