It seems fitting on the cusp of a new year, though the kind of change I’m embracing is not what I envisioned as 2014 wrapped me in its final days. I did have plans, and a few pledges, I intended to carry with me as the calendar page turned.
Despite the wariness with which I approach resolutions, reluctant to imbue another year with a blazing expectancy, I do appreciate the freshness of January, the invitation to dream and dare again, even if our footsteps are caked in the dust of past imaginings.
But what we can map out and hope for our lives is sometimes no match for what the Universe has in store.
And so I end this year and begin another walking into unknown territory. After 15 years with this company, I am striking out for something new. I can’t imagine a journalist still working in the field who hasn’t entertained such thoughts given our often-bellowed state of crisis.
Of course, I’ve experienced some restlessness over the years, felt the sting of cost-cutting decisions and ever-shifting stratagem in the search for new models of engagement and productivity. And I’ve been aware, too, of just how comfortable I’ve been. More than a decade in one place has bred the kind of familiarity that’s tough to shake off, especially if the alternative holds as much ambiguity as it might promise.
But I’ve also loved the opportunity to write for a department that celebrates arts and culture, and where I personally have been invigorated by our ability to offer a respite from the deluge of grim and despairing news that drives so much newspaper reporting. So when I was confronted last month with a re assignment that would strip me, even if temporarily, of all the things I’m passionate about, I was crushed.
And I knew my time had come. I could not stay where I would be unhappy. Nor could I trust in an undefined interim when the mere thought of what awaited filled me with dread. I could resist and protest what I knew was an irrevocable decision or I could trust the “No” that erupted, loud and clear, from the clamor of my conflicting emotions. I could believe what was happening was for my good — even if that good was nothing but a murky frontier barely discernible from my perch of tottering security.
Other voices rallied: the ones that cautioned against being overly dramatic or hasty, that questioned the foolhardy choice to risk stability without a backup or a safety net. But the only thing to resound with absolute certainty was the knowledge I could not settle into a constricting space and pretend to be OK. Something different beckoned, and it was time to hold fast to my faith that, in letting go, I would feel its generous enfolding.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt panic, and at times, sheer terror. Navigating change is rarely easy. Courting it with such bold incisiveness is calling on all the reserves of confidence and trust I have. But as my father used to remind me whenever doubts were caving in, and especially during many stressful moments in college: “I have all the resources I need.” That one of his sisters called to remind me of those words shortly after I received news of my changing assignment, without being aware of my circumstances, seemed a sign of affirmation: whatever comes next, I will be guided and supported.
For all the discomfort of being so intimately pressed to the unknown, I can’t deny there’s exhilaration, too. At this point, anything is possible.
What I do know is I will go to Africa in 2015. After years of talking about working with kids there, and alternately plotting and discarding ideas for how and when, I will be volunteering at an orphanage in Tanzania next May. To have this long-held dream on the horizon makes me feel that life is already expanding to allow room for all the ways I will be transformed by this trip. Maybe finally committing to that desire is part of a bigger plan, which requires leaving here.
Of course, I am sad to say goodbye, sadder still at the circumstances that have led to this particular exit. Yet I am also aware it is up to me to take a stand for my own happiness, to praise the shiver of aliveness that will steer us to any pursuit worth our while.
A note to my readers
It’s been an honor to walk this journey with you, and I will miss our connection. I am especially grateful to those of you who shared such deeply personal stories, memories and insights with me in response to my writing over the years. Your notes and phone calls of appreciation and encouragement, the instances when you’ve so warmly approached me as I was out and about — they never ceased to make my day. Thank you, LaLa Land adventurers, for letting me into your hearts and lives. If you feel you know me as a friend, a sentiment many of you have expressed, it’s because you held the space for me to be candid and vulnerable with you, and that has been a gift. Feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com if you’d like to stay in touch or hear about my latest adventures. I wish you all the good and happiness 2015 can hold.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times