What Will You Do Next?
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“What will you do next?”
I’ve been asked that question three times in the last week.
I’ve fielded this question and written about this question before—we all have; the moment our graduation date appears on the year’s horizon, every family member, friend, and kind stranger who discovers you’re a near-graduating student presents this question to you. It’s been two years since I graduated college, and I still don’t have a good answer to this question, despite the younger me who thought 24 years-old meant your life trajectory was set firmly in place.
I’m currently working a full-time role for a nonprofit. It’s a service job, an Americorps job, which means I have an end date to the gig. Which means I have a “what’s next” question to answer.
Granted, I still have another 8 months in this role. Time isn’t pressuring me into a decision just yet. But we all know how quickly one month folds into the next, time carrying you onward in its swift, unbreakable current.
I’m comfortable right now in this new season of life. I live in the most magical apartment—twinkling Christmas lights and the perfect napping couch and the office space of my writing dreams (with fantastic wall art, might I add). I work two jobs that I enjoy, and there are people in my life both here in Nashville and around the world that I have the honor of calling friends and family. Life is good. Life is comfortable.
And so naturally, I’ve grown restless within this comfortable space. I’m not unhappy; no, I felt deep unhappiness last year, and through a whole heaping helping of grace I’m not lugging around that weight anymore. But paradoxically, in my newly settled routine, I now feel a level of unsettledness. And so I begin contemplating the “what’s next” question, trying on various sweeping life changes for size, ready to upend this comfort for the sake of novelty. Perhaps a move: Seattle? Denver? Los Angeles? Should I give the corporate world a go? Or should I actually try my hand at this being-a-serious-writer thing? Should I return to the music world? I have lived nearly my entire life in imaginings of my future, and I find myself sliding back into that default mode as a form of escapism from my life’s comfortable routine.
My heart aches for adventure, but daily life can often seem far from it. I’m reminded of a beautiful line my friend and talented writer Alyssa once wrote in a TFY blog post: “To me, wanting to see and do so much and knowing there are boundaries to that is heartbreak. Maybe the biggest heartbreak I’ve ever known.”
Because what’s adventurous about being startled awake to a 6 am alarm, about drinking the same cup of coffee and driving the same morning commute and listening to the same albums and podcasts every morning? What’s adventurous about returning home along the same roads with the same albums and podcasts, going through the same evening motions? What’s adventurous about doing The Same Thing week after week after week after week?
I’m a big sucker for desert metaphors, because out of all life analogies nature presents to us, I think the desert offers us a rich smorgasbord of life analogies to choose from (and some sick sunsets to boot). A priest the other day described the rainy season of the desert as a “furious celebration of life.” I love the urgency of such a description. A furious celebration of life: That’s what I want for my days to be—life springing up from what was once barren. But how can this be when routine so often feels like imprisonment for me?
“I will learn to love the skies I’m under.”
I’ve been on a big Mumford and Sons’ kick lately, swooning hard over lyrics that three years ago I barely took notice of. The above line that Marcus Mumford sings to a banjo diddy has stuck with me, this idea of choosing to appreciate each day regardless of the circumstances that surround it—both the adventurous days that will begin with a “remember when…” introduction and the routine days that are seemingly inconsequential and quickly forgotten.
How can I love the skies I’m under when I’ve checked out of the present in exchange for the future, in exchange for what’s next?
Last year, I was introduced to the concept of choosing a word for the year rather than creating a list of resolutions. Given that resolutions and I do not get along well, I happily chose this alternative, and in my enthusiasm and indecision, I chose three words: adventure, intention, and present.
And with this new year sitting fresh before us, I wanted to choose a phrase to bring with me into the next 365 days.
Because right here? This is life. This tea drinking and candle burning December night—this is the rainy season in the desert; my days are a chance to be a furious celebration of life, if only I could learn to be here, fully, wholly here and not in a future that doesn’t even exist yet.
Be here. Be here. Be here.
So I will sip my tea and cuddle my cat and take a deep breath and write these words and let go of the question of what’s next because what’s next is not what’s now. What’s now is where life is, and it’s time to furiously celebrate it.