Stuck or Planted

Two weeks ago, I had a thought.

Your life can be any way you want it to be

Katie’s inner voice

Wait, what? It gave me real pause. I pondered. I paced. I did some “smell the fart” acting (if you know you know). I really had to think on it because, I realized, in my entire lifetime I have never actually 1) believed that to be true or 2) considered that a real possibility. Call me a forever cynic (although I’m more likely a pragmatist), call me unenlightened, call me a knucklehead: whatever my problem, I’ve just never really thought truly about my own agency.

Of course, in the acquisition of a PhD in Sociology, I’ve considered to an obnoxious degree the debate between structure and agency as causative forces. I mean, to an obnoxious degree; many, many beers were wasted on that stupid debate (of course, it’s both). But I’ve never reflected on it in a personal way. I’ve always somewhat considered my life today to be mostly a product of circumstances linked together by time–I made certain choices at certain times that determined some direction here or there, but was I really free to make them? Sometimes, I guess. But that seemed unsure at best when I would’ve expected the truth to trumpet forth from my deep within a resonant “I DID THIS.” Did I, though? Did I?

As I continued to reflect, somewhat amazed that, in the end, that’s how I felt about this life thus far, I started examining the bigger decisions, the stand-outs in a sea of daily “how much cream in my coffee?” kind of minutiae. There have been some choices I’ve clearly made and felt totally in control about. Those I can own: where I went to college, deciding to go to grad school, moving to another city to do so, quitting a notoriously awful job. Absolutely those were choices I made, some with my back against the wall and some not.

What I started realizing was that the choices I feel like I didn’t have much say about: going into the industry I’m in (that was truly by accident), being in the job I’m in now (it came my way after 3 months of unemployment without any real hints at direction), ending up in the performing arts (just weird, brilliant dumb-luck and timing)…these are the things that end up sowing discontent for me–they were opportunities I said “yes” to in the short term and either rode the wave of them to a point it feels like is a conclusion or to the point that I need to acknowledge that they may not have been meant for me from the very beginning and I’ve “made them work” this long.

What I’m learning is that the longer I’m in those paths that I took because they were there, the less I feel like I have power to say that my life can be any way I want it to be. When the path isn’t yours, it owns you and teaches you to live on it.

This has taken up a lot of my thoughts the past couple weeks which is why the weekly updates have felt a little superficial. Yes, I can tell you that I’m drowning myself in Simply Nailogical Youtube videos as pure, weird, Canadian niche escapism. Sure, I can fire off many documentaries that I’ve watched on Netflix. But there’s bigger work happening here. And I wanted to remind myself of the moment that I imagined that my life could be different…so that in three years, when my niche business built truly on my passion is in the dumper and I’m that much closer to retirement without enough savings for even one year of kicking back, living the high life on food stamps and government rations, I can look back and determine the exact point that everything ran off the rails.

Now, that’s cynical.

I actually believe the winds of change have picked up significantly. We’ll see what happens.

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