About six months ago, I finished all the academic requirements for my Masters of Social Work. About a month ago, I finished the required hours for my practicum work. This week, I will actually receive the degree, the MSW, and walk across the stage.
So begins the next segment of life, which is actually, more than anything, just a continuation of this one I’ve already been traveling.
I find myself confronting fears as they arise. Some are silly, unfounded, illogical. Some are reality-based, informed by the “past.” All, I am constantly reminding myself, are just thoughts and I don’t have to invest any energy or belief in them. Like my sister said to me today, “I’m a banana.” It’s just a thought.
Nonetheless, here are some of the thoughts that pop up as I stare out over the edge of my educational experience into that which now may be commonly referred to as my “future.”
List of Some Fears:
All of this education will mean nothing. At the end of it, regardless of my work, I will still be un-hireable due to my “past” career choices.
Once I apply for a job, I will get it (automatically by applying), and it will prevent me from taking another job I love.
I don’t have enough education.
I will never want to do just one thing.
I will fail at being an adult. Or I will be mediocre at it.
Working 8-5 will kill my creativity.
All just thoughts. None of these things are real. I can even see how incongruent the fears are – they vacillate between being not good enough to being too good. Here is a more reductionist view of this fear list.
#1 – I’m not good enough.
#2 – I’m so good that I don’t even have to do an interview to be hired. And then once I make a decision, I can’t change my mind. Because I’m not good enough.
#3 – I’m not good enough.
#4 – I can’t change my mind.
#5 – I’m not good enough.
#6 – I am so unique and awesome, I need a different working environment than the majority of this country.
See a theme here? Me too.
You know it’s funny… a few months ago, when people began asking me what I’d do next, I’d say “I don’t know, next hasn’t happened yet.” Then as I repeated this statement, and felt the discomfort of others’ discomfort, I began to craft answers about “opportunities,” all of which are based in reality but were designed more for the asker than for me. The more I repeated myself – the more I repeated the opportunity statement – the more I began to believe I need to have something lined up. It’s wild how we start to believe our own bullshit! Now, I can’t help but feel like I’m somehow failing because nothing is set.
Reality is that historically, things have worked out best when I suit up and show up. Like a popular AA idiom says, “God laughs at plans.” Or maybe it was “God has a plan.” Something like that.
This week is meant to be celebratory, and I find the only way I’ll be able to celebrate – both my accomplishments and the support that every single person in my life has provided me in these six long years – is to work through each of these fears. To name them, to shine a light on them, to embrace them with nonjudgment as creations of my mind: Not as reality.
So I’ll start applying for jobs. It’s an action I can take to face the fear list.
So I’ll BBQ for my family and friends, and walk across the stage. It’s an action I can take to celebrate my work and show thanks to those who’ve propped me up.
So I’ll take a vacation with my husband. It’s an action we can take to celebrate this transition and provide a line of demarcation to welcome in the next phase of life.
And so I’ll keep writing here. It’s an action I can take to shine a light on the every day-ness of my fears and thoughts, and a place where we can come together and think, “I’m a banana,” as a communal reminder of our minds’ creative and endless endeavors. Because it’s a place we can come together to mark the passage of time, and the we-ness that helps us move through that time. Because it’s a place we can come together, and not be so alone in our thoughts and fears.
The featured image is that of the trajineras de Xochimilco, in Mexico City. My Dad and I just returned from a week there together – celebrating and eating and talking about things that scare us, bring us joy, fill us with gratitude. I would have loved to share a boat with you too, because you’ve been traveling with me for years now. Thank you, for taking this wild trip with me, and for being willing to walk me through this next phase. I continue to be humbled by and grateful for the support you’ve shown me over these years. From every part of my being, thank you.