Lately I feel a bit like I'm sitting at the far edge of the map I've created for the last 20+ years of my life. The old map and globe makers supposedly used to say (or not) about the mysteries beyond the border "here be dragons." For me, there aren't dragons, really, just a few unknown seas and a considerable amount of horizon. As Dante said at the beginning of his masterpiece Inferno "Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, For the straight forward pathway had been lost."
Until now, the life I've pieced together has been filled with my own projects and pursuits and, at the same time, considerably oriented in time and energy around the raising of a family. Two things happen this year that will rock that geography : (1) Sam will finish high school and set off, ending my stint as a resident in-house mother, and (2) we will move back to the states to a place yet to be determined.
[Watch me get all themey with this map metaphor: For years I've navigated the Cape of Good Naps, weathered the tantrum tempests, the Sea of Puberty, and the Straits of Discipline. I've helped build new boats, furnished them with the anchors and navigation systems that have worked for us, and launched our small fleet.] So: fresh start. Clean slate. Edge of the map. The question that's been on my mind lately is what's next? who do I want to be for the rest of (or at least next part of) my life?
It's a theme I hear frequently from my friends and our readers; whether or not they have been working full time, part time, or staying at home, this transition is fascinating and altering and opens up possibilities with whole new landscapes to navigate. I'm not just talking vocation here--though that could certainly be part of it--also pursuits and hobbies, things to learn, places to visit, projects to take on, contributions to make.
Here's one step I recently took toward figuring these things out, an exercise at the intersection of first, know thyself and when in doubt, make a list. Earlier this year on a night when G and Sam were on a camping trip, I sat down with my notebooks spread out on the bed and started to sort out my thoughts on this whole what's next situation. I made long lists answering a host of questions to start a conversation with myself (planning + lists = my happy place).
Maybe you know exactly what's next for you. If so, high five and enjoy your fantastic map! If, like me, you're also starting to dream/scheme/imagine/anticipate what might be next for you, here's your gentle, borderland-dwelling assignment: Answer these questions for yourself, with compassion and honesty about who you are and who you want to be. Don't stop too long to analyze as you write, just nudge all of those ideas to go mingle together on the lists. (Bonus: These could work for helping older kids and young adults figure out what's next for them, too):
What do I love doing?
What do I love thinking about/talking about?
What/whom do I envy? (This can be an illuminating insight. If you feel jealous of what someone does, it's probably because it's something you wish you could do!)
What am I good at/do people say I do well?
In what kinds of settings would those things be useful, fun, or welcome?
What would I like to still improve?
What will I let go trying to improve and just accept/embrace/learn to love about myself?
What do I typically avoid or try to delay doing?
What might I love (given some experience/time/mentoring)?
What do I want my life to include more of/be known for?
Who are my heroes, mentors + cool people to emulate? What do they have in common?
What attributes and dreams did I used to have that I'd like to recapture (i.e., will the original version of Annie please stand up?)
What do you think--any questions you'd add to these? I'd love to hear from any of you who are mulling over the what's next question--feel free to chime in here or email me. I'll be back to chat about further what's next steps in future posts.