Life Isn't Linear, and That's Just Fine
Today is the first day of spring and Persian New Year, and quite a fitting time to sit back down in the writer’s chair. I’ve taken a long break from writing here (a whole year, to be exact), and I’m not sure why. But I’ve had the joy of connecting with several readers offline who have shared their stories with me and have sought advice. They’ve reminded me of why I started this blog in the first place — to create a community where we can have open discourse about some of the issues that matter most to us in this phase of our lives. I’m very happy to say that I’m back and excited to connect with even more of you!
I figure today’s a great day to discuss a theme that’s been going through my mind almost every day for the last year:
Life isn’t linear, and that’s just fine.
To be clear, this is the opposite of the message that I’ve been internalizing my whole life. For many young professionals, the education and career track is only supposed to go in one direction: up. Any breaks, lateral deviations, or—God forbid—dips, are considered catastrophic. In the current climate, everybody is on their grind, improving and advertising their fitness, career “hustle”, and Pinterest-worthy domestic life. Going backwards, or even just standing still, isn’t Instagrammed, isn’t celebrated, and is almost never disclosed.
This is a problem.
Why is it a problem? Because life doesn’t work that way. Life isn’t linear, nor is it meant to be. And the expectation of a linear life ignores the benefits of struggle.
Possibly unpopular opinion: If life were a constant stream of successes and upward movement, exactly how could we expect to grow? I wrote before that we can be grateful in difficult times, because it is only when we are tested that our true capacity is revealed and our virtues are honed.
The last couple years have been full of tests for me. Becoming a mother, just by itself, has presented more challenges than I could’ve imagined on every level. Everything from my physical well-being to my sense of self and identity has changed. Somewhere along the way, I lost someone I loved very much to cancer. Other family members have been suffering major health crises. My own health situation was extremely tenuous for months. And to top it all off, I have been drifting farther and farther from my identity as a high-achieving professional.
Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I feel like I’m just now old enough to have witnessed a few large arcs in my life. Even five or six years ago, it was hard to take a step back and not feel like what was happening right in the moment was determinative of the rest of my life trajectory. In retrospect, I think I simply hadn’t been alive for enough years to have the perspective of life’s ebbs and flows that older adults often talk to us about but don’t fully explain.
As a society, I’m not sure we’re giving people permission to experience life in an authentic way. I never thought this before becoming a parent, but now I wonder why we consider a “successful” life one that moves forward in the same direction into perpetuity. Why aren’t people allowed to be fully honest and forthcoming about their struggles? Their health scares? Their changes of heart with respect to their careers? Their grief after loss? Their identity crises after major life events like becoming parents?
I’ve had to remind myself over and over these last few years that who I am right now and what I’m doing at this very moment will not define me for the rest of my life. I spent a lot of time grieving the loss of my former, pre-motherhood self. I grieved the loss of my independence, my productivity, my accomplishments, my appearance, and my ability to physically push myself.
But why was I glorifying my old identity without embracing all the wonderful aspects of my current state? Who I am today is the same in a lot of ways as the me of several years ago, but it’s also different in ways that I’ve been hesitant to honor. Why shouldn’t I celebrate the fact that my capacity for compassion has increased beyond what I ever thought possible? Why shouldn’t I be excited that my vision of what constitutes a “successful” life has been expanded to account for values that I downplayed for most of my life? Why shouldn’t I congratulate myself for accepting that my identity can evolve? Why shouldn’t I be proud of my courage to speak about my struggles and give myself grace?
None of this means that I won’t constantly work to improve and refine my character, my abilities, and my health. It’s a journey that I’ll be on for the rest of my life. But now I’m grateful to have the perspective that the way things are now are not the way they will always be. Your life is not over if you get off the treadmill for a minute. You can always get back on and change the speed.
I would love to hear from you if you can relate to this. Thanks for reading!
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