News that I’m leaving has spread slowly across my concentric social circles for the past few months to the point where I am now surprised to find someone who hasn’t heard. Not that my plans are of massive consequence or importance to the world at large – it just feels like old news. Having said that, I still really enjoy the variety of reactions to my imminent departure and have begun to track them along the spectrum that is my social network of nearest and dearest, kindred spirits, buddies and pals, nice enough and my students. It looks kind of like this:
The common thread running between each of the above responses is that they all stem from my reply when asked the following question(s): Where are you going and what are you going to do? It’s certainly innocent enough and comes from a place of genuine care and curiosity. People are sweet and just want to be supportive, but it’s a question loaded with assumptions and preconceived notions that, in my case, make it tough to answer with any sort of clarity or satisfaction. Almost invariably, I respond with something about wanting to create some space in my life to pursue a passion of mine, which is writing. I usually give a short-list of possibilities in terms of where I might spend the next year or so, geographically speaking, and disclose a bit about my anxiety surrounding the financial ramifications of such a maneuver. But that’s really about as far as I can go without starting to just make stuff up because, truthfully, I don’t know.
It would obviously be exciting to be able to share that I have a would-be novel idea up my sleeve and ready to go. I’d feel like way less of a flake if I could just tell people that I was enrolled in an actual creative writing program somewhere or had landed an internship at Really Successful Writers Who Have Their Shit Together, Inc. But I have none of those things. In fact, simply stating that I am leaving teaching to become a writer feels way too narrowed-down and presumptuous because the notion is so far-fetched and undefined at this point that I feel like I’m lying or playing make-believe to even say it out loud. And so my answers continue to be vague and anti-climatic, which is awkward and, frankly, a bit embarrassing.
But I get it. I understand. We live in a time and a place where plans and benchmarks and end results are highly valued. We don’t like to make a move unless we know where we want to end up and how to get there in the most efficient, ethical and economical way. And that’s to be commended and admired in many respects because, indeed, we didn’t become a world-leading, highly developed society by accident or mistake. Yet, sometimes I think it’s important to throw caution to the wind and see what can happen when logic and foresight take a backseat to flow and serendipity. I believe that it really is OK not to know how events will unfold or what the future might look like, no matter who you are or what you think you’ve set out to do. In fact, I would suggest that those who operate under the assumption that they can viably predict their own future simply by following a plan of their own invention actually take a much bigger gamble than those who are able to feel and respond to the ebb and flow of their life’s natural path. But now I can feel myself being pulled into another topic, on flow and going with it, which I think I’ll save for another day.
In the meantime, I’ll endeavour to embrace the spirit in which everyone’s perspectives have been offered and look forward to getting more of the same questions, to which I’ll continue to give more of the same answers… or lack thereof.