Seeking Certainty in an Uncertain World

I can’t escape from this gnawing feeling that I’m doing something wrong by continuing on my travels and not returning to New York to start my career and eventually settle down and start a family, just as it’s been happening in our society for many years.

I keep coming back to this theme of breaking away from the pre-determined stages of life that are hammered into us from a young age. Even as a I decide to stay on in Spain for a second year and am so thrilled about and ready for the change that will come by moving to the opposite end of the country, I continue to seek some form of certainty in my life.

The thing is, easy as it seems on the outside (living it up by traveling around Europe), for me it’s been extremely difficult on an internal level. When I first returned from Costa Rica I fell into a black hole of depression because that was when I first realized that I didn’t want to follow the societal pattern that we’re expected to. But that meant breaking away from everything I had known and believed would happen up until that point. It meant breaking away from having some form of certainty in a life that will only ever have one certainty.

This is why it took me three years to finally follow my dream of coming to Spain. To leave a world of the temporary sense of certainty having a 5 and 10 year plan gives you, and head to a world with nothing but blank pages, and a bunch of dots with no obvious connections, dude…it’s hard.

So how do I handle my fear of uncertainty? I plan. Chronically. Maybe I can’t yet plan where I’m living next year since I know my region but not my city, but I can plan other things…I can book my plane tickets, I can start looking at apartments, albeit 6 months ahead of time, to get an idea of what my options may be, I can start looking into storage for my winter belongings, though that won’t be necessary for another 3 months, I can start researching side jobs, I can start planning potential vacations…you get the point, right? Here I am with 3 months left to enjoy where I’m at, but I’m already thinking 6 months into the future.

Why is it so hard for me to be in the present? Because I want to plan the future, and thus reassure myself that I have some form of certainty in my life. When I think of the blank pages of my future, when I wonder how on Earth I will find a job when I leave Spain, or where I will go when I finish my second year in Spain…In other words, when I try to connect the dots and project an image of what my future will be like and realize I honestly have no idea, I’m plagued by anxiety.

The shame in this is obviously an inability to truly enjoy the present moment. It’s a bit paradoxical, isn’t it? A fear of the unknown stems from a fear of dying, and the fear of dying is due to a love for life and a desire to be happy and enjoy it. So when I can be enjoying my life in the present moment, I’m instead worrying about not being able to enjoy it in the future. It’s kind of funny when you think about it.

And so here I am, seeking certainty in my situations and from other people. If there’s one thing I know, and have continued to believe more and more through my Buddhist practice, it’s that you never seek outside of yourself, because you already have everything you need within.

This has truly been an incredible year in many ways. I have learned how to bring forth from within my internal light to penetrate the darkness that fills the school I work in. It’s been an uphill battle and each day is exhausting, but I am so proud of my students and how much progress they’re making. I have learned how to live on my own, I have broken out of the cycle and am forging my own path, and I have met incredible people. But now it’s time to delve even deeper, face my fundamental fear, and bring forth the courage and wisdom I already have to conquer it on my own.

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