March 5, 2014

Expect Nothing

I gave up sweets and being angry for Lent. I usually choose two things: one related to food and one related to my behavior. My success at upholding my Lenten vows hovers around 50/50 - one I am usually able to keep while the other falls by the wayside. However, this time around I am hoping to keep both and at least the former (anger) as a permanent behavioral adjustment.

The past year has been the hardest of my 29 years. Lately, I am acutely feeling the raw edge of what it means to be human. It's funny how you think one time in your life is the hardest only to have a later season make that previous time feel like a cakewalk. And yet, I always hold in my heart the knowledge that it could be so much worse. And in fact, I am so very blessed to have people in my life to catch me and to love me and believe in me when I have lost belief in myself.

Not having a job is a strange and scary experience. I graduated my Master's program with a feeling of confidence after a successful run at a prestigious university, thinking that would be more than enough to seal my fate in a new career field. Au contraire. In hindsight, it's a quite funny that I thought I could easily obtain a professional-level job in a new career field. Pure entitlement without proper training. I mean, I had experience and now the education. The very expensive, brand-name education. But, unfortunately, in this current job market, a good resume is not even the first thing to get you into the door of any place. It is all about who you know and networking, networking, networking! And it's about having the right kind of experience.

I feel like I have been fighting these past months to find a job full of meaning - working to mitigate violence exposure for children - that I have so desperately craved for so long. Fighting to make all my finances work with a contract job here and a contract job there. But it has been scary. I have learned to appreciate so much of what before I took for granted - a fat savings account, health insurance paid by my employer, being able to buy something without worry.

Another thing out of this experience has been unmitigated anger. I am not angry person, but I have felt such irrational anger at different moments over the past few months and this scares me. I am angry at our neighbor upstairs who has a heavy tread. I am angry at the person who cuts me off walking to the Metro. I am angry at my 6-year-old computer for being on its last legs. I am angry at the potential employer who doesn't respond to my carefully crafted cover letter and resume. I can feel this anger wear on my body. Because the person that anger hurts the most (for the most part) is the person who feels the anger. Which is why I am trying to control it in this Lenten season and hopefully, permanently.

Today I read this incredible Pscyhology Today article about expecting nothing. It talks about the careful balance between being realistic and being optimistic. A balance that I have been desperately seeking each day. I was raised to be an optimist, but life has forced a good bit of realism (read: pessimism) into my psyche. And now, in this struggling time, I am trying to find a balance to cool my anger and level my head so that I may persevere and find the right job and get my life back on kilter. The article talks about how we tend toward anger when our dreams fail to realize. But dreams without hard work, timing, and luck will hardly have the chance of being fulfilled. I have been doing this new career path for a little under two years...I need to put in more time and I need patience. I need to take that reality and use it as a calming mechanism in understanding why I still do not have a job. I need to be grateful for what I have and derive strength from it. This article was exactly what I needed to read.

I also happened upon Alice Walker's poem, "Expect Nothing," which is a beautiful tribute to humility in the face of adversity.

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.
Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star; 
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why

So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. 
Live frugally
On surprise. 

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful post, Em! I feel that anger, too, sometimes. That fear of being at the whims of the fates. Or something like that. It's so frustrating! I hope that you find little nuggets of peace and joy amidst this period of your life. I will see you soon!


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