Living With Uncertainty: Have I Gone Mad?
This post follows on from my last one, in which I fill in the gaps about what has happened since I quit my job to follow my dream of leaving the city and starting an earth-centred life in the countryside. Here I deal with the biggest challenge that I have come up against in my quest to make my dream a reality: living with uncertainty.
The Universal Nature of Uncertainty
We all know deep down that uncertainty is just part of the parcel of being alive. Try as we might to hide this uncomfortable truth from ourselves, it remains on the periphery of our consciousness, an uncomfortable knowing that keeps us trying to create more and more comfort and security in an attempt to starve it off for a little while longer.
However, there are moments in our lives when we may be experience uncertainty much more acutely or when it enters our awareness to a higher degree. For example, living through a pandemic, a war, a global economic crisis…sound familiar? 😉
Or, perhaps on a lesser but more personal scale, when you leave your job to follow your dreams and attempt to forge a different path for which there is no map.
This has been my reality for the last year, since I left my job at the English academy. Luckily my family and friends have been supportive of my decision but it is true that they did express a certain amount of concern:
“So what are you going to do for a job then?”, I was asked.
“I’m going to start teaching online”, I said confidently.
“Are you sure you can make money like that?”, came the response.
“Well, other people do it. Why can’t I?”, I retorted.
The Rainbow Bridge
Teaching online was the obvious next step for me because I knew that I had outgrown academy work and knew that in order to fulfil my dream of leaving the city, I needed my work to be flexible. Teaching English online may not be my calling in life (although I do genuinely enjoy it) but if I was serious about leaving the city, I had to begin to take concrete steps to make it happen. So that is what I have set out to do: create a bridge that can take me from the centre of Madrid to a life in the countryside.
However truth be told, I didn’t feel as confident as I sounded. As I wrote about in my previous post, I didn’t find this transition as easy as I had thought I would. And whilst I have never regretted my decision to leave my comfortable pay check at the end of each month behind, I would be lying to you if I said I never experienced moments of doubt as to what I was doing with my life.
Also, it wasn’t just the comfortable pay packet that I left behind, but also a community of people that I had worked with during the whole time I have lived in Madrid (since 2014). Being more autonomous was liberating but I did feel the sudden loss of those relationships. Usually it is the people we have a long shared history with that give us a sense of belonging and rootedness. This familiarity gives us belonging, comfort and a sense of stability. Severing this chord was difficult, and combined with other friends moving on to pastures new or simply drifting out of my life, I have felt the loss of my previous community
In more insecure moments I found myself thinking:
“I have no ‘proper’ job, no strong ties here in Madrid…Am I going mad?”.
Plus, myself and Sergio were experiencing a shaky patch…
“What the hell am I doing here?”, I wondered when it all got a bit too much.
It made me question everything about my life and who I was. I guess we often find identity in the people we surround ourselves with, the place we live, and what we do for a living. And now all of these factors were being shaken up.
Doubt and Insecurity
In these moments of doubt I have to admit that I entertained the thought of up-ing sticks and leaving it all behind. The temptation to just say “f**k it!” and disappear on a plane to the other side of the world with nothing but my backpack, was real. What did I have to lose? Madrid seemed empty to me; empty of interest, of friends, of work, and quite possibly, empty of a significant romantic relationship.
I also knew that returning to the UK was not an option either, as all of my old school friends live in different parts of the country and of course had their own lives that don’t look anything like mine. My family is also quite dispersed around the North of England, and I no longer had a home in the place where I grew up to go back to.
…But I did have the community garden and my permaculture design course to finish…and that was something.
Luckily, my relationship woes with Sergio began to resolve and things began to got back on track. I put my fantasy of escaping to the other side of the world away and got back to the business of trying to forge a new path outside of the confines of a 9-5 job.
Around this time comments starting coming in from well-meaning but concerned family members:
“You’re just floating along”, they said. “You need to get work!”.
Of course, from one perspective they were right. I was well aware of how my life looked from the outside. I wasn’t fitting in to what ‘a successful person’ or ‘a hardworking person’ or ‘respectable citizen’ was supposed to look like.
