Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Learning to Move Through an Existential Crisis

Confession time.  I'm not exactly sure what an existential crisis is.  But I think I'm having one.

Who am I? What am I doing? What do I next?

What if it doesn't work?
What if I can't find work?

See, the way I'm using the word "existential" is related to my existence and not to "existentialism," which thoroughly confused me when I was 17 and which I never studied after that.

I suppose we all go through these crises as we go through life.  I also suppose it's part of experiencing change,  whether we chose the changes or the changes choose us.

Nothing ever stays the same, and although some people may journey through life without freaking out, I am not one of those people.  I maintain that most of us face these existential crises periodically, but we just navigate them a little differently.  (Or a lot differently.)

At any rate, I chose the changes I'm experiencing right now.  I chose to redirect my life.  I chose to go after writing and teaching and taking risks.  And I'm not second guessing my choices--I would make them again--I just don't know what to do next.  I don't know how to move forward.

Moving forward.  We move forward at many times in our lives:

  • After finishing school.
  • After getting laid off.  Or fired.
  • After losing a friend or a family member to death.  
  • After a divorce.
  • After surgery.
  • After starting a family.

We choose to move forward when we
  • Get married.
  • Start a family.
  • Go after a new job.
  • Return to school.
  • Decide a major.  
  • Apply for jobs.
From my perspective, some people seem to move forward effortlessly, boldly, without fear.  I do not.  Most people do not.  The risks of change, of moving, can seem monumental.  But nothing ever stays the same, and even if we do not choose to move, the world will nudge--or push--us into moving eventually.

And so we must learn to move.  To take risks.  To try new things.  Things that take a lot of work.  That put us in new situations.  That that challenge us.  And we have to persevere.  Keep going.  Keep moving.  

At the same time, we must build and maintain structures of stability in our lives.  Friends that move alongside us.  They don't necessarily go with us, but they encourage us in our journeys, and we encourage them in theirs.  

And we look straight ahead to Jesus, the author and completer of our faith.  We all always be moving, but he never changes.  

I think I haven't done so well on building and maintaining structures of stability recently, and now I'm trying to go back and rebuild them.  I got so focused on the moving and the finishing that I forgot where I was going and how to get there.  Hence, my existential crisis.  

And honestly, although this blog is about my existential crisis and my inability to move and my disappointment at waking up and figuring out that I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing or where I'm headed and I feel all alone, I know I'm not the only one.

I know someone reading this is living through an existential crisis right now.  Probably not for the same reasons, but there are a lot of reasons to have an existential crisis.  I have one every time I reinvent myself.  And I suppose the point is, and I really am trying to make a point out of my angst, that this is normal and we need to keep going, keep moving, keep looking to the future.  And keep looking to Jesus, who gives us strength to keep moving.  And who comforts us in our angst.  And find people to journey with us along the way.

And I suppose finding those people is a struggle in and of itself.  Maybe I should write about that.


Nancy B. said...

Good post, Erin. I'm not so big on change either. You've reminded me that even though sometimes I don't know where I'm headed at least I'm not in a situation of the blind leading the blind. Rather, because I'm holding onto Jesus, it is the sighted leading the blind. Now if only I can just relax and follow and not want to lead so much.

Erin Flew said...

The sighted leading the blind--I like that.

Right now I'm trying to listen a little more carefully to sense Jesus' leading. Sigh.