Like most people, I spend a lot of time searching. Not just searching, but wondering, imagining, calculating, figuring it out; peering into the mysterious void of my future, taking the pieces of everything I already have and trying to weave something new out of them.
It’s not just my future that gets me thinking though. It’s everything. And when you find yourself constantly trying to predict or understand everything, it gets a little overwhelming. A lot of the time, it becomes intimidating, and it turns into grounds for a downward spiral into believing that everything is a mess and nothing will ever come of it.
I just want to go forth and say that it isn’t true. At least, I personally don’t believe it is.
It isn’t a straight fact. Things will change, plans will fall through. I can’t say that yours or anybody else’s life isn’t a mess, as if I have some omnipotent knowledge of an absolute truth. It’s not up to me or anyone else to tell you what is and what isn’t. It’s all up to you. It’s your responsibility to convince yourself that everything will fall into place. It’s in your hands, and your hands alone, to believe in a philosophy that everything will be okay.
I want to tell you about my philosophy.
You will find it.
It’s a strange few words. Out of context, it’s basically meaningless. You have no idea what you might be searching for, if you’re searching for anything at all. And how can you know whether you’ll find it or not? Are we searching for the same thing, does someone else know where it is and just isn’t telling you? Are they speaking to you with some kind of divine, arrogant certainty, or is it just comforting reassurance? It’s a phrase that’s so easy to discard because so many variables remain unidentified – the words aren’t worth anything, so shrug it off and move on. But somehow, for some reason, it has stuck with me.
Four years ago, I was on a walk with my sister. We weren’t out in the countryside trekking through a forest, you know, admiring the uniqueness and diversity of the world or anything. We weren’t in the middle of any deep, thought-provoking conversations, or simmering in some kind of transcendental self-realization. We were just having a walk along the river, looking for snails to collect for my university invertebrates class.
The river wound from the legislative grounds up to the far edge of our neighborhood, lined with thick vegetation and walking trails designed to fool someone into thinking they were taking a nature hike in the middle of the city.
As we reached the edge of the trail, it brought us to an underpass that was usually heavily graffitied.
There was something unfamiliar that caught our eyes. While bright spray paint often decorated the rustled steel of the platform, its one-dimensional messages were flat enough that we never paid any mind to them; this was something entirely different. A flag of colour rippling loudly in the autumn breeze. Several of them, different colours behind single letters strung up on individual swathes of material to communicate a message to passersby.
You will find it.
The instant we saw it, we marveled at the sheer strangeness of the message; a lone ‘R’ suggested there had once been more to the banner. We laughed, positing that it was a cryptic threat about some water-logged body hidden in the reeds. I took a photo of it and uploaded it onto instagram, and no one liked or commented on it, presumably because nobody found the message as intriguing as we did in that moment.
The days following its discovery, it was removed either by wind or the hands of city workers, but it never dissipated from my thoughts. I rolled it over in my mind, trying to figure out what its purpose was. I thought maybe it could be a clue to a scavenger hunt or an obscure art piece by an out-of-touch Winnipeg-brand Banksy wannabe. Most likely, it was just some optimistic encouragement from a rebellious do-gooder. I wanted to know what it really meant.
At first, I wanted to know what I was supposed to find. I didn’t know what I was looking for.
I eventually decided that if at one point I was supposed to find a tangible object, that object would be gone. It would render the physical purpose of the clue defunct. All that was left was a message, an idea: that whatever I was supposed to find, I would find it.
There became times that I was completely lost for what to do with my life. I was in university, but I didn’t have faith that what I was studying would become my career. I was beginning to feel like it was useless; why get a degree for something that I don’t really want to do? Not only that, but could I even accomplish this? Was I smart enough to even get this degree that I barely wanted anymore? If I did manage to get it, what would I do? If I ended up doing something with my degree, would it be what I wanted?
For every question, I felt the essence of that message lingering in the back of my mind.
You will find it.
I wanted to believe that it was the answers to those questions that I was looking for. For a little while longer, I just waited to find the answer, hoping that they would appear in some world-shattering revelation. That at the end of the year, I would come out of my classes with A+’s across the board and realize that yes, this is what I want to do, this is what I’m meant for. Or that, like my friends, I would find a professional in my field and latch onto them and their work. Maybe I was just waiting to be found.
But nothing really happened. I continued to do my studies, and I was never outstanding. If anything, I probably got worse. This whole time I was just waiting to find those answers, waiting for them to come to me, and realizing that because I was waiting I was never making any progress. I was stagnating. And where I was, at that moment, wasn’t where I wanted to be, and what I was doing wasn’t going to get me there either. What I had to do was step back and search for the answer. Really search. That’s how you find things.
I stopped waiting. Instead, I evaluated my relationship with my studies. I decided that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be a biologist. I love biology and science, I always will; give me the opportunity to do fieldwork for a week and I’ll do it for a month. Tell me some cool animal physiology trivia and I’ll go dig up fifty papers on it to learn more. But I know for a fact that I’m not smart enough to carve my own career out of it, and that I didn’t want my life to revolve around constantly feeling like I’m inept in my field.
I knew exactly what I had to do, and that was to remove myself from my studies and pursue something that I truly loved: creating. Art, writing, story-telling.
If I waited forever, my answer never would have found me. I had to make the answer myself. And therefore, I found it.
Since then, I’ve had the same process for every important milestone in my life. Finding a meaningful job wasn’t about working at my current part-time retail job and occasionally sending out resumes, hoping someone would contact me. I had to go out into the world, I made a portfolio and took commissions to hone my skills. I joined an employment agency and actively pursued every interesting opening I found. When I was taken on for a data entry position, I presented all of my skills and was given more responsibility in a field I enjoyed: web and graphic design.
Now I’m moving on to the next step. I know what I want to make a career out of now, and it’s writing. Sure, my hobbies are art and web building. I already do something I’m good at for my job. But I’ve been writing all my life, and I know that it’s my calling, and if I sit and let myself be satisfied with what I have then I won’t be satisfied forever. At the very least, I’ll be comfortable with a mediocre career. Now, I want to know what it’ll take to achieve the career of my dreams. What do I have to do to become a writer?
I can’t just wait for it to happen. I can’t write a manuscript and send it blindly to every relevant agent, hoping someone will see it and reach out to me. (I did that. It’s very fruitless.)
So it’s time to make a plan and keep to it. Stick my nose to the grindstone. Actively put myself out there and show people my work so that people want to read it. That’s the answer that I made, therefore, the answer that I knew I would find.
You will find it.
My philosophy isn’t one that boasts an immediate solution to every problem. I can’t kick my legs back and go “Ah, hakuna matata!” because that will get me nowhere. My philosophy isn’t about believing that I will just stumble across the solution while I do my own thing; it isn’t “You might find it.”
It’s all about being proactive, and making the solution yourself. That way, you know you’ll find it. Its a definitive voice that grants you the certainty in knowing, because you make the answer.
If this philosophy works for you, use it! If it doesn’t, take a look out into the world and see what you can find. I know that if you search hard enough, you will find it.
Come back next week for a write-up on Therapeutic Writing Resources.