Time has been on my mind quite a bit lately, in all kinds of ways. Daily living, social cues, work and writing deadlines, opportunities, research, long-term planning, lifetimes, seasons ... everything. It's a challenge these days.
When I made the decision to start my MFA and the amazing book project at the center of it, I chose to go from full-time-employee to freelance status at the same time. That was a matter of freeing up the hours and the day-to-day flexibility to give my all to both work and school so that they could start to blend into a unified path for the future.
I'm not finding a lot of examples and inspiration, though. There are tons of successful freelancers in all sorts of fields who have written about the way they've made the transition. And there are lots of MFA candidates and graduates who have chronicled the way they handled their coursework. In nearly every case, though, all things weren't in limbo at once. It feels a little like I'm an explorer in a strange land.
Now, let's mix in the need for a healthier, calmer and more compassionate approach to my life. I never expected nor set out to be family-free as I rapidly approach the very last point at which I can claim to be in my late 30s. But I am. And in the last few years, all of the career karma I set out to amass for the time when I would need to trade it in for a husband and kids began to weigh too heavily on me. Literally. And in a host of physical manifestations of stress, from morning panic attacks to stomach miseries, and chronic insomnia to a near-complete numbing of emotions.
Giving myself the chance to heal and reset my focus on the present instead of forever in the future is necessary and it's difficult. I'm not particularly good at looking at things as they are instead of what I hope they will be. I'm also easily distracted or convinced that something else is more important than whatever I have planned to do for myself. It makes for self-imposed stress, more often than not.
In the last few days, all of those elements and more have collided. I've been reminded of the need to drive myself forward in research and writing so that I feel confident about my craft. I've learned that I have to force myself to focus on work or admin chores for short periods so I can move on to other activities without feeling them lingering over me. I've started to pick my head up and recognize that there are beautiful opportunities all around. For the first time in years, I was able to honestly offer to help a couple of friends who are facing health difficulties. Yesterday, I managed to go to the local farmstand during their open hours to get most of this week's fruit and veggies. I even noticed the changing colors of the trees along the road.
Perhaps I won't be taking one step at a time. More like three. But at least I can try to focus on just those steps, and then the next ones, instead of all of the steps from here to forever at once. To quote Cervantes: "There is a time for some things, and a time for all things; a time for great things, and a time for small things."