In my mid-twenties, I once changed addresses twelve times in twelve months.
That time between college and real life is a time of transition. I hated being unsettled. In flux. I often say I am the type A of type As, and that level of uncertainty was really tough.
But I’ve been thinking about uncertainty a lot lately, because the pandemic was and remains another long period of feeling deeply unsettled. The guidance is always changing for good reason–because we’re learning more and more about the virus. Our personal circumstances are also constantly shifting—who’s vaccinated, who’s not yet eligible, what the community case numbers look like, what the mental health status is of family members, what the regulations in the community are and how that impacts the danger for better or worse. All these variables are constantly in flux, and so our decisions are, too.
Uncertainty is exhausting. I am a person who likes predictability. I run my life, and my family’s, with routines. Routines make life run smoothly. Obviously, you’re going to have wrenches thrown in the works. But if you have a routine, you can tweak the known to accommodate the unknown and unexpected. Without a routine, you waste tons of brain power trying to figure out life on the fly. You risk wasting time and squandering opportunities, because you’re wandering in clueless circles.
The thing about routines is that they can become ruts. They don’t have to, but they can.
Those two periods of flux and uncertainty I described above have something else in common: they have both been periods of incredible growth in spiritual and emotional maturity, in insight and understanding and wisdom.
When routines become ruts, we build up the bubble around our own experience and become mentally rigid. Reality must be this way, because it’s always been this way. We go plodding along, with our eyes fixed on the two square feet of earth right in front of our toes, without ever looking up at the dizzying—and revelatory—world around us.
Times of uncertainty offer an invitation to break through the invisible barriers we’ve built around ourselves and allow us to grow. If we ignore that invitation, we end up digging our ruts deeper and wrapping ourselves more tightly in the chains that keep us stagnant as human beings.
I am grateful for what I’ve learned in the past twenty months. How long would it have taken me to learn those same lessons from within the ordinary routines of my life? How much have those lessons influenced my writing?
The pandemic hasn’t been fun. It continues not to be fun. But I wouldn’t go back to the person I was in February of 2020.