People still ask me how I made the decision to leave a perfectly good job, give up all my financial security, leave behind my friends and fly off into the world; I tell them that it was not easy, and it took years before I was ready to make the change. They want to know how I knew that it was the right thing to do; I tell them that I did not have a choice – I knew that I could no longer stay where I was.
The following paragraphs made such an impact when I read them (at the time when I was making this life altering decision), that I copied it from the book and saved it as a reminder. I recently rediscovered it, when I was, once again, dealing with uncertainty and fear.
“For some people, there is a sudden or gradual break with their past: their work, living situation, relationships – everything undergoes profound change. Some of the change may be initiated by themselves, not through an agonising decisionmaking process but by a sudden realisation or recognition: This is what I have to do. The decision arrives ready-made, so to speak. It comes through awareness, not through thinking. You wake up one morning and you know what to do.
There may be a period of insecurity and uncertainty. What should I do? As the ego is no longer running your life, the psychological need for external security, which is illusory anyway, lessens. You are able to live with uncertainty, even enjoy it. When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change. The Roman philosopher Tacitus rightly observed that ‘the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’ If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” (Eckhart Tolle, A new earth)
I have always been so uncomfortable with uncertainty, that I had no idea how I was supposed to “become comfortable” with it. I have always had the need to be in control of almost every aspect of my life – to keep the fear at bay. And, yet, I had made a decision to face an uncertain future. I did not even know what I wanted to gain from the experience, where I wanted to end up, what I wanted to do with my life. So, my only option was to become comfortable with uncertainty. Every time I panicked about the uncertainty, I recited my little mantra; “I am comfortable with uncertainty.” I think it got me through the worst part of dealing with the unknown and propelled me into an incredible experience.
The question that people now ask of me, is: What are you going to do now? Surely, you can only travel for so long, can’t you? What will you do for money? These questions, I don’t have answers for.
As I am semi-settled on Ithaca for the moment (the backpack packed away for now), the uncertainty about my future awoke new fears. During the past few weeks, in moments of anxiety about my future and my financial situation, I would get these visions of going back to my old job and sitting in an office, publishing books that I hate with crazy deadlines and ridiculous requirements, and I would practically want to vomit. And, then I’d think of alternatives. What about going to the UK, the mecca of publishing and start a new career there – but, that thought creates even more panic.
I’ve decided that I need to focus on the present moment – again – here on Ithaca. This is where I am happy right now. It seems that I have to continually learn the same lessons. As my savings are running out and I’m looking for ways to earn money so that I can stay on Ithaca, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. So, I guess its back to the old mantra… “I am comfortable with uncertainty.”
After all, when I embrace the uncertainty, the possibilities are infinite. Now, if only I could be ok with “not knowing what tomorrow holds”, I will also realise that I am living a whole new life where none of the old rules apply. Maybe I need to rethink my ideas about “earning a living”, and focus on what I have right now.