Ah life, how do I love thee? Well, sometimes, I just don’t. I think that’s pretty common for all of us. Every time life gets to the “kick in the shins” point, I think back to when I first joined the springboard diving team at my junior college (eons ago). My coach used to give me hell, saying, “Back up and carry some distance!” See, your starting point for approach on a diving board is usually proportional to your height. Taller divers start further back on the board in order to gain the proper momentum to hurl themselves properly through the dive. I’m 5’2″ and have been since I was 13, so I tried riding the board from about mid-way back. But that wasn’t enough to give me the momentum to get around the airborne somersaults. If you’re wondering, part of that is my greater lower body mass partly from playing water polo. So I’d try to back up a little. He’d holler again. Then I’d back up some more. He’d holler again. I got to the point where I was starting my approach from the very back of the board, further back than most of my teammates despite being the shortest member of the team. After all the hollering about backing up, I laughed and told my coach that one day I’d write a book and title it, “Back Up and Carry Some Distance!”
I have gone through enough ups and downs lately to make me wonder when, exactly, I became a roller coaster operator. I had a stable job making just about 40k/yr at one point. But I was stressed out and seeing a neurologist so regularly, you’d think we were dating. I had moved cross-country to experience life in a different environment and decided I missed California so I picked up and moved home; at the beginning of the recession. Did I mention I have excellent timing? I got another job when I got there but I was making less money and paying more in bills so I was still stressed out. But things were good for a while! I had that cookie! So what did I do? I backed up. I had every intention of carrying some distance this time. I went back to school. I enrolled in online classes with a national university. I suffered through as much stress and unhappiness as I could and then just said, “No. I’m done. I’m not living this life, I’m surviving it.” I quit my job and spent the next few months assessing life in general.
I thought back to the classes in high school and laughed. All those theories I was fed about how you’re supposed to go to college right out of high school, study hard, graduate with excellent grades, and then you’ll get a good job! Um, yeahno. That’s not how the world actually works anymore. Hell, that’s not even how the world worked in my mom’s generation, it just took a few generations of chaos for most of us to realize that. You could go that route, bust your hump, do the extracurriculars, graduate at the top of your class from an Ivy League school… aaaannnndddd still not get a job. That’s where we are now. I have found that after all the experience, all the education, the jobs are still hard to get. Oh, and if you do get them, they don’t pay what you want them to. Does that mean you just give up and don’t try? Holy hell, no! You try your hardest anyway, even if it means backing up to build momentum.
You know how you have to listen to the safety speech every time you get an airplane and they have to tell you to look around for the nearest exit, “And keep in mind, the nearest exit to you may be behind you?” That’s the best metaphor I’ve ever come up with for the path of life. Anyone who tries to tell you to just keep moving forward is advising wishful thinking. Sometimes I find that I can make progress in any direction and feel more like I’m treading water. In an ocean swell. It happens. But I’ll never give up on it. Because that next big wave may be what helps push me toward land. After all, not all situations allow you to create your own momentum.