Leaving room for wonder

After weeks of waking up to dense San Francisco fog, this morning’s sunshine is … hitting different.

I go for a short walk before my 8am meeting to bask in the delicious morning light (and stop to take the above photos). I am in such a good mood that I spend $4.12 at the cute neighborhood café on an iced coffee that I could have easily made at home for free. I justify the purchase by telling myself that it’s better to spend money when you are feeling good than as a coping mechanism when you’re feeling bad, and also that I’m supporting local business.

I love San Francisco so much.

I called my brother yesterday afternoon to see how he was doing.

We ended up talking for a while about a lot of things (punctuated by interruptions of “double chicken, please” as he ordered a burrito at Chipotle). I told him I was stressed about turning 30 because I still don’t know what I want out of my career, much less my life. I thought I would have a better idea by now.

“Maddy, you’re asking me all the hard questions,” he said in between bites of his Chipotle.

“I know,” I said, “I was hoping you’d have all the answers.”

I’m trying to find the beauty – and freedom, perhaps – in this space of not knowing, of not having answers. I’m trying to embrace this uncertainty as opportunity, hope, and beauty rather than fear and anxiety.

Maybe it is more beautiful not to know. Maybe life is about never knowing and instead one never-ending journey, one long exploration with no destination, on which you try to learn and grow and hopefully keep moving in a direction that feels good to you.

On some days that notion feels depressing. On others, like today, it feels liberating. If there is no destination, I don’t have to worry about getting there. My life becomes less about moving towards something, or moving “forward,” or making the “right” decisions, and instead about just being and doing what feels good and true to myself in the moment. (Often that itself is no easy feat.)

I am sometimes struck by an overwhelming feeling of privilege that I have room to explore; to make mistakes; to get to choose in so many ways where I want to go next and who I want to be. It’s for this reason, this privilege, that I am sure my life has gotten better as I’ve gotten older. Every year I learn more about myself and who I am, develop deeper relationships with people I love, and experience new things that help me understand the world and my place in it.

More practically, for example, I know that I struggle with depression at night, and therefore found a job and life schedule that allows me to go to bed and wake up early. I’ve discovered my favorite foods (burritos, broccoli, pizza, ice cream, iced coffee) and eat more of them (the fact that I didn’t drink iced coffee for the first 20 years of my existence is proof alone that my life is trending upwards). I’ve found places I like to spend time – cities, parks, the sunniest corner of the office – and know where to go if I want to feel warm, safe, peaceful, or stimulated. I’ve found medications, a job, a husband that make every day of my life better than all of the ones before I had those things.

Some of that was luck, some of that was intentionality and effort, but most of it was nothing more than experimentation; trial and error; staying curious and trying new things and being open to mistakes but also to wonderful surprises. I need to remember this next time I am fearful or anxious. I have so much privilege in my ability to choose. Even if I can’t wake up tomorrow morning and quit my job (#healthcare #SanFranciscorent) I can choose who I want to spend time with, what I want to eat for lunch (well, sort of, because if I truly let myself choose I’d probably eat $50 worth of sushi every day), which book I want to read, how I want to arrange the plants and pictures on my desk to optimize for the arrangement that brings me the most joy.

One of my favorite poets, Lucille Clifton, said, “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.”

Out of wonder. That’s where my writing comes from, certainly (if I knew anything at all I wouldn’t be writing this post, much less calling my Chipotle-addicted brother for life advice). I think that’s where all beauty comes from, really, out of wonder and curiosity and noticing. My life has been getting more beautiful. My life will keep getting more beautiful.

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