Since I posted my first blog, I have experienced what I can best describe as being in a state of ‘limbo’, which has proved uncomfortable. Those who know me well will understand how much I dislike not knowing, doing or achieving. The title is fitting of the feelings that I have experienced over the last week – those relating to transition, vulnerability, lack of control and structure in my life, alongside feelings of guilt for not being productive enough. I am mindful that this is certainly a temporary and inevitable phase as part of my transition from a busy Management Trainee post to exploring new ideas alone. In my second post, I walk you through this transitory phase I have experienced and struggled with losing control whilst wrestling to secure it. I do not wish to oversimplify this sense of having control against not having control in a state of ‘limbo’ as it is not as simple as that. Rather, I’d like to briefly share the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of my experiences, which of course are particular to me but you may find points of connection with areas of your own life. I concluded my first blog with my intentions to link the past and the present, and this is my intention here.
Step back with me two years in time to the first few weeks of my Graduate Management Scheme. Admittedly, after the first month in post, I was tempted to take the ‘flight’ option in the ‘fight-or-flight response’. My true instincts, however, recognised this teething period, encouraged me to see through the two years and finish what I had started! With hindsight, I am so pleased I did and would certainly recommend it. As mentioned in my first blog, this graduate role involved relocating from my family home, the associated challenges of building new friendships and leading my own home with confidence. I was a first-time buyer of a flat and the accompanying paperwork felt overwhelming at times.
My whirlwind first week at work included a module of training and a ‘hands-on’ introduction to my first placement in a busy Marketing department. Like many Graduates I’m sure, I was keen to impress and go over and beyond. I wanted to stay true to the hard work ethic which I embodied – one that my grandparents and parents had instilled in me since I was a little girl. I soon realised how the job blurred into my personal life and how I allowed it to take over to the point where I was always thinking about projects and targets and the joys of the next day. As this continued, some areas of my life just had to ‘give’ and performing the role of ‘super-girl’ at work was not sustainable if I wanted to maintain a healthy and happy work-life balance. I decided to plough through, maintaining a tough exterior that it was all doable and well within my capacity. I am close to my parents and my Mum can spot any signs of distress immediately through my tone on the phone. It was only after a few conversations with my Mum that I received the much-needed, honest feedback that I had become snappy and not as chirpy in tone over the phone- always too busy to talk. I denied this at first as I was so used to doing it all and being successful at most things that I had taken on. I am proud and rather stubborn at times, so admitting that it was all becoming a bit too much was not part of my personality.
Through my flashback above, I want to make the point that it was through open acknowledgement of an inner truth to a loved one that I was open-minded to receiving advice and exploring ways out of the ‘limbo’ phase that I was in. When dealing with something alone, there is a danger of unintentionally over-complicating matters and not seeing rationality. I soon realised that it’s okay and in fact acceptable and necessary to draw on others. The most potent piece of advice from my Mum and Dad was to put the job into perspective within other facets of my life, to think about the future, not only the ‘now’, and most importantly, to enjoy the ride and be open to embracing change. Once I started to reconceptualise work alongside other dimensions of my life which I really enjoyed and missed, I was a lot happier in myself so invested in my interests.
On the note of seeking help, I compared my experiences to those of my grandmother and she was great at giving me advice on the phone- always happy to talk for hours. I was saddened, filled with admiration, and yet not surprised, when I asked my paternal grandmother how she dealt with hardships in the past. She narrated the hardships of feeding her children with barely enough money to pay the rent, and having limited English skills to support the securing of a job. So as you might expect, when I told her that she should have spoken to her friends, got out more and sought advice, she merely chuckled and told me there was no time for all of that nonsense. My maternal grandmother echoed this response. I am very fortunate to have been provided with basic needs and much more – for this reason I have the time and space to reflect on ‘limbo’ periods. It has made me think however, is this critical self-analysis approach a generational one that I impose on myself because I am a self-regulator or does society make one feel like this?
This golden nugget of advice came from my Dad recently – learn to enjoy a new journey, especially when it’s one that you are about to create. The photo illustrating this week’s blog is one of many beautifully illustrated quotes from Charlotte Reed’s May the thoughts be with you. I was given Charlotte’s book when she first started up. Her story of perseverance, and doing something that she loved, really impressed upon me that there is life outside of a routine job. Her daily Facebook quotes always connected with me in some shape or form.
I return now to my present state of limbo with which I opened this blog. I will share how I ‘channelled my goals’ and thoughts of creativity, alongside the novelty that time is now my own to command and structure. Of course, time is always ours if we think about it literally, but my life had become so heavily regulated that the time never felt like mine. I have become so accustomed to two years of a fast-paced, demanding work life (that’s the deal with fresh produce!) that no longer being in this environment feels so alien to me. The plan was for me to ‘relax’ for a week or two after leaving work- as I never made time for this after university. As many of my nearest and dearest tell me, I have found difficulty in just ‘relaxing’ and doing nothing – it just seems like a waste of time. It is an art which I admire in others and I admit one that I am not good at! I am taking steps to recondition myself so that I know when to wind down and relax.
I realised that I self-regulate my life so much, including my emotions. This process of self-regulation is a conscious awareness that I ‘should’ be achieving something in the form of outcomes. This is not what the last week has looked like so it’s felt uncomfortable. As I articulated how I felt, I found myself narrating the emotions of feeling in ‘limbo’ and subsequently surprised at the sentiment. My friend reminded me, like my parents did two years ago, that whilst this was a new chapter in my life and it was going to require hard work of a different kind, this was my opportunity to let go a bit and explore my creative side. Most importantly, dare I say it – enjoy myself in the process! I have often forgotten about enjoyment as an important dimension – work hard, achieve your full potential and try to enjoy the journey!
I believe in the power of visualisation, where I visualise what I want so that I focus on the positive. I have been meaning to create a vision board for quite some time and my little pep-talk with my friend gave me the push I needed to actually create it – my vision board is the second photo on this week’s blog. It’s simple and a work in progress. I decided to use different pages for different parts of my life and it felt great creating it. The photo I have shared is that of my health and wellbeing. The others are incomplete – partly for lack of better magazine clippings. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worked for me. Last Wednesday, I took a trip out to Smiths, came home and sprawled out the magazines on the floor with classical music in the background. It felt like my cup of positivity was being replenished.
I can only speak for myself and my experiences of university, when I say that being in a state of temporary unknown – limbo – has a negative stigma attached to it. It is translated as a lack of drive or direction. I am driven and hard-working, but over the last week I have felt guilty for not achieving enough. The mantra I practiced was that one must focus on ‘doing’ in order to achieve results, and anything but is lethargy and laziness. I have learnt that this can actually be counter-productive as I needed space outside of constantly ‘doing’ to reflect and step back. I never gave myself the permission to take that space as I was so wrapped up in ‘doing’. In fact, my best ideas just emerge when I’m in a state of ‘being’. I am a visual consumer of knowledge and advice, which is probably why a vision board and Charlotte’s inspirational quotes were catalyst to help me think and conceptualise ideas and goals.
Perhaps you can connect with some of the episodes of my short but active past above, and if so, I’d be delighted to hear about ways in which you’ve gained control and balanced life differently. I look forward to a week of greater equilibrium and hopefully less ‘limbo’.