Instead of writing, today I spent the afternoon with a friend. She is at a crossroads and ready to make the decision to change her life. Over iced tea and California rolls, we discussed what it feels like when your job has become a toxic pool; where you can barely envision that a way out is even possible, and where the people with you in the pool seem to want to pull you under.
She is where I was almost exactly three years ago. Deciding.
I was once in a discussion group with a man who had to choose between one job offer and another. He said that he had made a “decision,” and went on to define what that meant:
Decidio (Latin): To die. To cut off; to settle, put an end to.
When we decide, we select a path for progress. Though, the Latin suggests that a decision is the end or death of an idea. One idea has to die so that we can give full life to another.
My friend has that “standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon”-sensation, not clear how she will get to the other side. But, she has decided: She is going to the other side.
Deciding may be the hardest, most important part. Giving full life to an idea while resolutely putting an end to another is a commitment to a future you – a promise you make to yourself entrusting the future “you” to fulfill.
It is choosing this life instead of that life.
The key for me, when I made the decision to change my life, was to not get caught up in trying to clearly define that new life. The early months were about embracing the idea that a different life could be, and would be because I was determined to go there.
After such a long stay on a lonely island (toxic job situation), I had to first master the idea that I could swim away to a new island (change was possible.) Somehow, while focused on mastering that idea, the ‘how’ takes shape.
Her journey will be different, and her destination will be the one she has been headed toward her whole life (and she will probably wonder, like I did, why it took her so long to get there.) I suggested that she start with the two books that set me on my journey:
The Centered Life, by Jack Fortin
The Path: Creating your Mission Statement for Work and for Life, by Laurie Beth Jones
We are enough alike that these two books, read in this order, will probably work for her the same way they worked for me: the first book will teach that the decision is about changing how to measure your life. The second book will teach how to articulate your (new) life.
I reminded my friend of the E.L. Doctorow quote that literally guided my way:
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
First, decide to go. Then, trust that you can take yourself there.