How do we balance the feeling of certainty and uncertainty in our lives?
On a recent trip to the Rubin Art Museum in New York several weeks ago, I was able to revisit an interactive exhibit entitled “A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful” which I had previously visited last March when it initially opened. The installation invited the attendees to share their thoughts on what made them hopeful and anxious and to then display these ideas among the hopes and worries of the other participants. On my first visit last year, I contributed my hope about new ideas that were brewing in my mind and my anxiety surrounding the uncertainty of my future. It seemed important to me to return to the exhibit to revisit and amend these initial thoughts before the exhibit closed.
Two weeks ago, I submitted a letter to the Superintendent of my school district requesting a leave of absence for the upcoming school year. This decision has been one brewing for several years now and was not taken lightly. I nearly made the same decision around this time last year, but I ultimately decided against doing so right before the deadline approached. As with many aspects of our lives, things happen for reasons. The extra year has afforded me greater clarity for what I hope a year away from teaching might look like, and to make additional arrangements to plan accordingly.
For too long, the certainty of many facets of my life have felt inhibiting.
For too long, the uncertainty of many facets of my life have felt overwhelming.
Certainty can be manageable. Certainty can be reassuring.
Certainty can be comforting.
Certainty can also be deceiving.
Uncertainty can be terrifying.
Uncertainty can be numbing. Uncertainty can be paralyzing.
Uncertainty can also be a gift.
The interplay of certainty and uncertainty has been an idea at the forefront of my decision to take this leave of absence. My decision to become a teacher over twenty years ago was based on my desire to choose a career where I could help the people in my life. I am certain that this hope will always be my main motivation in any of the endeavors I may eventually pursue. My journey in pursuing this goal may ultimately wind up taking a different path than I originally imagined, however. There is no way to know for sure if the projects I have been working on will come to fruition or if they might provide a different path in the pursuit of helping others. I will not know their potential unless I make that full attempt, though. In the last few years, it has become quite evident that the emotional and mental effort required to be an effective teacher is simply far too demanding to balance with the time and energy these projects are requiring of me in the present moment.
I am distracted far too often. I am exhausted far too often. I am frustrated far too often. I am certain that I have been fighting burnout for far too long.
I am hopeful about the writing projects and art pieces that have started to take shape in the past year and a half. I am excited for the chance to devote more time to develop these further. I am looking forward to making photography a more consistent aspect of my life once again. I am intrigued by the idea of learning new skills and trying new jobs during this time away from teaching. I am grateful for the clause in my contract that allows a leave of absence. My decision for a change of scenery and pace feels absolutely right. I am certain of it to my very core.
Next year will certainly be one of great uncertainty for me.
I have decided to embrace that uncertainty unconditionally.
Where I will go is uncertain.
What I will do is uncertain.
Where I will sleep is uncertain.
Who I will meet is uncertain.
Although I have some experiences and places that I intend to plan and map out, I hope to maintain as much uncertainty in my life during this time. My road trip across the continent five years ago taught me the importance of looking around and appreciating every moment.
It was the most peaceful time of my life.
It was the catalyst for starting this blog.
It was an experience that became, and continues to be, a great teacher.
My goal is not to relive or attempt to recreate that trip, but to embrace the conditions that led to a time of clarity and peace and a sense of purpose like no other time in my life.
The only certainty that we all have is that our time here on Earth is limited.
More and more, I see reminders of this on a daily basis. Some of those reminders are small and inconsequential. Some of those reminders are gutting and overwhelming. Regardless, there is wisdom in these reminders.
More and more, the universe sends me little winks that everything will be okay and to trust those gut feelings.
In these uncertain times, it is becoming increasingly important for me to pursue what makes me feel at peace. It is why I was drawn back to amend my contribution to the art exhibit a few weeks ago. This time, I made sure to put in writing what I was not ready to understand nearly a year ago. My hopes and anxieties are intrinsically intertwined. I am both hopeful and anxious about my awareness that the future is uncertain. The concurrence of these feelings existing together will undoubtedly be an idea to reflect upon in my year of unfolding experiences.
This will certainly be an interestingly uncertain year.
(Blogger’s note: Thank you for reading. As you might imagine, some of these ideas are not easy to share. However, it seemed important to put these in writing, as I am sure those in my life may have otherwise worried about a request for a leave of absence with no further context. It is my intention to contribute more frequently leading up to my year away from teaching, and even more frequently as that year unfolds. My promise to not limit the scope of what this blog might contain still holds true. Please consider signing up to follow this blog if you have not already done so. It would be wonderful to share this journey with those who would like to witness this time of embraced uncertainty in my life. Stay tuned!)