A few years ago I accidentally learned a little piece of wisdom. It runs completely contrary to popular belief, which is perhaps why accepting it is so liberating. It’s a little Coldplay, but no less true for it.
Just because I don’t know where I’m going, doesn’t mean I’m lost.
The life of a freelancer, artist or any human being can feel directionless at times, and comparing your path with that of more traditional 9-to-5 types can open the floodgate to a whole lot of socially-entrenched self doubt. We have a self-deprecating tendency to describe ourselves as ‘lost’ in those unavoidable moments of limbo, when we suddenly find ourselves jobless, without a partner, or (finally) out of educational institutions. It’s those few seconds of horizontal ‘falling’ that occur between letting go of one rope and reaching for the next. We endure this falling feeling because we are usually quick to fill the gap, to be ‘found’ again. If we’re not looking back to the last, we are obsessing about the one that is coming; we’re ‘between jobs’ or ‘between boyfriends’, in a space with no inherent value to speak of; wasted time.
But I feel like I’ve been living in the gap for a while now (at least much longer than it would normally take to grab the next rope and tie myself decidedly to it) and in avoiding the pressure to nail things down, this horizontal falling thing feels a lot like flying. A lack of ties to the past or future is frequently terrifying, it’s true, but having the blinkers on and being forced to look only at the present is worth it. There will always be great value in making big plans to pursue the things you love, and pursuing them vigorously for their intrinsic value, but there is much to be said for abandoning things that require long-term delayed gratification, as real life so consistently happens between now and the payoff.
You don’t need to know where you’re going to get somewhere. You can walk just as far and fast without a map, maybe even further and faster. In this meander through the present you will see more along the way, get more from the journey and you might even end up somewhere better than planned. Your destination is a bonus, not to mention a surprise.
Spend a little time studying people living without drastically delayed gratification; people who live end-to-end instead of means-to-end and fill their days with things which are good right now and for their own sake. People who live in the gap don’t want to wait, they know that life happens on the road, that the destination is an illusion.
Ask anyone who ever discovered a cure, or a large continent for that matter. You don’t need to know where you’re going to get somewhere.