Even though, by this time, I was getting by covering all of my rent and bills without having to use my savings. But I no longer had the fixed, full-time contract stamp of approval. I was living with uncertainty and to the outside observer, this looks like a scary and precarious place to be.
Yet the difference between the observer and the observed is that the observer is not privy to the fundamental source of power that often keeps the observed going forward and even in unconventional and precarious waters: their internal guidance system, otherwise known as intuition.
Indeed, as the saying goes, ‘not all those that wander are lost’.
I say, not all those that float are lost either!
Perhaps it is true that for the outside observer, the uncertainty in my life is heightened and more obvious. You can see it clearly with the naked eye. It isn’t hidden amongst bits of official papers that have been signed or amongst the reliability of our systems that we have set up to keep uncertainty at bay, otherwise known as a mortgage, a marriage, a large bank balance and perhaps another property investment somewhere.
I suppose the question I am raising is:
Is security just an illusion?
Just take what has happened in the Ukraine. How many of those people thought that they had got life figured out, only to have it all whipped from under their feet from one day to the next?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against buying a house or creating more financial stability. This security helps us to plant seeds and put down roots. It allows us to commit to the cultivation of our dreams and gives us the stability to create; be it a family, a business, a new project or otherwise. It is human nature to seek this kind of expansion. Stability makes the pursuit of creation more possible. Therefore, it is only natural that we should make efforts to keep uncertainty at bay, for this could threaten the well being of our creations.
I think that the problem comes though, when we become so attached to this security and so scared of living with uncertainty that we avoid it at all costs, making us stagnant and unmoving. Media fear mongering keeps us in this state, creating an image of a world that is an unsafe and dangerous place where you had better just keep your head down and stick to the supposed security of the status quo, rather than live boldly, courageously and authentically.
I don’t know about you, but this is not the kind of life I want to lead. Avoiding living with uncertainty is the same as avoiding life. Uncertainty is the name of the game and life will find ways to bring it into our lives regardless of whether we like it or not.
Although, I have to be honest, after these years of moving around and being uncommitted in a deep way to the place where I am living or the job I am doing, I am ready to take the next step into adult life and create a stable life for myself from which I can plant roots and create. This is more about the act of creation than looking for security. It is about looking for a sense of belonging and building a life that feels fully aligned with who I am in order to bring my dreams to fruition.
The funny thing is that in order to create this, I need to go through this period of instability. I need to make friends with living with uncertainty if I am to get to where I want to be and be the person I want to become. There is simply no way you can change your life and not experience uncertainty, so I may as well get used to it!
And right now my life seems to be full of it! When I return to Madrid in the Autumn I have no idea how this journey will unfold. It is exciting and at the same time, very uncomfortable. Of course, I want to know that everything will be ok, that I am not crazy, that this dream is real and wants to be born as much as I want to give birth to it.
But that’s not how life works, is it? This is when you have to have faith in your dreams and be steadfast in your commitment to making them happen.
Sometimes I doubt myself and wonder whether I am indeed just ‘floating’ along in my own little dream bubble, disconnected from the harsh realities of the world. I have wondered if I should just stop kidding myself and ‘get a real job’ and drop these ‘weird’ ideas.
But I know I am just deluding myself.
I am no idiot. Nor am I reckless. I wouldn’t decide to leave a good job and throw myself further into the tides of uncertainty without being 100% sure that I have made the right decision. I have the power of my internal guidance system leading the way, and never once has it failed me so far. Any thought that enters my mind that tells me otherwise is just the voice of fear, trying to pull me back into the confines of the known, the familiar and the safe.
Life is in a constant state of flux and change, even if we are too stuck in our routines to notice.
Change and uncertainty are the bedrock of life itself.
I can’t transition to a life in the countryside without experiencing uncertainty, without taking some kind of risk. So maybe the fact that I am dealing with a lot of uncertainty now must mean that I am already in motion. The transition is already occurring. The field has been ploughed and is ready for new seeds to be sown.
The question then becomes: what seeds do I want to sow?
Back to the Root
I started this blog by sharing my dream by writing my ‘Declaration to The World’ and sharing my vision in ‘A Radical Dream: Do you Dare?”.
