“What are you thinking about these days? I hope you’ll forgive me for my silence. I needed time to find myself again before I answered you honestly and with an answer that I could respect myself for giving.”
Someone I deeply respect and enjoy collaborating with wrote to me back in October, while I was in the middle of a massive series of changes. I did something I never thought I would do: I didn’t respond to the email, choosing instead to remain silent rather than lie about being happy & successful or admit that I was uncertain and felt like I was in a dark cave, scraping the palms of my hands along the walls while I tried to find the best way to move forward.
I had just left my first job post college and was handling the commentary that ranged from “after only a year? Oy… that won’t look good” to “Good. I can’t wait to see what you do with all your energy and hope.” It was time. I had struggled through a year of something that wasn’t a good fit for me and made me question a lot of things about myself that weren’t worth questioning. I admitted to myself: I wasn’t growing, and the truth set me free.
Months later, the email sat in my inbox. I try to respond to emails as quickly as possible, sometimes leaving heavier ones in my inbox if they require a length response or an answer I do not have yet. But this one sat there, staring at me. Begging me to answer it. And still, I couldn’t.
I was trying to define what kind of environment I needed and what I wanted to be doing… while I didn’t have enough context to do that. There was a lot of uncertainty. For the first time, I let myself be truly ok with that and be patient. I took stock of my resources, wrote a timeline, and reached out to mentors to talk through my next steps.
It turned out, I needed to define things a little differently for myself. I started taking on projects as a freelancer and meeting people based on what I wanted to learn. I was humble and prepared questions, instead of presentations. I was, for the first time in years, patient with myself.
I found myself again this spring. It was a moment of peace.
I think I needed the detour, the periods of time where I needed the slow to thaw so I could find a trail again, a few forks in the road… and an outcome that I never expected to find. I could embrace it because I was patient and willing to keep trying. I am less certain about where I am going, but more excited to discover the route on my own.
Today, I finally answered that email. I know this friend will read my words knowingly and forgive me for my silence.
I write about this now for my friends graduating or thinking about leaving jobs where they are miserable and feel trapped. I write because I know how much easier it would have been to remain silent and make it sound like I always had a grand plan and everything was 100% figured out. Spoiler: it wasn’t. It isn’t. I’m not ashamed of that.
You learn by exploring. Be patient with yourself, and making sure you keep reading/learning about things outside of your immediate environment. And don’t let anyone tell you that you have to stay somewhere that isn’t working for you.