On having a mantra for 2019

It’s the middle of January and I’m in the waiting place.

You know the place? It’s the one where you are floating on a single stepping stone and you can’t confidently plan your next move because you aren’t sure where or when the next stone will fall from the sky. It’s mostly unsettling and a little exciting.

As I peer through the fog of 2019, I see a long list of upcoming decisions—where to live, where to work, where/how/when to show up for people I love, how to win this Airbnb sabbatical to Italy (obviously, this is the most important decision).

Italian sabbatical notwithstanding, it doesn’t really make sense for me to have a long list of resolutions this year. And let’s be real, I’m not great at abiding by a long list of resolutions in the first place. So I’m going with a mantra instead.

For the record, I’m not really a mantra kind of girl. Mantras usually fall into the same category for me as Pinterest-y motivational phrases, and I just can’t. But these sentences have circled through my mind enough over the past few weeks that I decided to tie them together and call it a mantra:

I want to be challenged without being consumed.

I want to grow without uprooting.

I want to say yes and no in wisdom, not fear.

It’s a long mantra, but so are my general thoughts about basically everything. Let’s break it down piece by piece:

I want to be challenged without being consumed.

I have a habit of giving my entire self away to whatever I feel is most important—especially when that thing is work that I love. This is a great character trait for going all-in with Leslie Knope style enthusiasm and also a great case study for future editions of the Boundaries book.

So I spent the past year and a half investing in the life part of work/life balance. I did supremely ordinary things like go for walks, bake bread, and watch birds at the kitchen window. I also turned 107 years old, apparently. But being 107 is so nice! I love feeling like I’m living a whole life all the time, not just squeezing it in on nights and weekends.

I’m becoming more ready to invest in the work part again—and I want that work to be the good, hard, making-forward-progress kind of work. This time, though, I want to be challenged without being consumed. I want to give the very best of myself to work during work hours while also giving the very best of myself to the rest of my life.

I want to grow without uprooting.

Here is something I’m just now realizing. I’m in my 30s. This means more than slower metabolism and decreasing dating prospects. It means that I place a much higher value on community than adventure.

I may not be married with kids and a mortgage, but I have a real life right here in Harrisburg. I have a rich friend-family and a long list of people to see and places to go. I have a home I love. I have a Thai place and a favorite walking trail and a yoga class I actually like.

In my 20s, I would have quickly uprooted in pursuit of a new opportunity—job or otherwise. But I’m not sure that’s true for me anymore. I don’t want to live in Harrisburg forever. Eventually, I want to move onto the next phase of life in a new place, wherever that may be.

But for now, when presented with the inevitable opportunity to leave for another place, I want to at least consider the possibility of staying. If I can, I would like to grow without uprooting.

I want to say yes and no in wisdom, not fear.

This one colors the other two. Do I want to stay because I’m afraid to leave? Do I have reservations about investing in a new job too much because I’m afraid I’ll eventually lose it? Am I being wise in not wanting to trade the good life I have for a new version of that same life, or am I just afraid of change?

I honestly don’t know. But ultimately, when I do say yes and no to these choices and countless others, I want my answers to be rooted in wisdom, not fear.

Perhaps you are also in a waiting place.

Or perhaps you aren’t. Maybe you are in a much more stable place in life. And if that’s the case, can you send the rest of us a postcard? Especially if it comes from the future from that Italian sabbatical?

Here’s what I’ll say, though, no matter where you find yourself this January: uncertainty is hard. It’s hard in regular life, but it’s especially hard in a culture that values immediacy and confidence and the straight arrow of forward progress.

A mantra won’t change any of that, but it could give you a few guardrails to help shape the foggy path ahead. And that little piece of clarity, at least for me, has been a gift.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.