Now that I have some distance from Madrid over the summer whilst I am working in the UK, I want to spend some time going back to that vision and seeing if it still fits, or if some adjustments need to be made.
As with all things in life, our dreams can change too. I think it is good practice to keep checking in and seeing if we need to adjust our compass a little bit.
So I say let’s clear the fields and sort the wheat from the chaff,
Let’s plant the seeds of our most radically beautiful dreams!
And tend to them with love and nurturing kindness
Knowing that in turn, they will love us back,
And through Divine partnership,
We will dignify this miracle that we call life.
May we all have the courage to be the people we came to be,
And bring the things into the world that we came here to bring.
Join me on this journey by signing up to my newsletter and get my next post delivered straight to your inbox. You can also find me Instagram and Facebook @shared_earthliving
Let’s co-create a more beautiful world!
🌱Follow my journey from city life in Madrid to off-grid living & permaculture in the country
🌈Let’s co-create a more beautiful world!
✍️ Blog posts👇🏼
Hola, estoy muy de acuerdo con la experiencia y las reflexiones que transmites respecto a tu vivencia personal con como interpretas tus circunstancias y las relacionas con la incertidumbre, Olivia. Yo estoy pasando por algo muy similar. Me resuena a la tensión entre el “yo idea” (nuestra educación heredada que forma nuestra estructura de coherencia) y el “yo ideal” (lo que nos gustaría alcanzar, construir y estabilizar en nuestra estructura de coherencia). Creo que las escuelas de autoconocimiento que abogan por la búsqueda de la mejor versión de uno mismo tratan de este conflicto. Hasta ahora, lo más sensato que he escuchado es apoyarse en lo que ya hay, para desde ahí, afrontar lo desconocido. Llevar preparada la partitura, y probar a interpretarla improvisando. Estructura e intuición. Con pasión. Compasión. Gracias Olivia por tu labor cuasi periodística, tratando temas tan cotidianos para ciertas personas. El movimiento de personas que están dejando sus oficios para afrontar sus sueños esenciales es una realidad en varios cientos de miles o quizás millones de seres en este mundo incierto y aún, vivo. Para muchas de esas personas, leerte sería un alivio y una fuente de ideas y comentarios. 🙂
Gracias Oscar! Tu apoyo siempre mi hacer sentir muy cuidada y apoyada 🙂 Me alegro que te hayas disfrutado mi post y que te hayas sentido identificado. Abajo traduzco tu comentario en inglés para que pueden disfrutar los demás:
Oscar’s comment in English:
Hi, I very much agree with the experience and reflections you convey regarding your personal experience with how you interpret your circumstances and relate them to uncertainty, Olivia. I am going through something very similar. It resonates with me the tension between the “idea self” (our inherited upbringing that forms our coherence structure) and the “ideal self” (what we would like to achieve, build and stabilize in our coherence structure). I believe that the schools of self-knowledge that advocate the search for the best version of oneself deal with this conflict.
So far, the most sensible thing I have heard is to rely on what is already there, to face the unknown from there. Take the score prepared, and try to interpret it improvising. Structure and intuition. With passion. Compassion.
Thank you Olivia for your quasi-journalistic work, dealing with such everyday issues for some people. The movement of people who are leaving their professions to face their essential dreams is a reality in several hundred thousand or perhaps millions of beings in this uncertain and yet, alive world. For many of those people, reading you would be a relief and a source of ideas and comments.
👍 nothings certain, things/situations change…. Nothings set in stone…. Especially our life’s journeys.
Thanks Tim! So true. How easy it is to forget this though and how difficult to truly accept! 🙂
I really enjoyed reading the genuine wisdom that you have shared here. As an artist, I find your journey towards a different life outside of the bounds of the traditional paycheck deeply relatable. Looking forward to hearing the next update in September!
Thanks Melissa! Glad you enjoy it. I certainly have a lot more respect now for artists and other professionals that don’t have the comfort of a monthly pay check! Thanks a lot for your encouragement!
Olivia, you write so eloquently and openly. X love you X Mum
Thanks for all your support mum xxx