“It’s easier said than done.” I think we all have discovered this at some point or another. A couple of weeks ago I was struggling with a few big decisions and I punched the following rant into my phone on my way to work. In short, I consider the relationship between money, stories, optimal-trajectories, and the dynamics involved in putting these into practice. It’s not always easy to practice what you preach…

When you are happy, it’s easy to say that if you’re not happy you should change something. Figuring out what to change and actually changing it is another thing altogether.

When you have enough money to do the things you want to do, it’s easy to say you don’t care about money. It’s easy to say that you let creative passions & intuitions guide your life, and never money be a driver in your decisions.

When doors are opening as you approach, it’s easy to say it’s because you are “following the signs”, “listening to your intuition”, and “traveling along your optimal trajectory”.That’s easy when you feel like you’re in sync with the universe. During times where everything is falling into place without so much as a hiccup or a sneeze, it’s easy to preach about optimal trajectories. As long as the traffic lights are green, you can keep going. But what happens when you start to get caught at reds? Is this a sign that you’re going the wrong way?

Sometimes  “the signs” are blurry. It can seem as though a sign is pointing in many directions, and there is no way to know which road you should take.

I have faced some roadblocks in this last couple of months.

First, I found out I not only missed out on the scholarship, but my grades were 1.5% too low, making me ineligible to even apply for it. Second, my iMac broke. Third, the editor I hired to give me feedback and correct the grammar on my book had been taking forever.

What was “the universe” trying to tell me?

“Maybe that door’s closing,” suggested my Dad. “Maybe it’s time for a career change.” Subtext: go and get a “real job” in the business world, enjoy the money and security it brings.

It did seem like my plans to do a PhD over the full-time for the next three years with a scholarship – was a door firmly closing on me. And how can I survive without income? A part-time PhD will take forever. If not a PhD, what was I supposed to do?

Like always, I gave the business option some thought… Is my dad right? I am 28 now… Does this mean it’s time for me to “settle down”, get married, get a proper job, a mortgage, and start having babies???

Suddenly I wanted to puke.

I hate that word: “settle”…

It implies compromise.

It implies giving up on dreams.

It implies letting fear lead you to live a life you don’t really want to live.

Life’s too short for that.

From these thoughts and feelings I concluded that the “settle down story” is not the optimal trajectory for me.

Is it a sign that I should pack up my apartment, downsize to a backpack, and travel the world some more? Maybe. But then what about the research I so much want to do? What’s more important for me to do at this stage of my life?

My research thus far into narratology led to some interesting self-reflections on these thoughts. I was clearly looking for a new story. I wanted a story that explained these mishaps and which would set me up on a new trajectory, preferably the one that is optimal for my life.

What was I doing even considering the settle down option? After all I write about on this blog: about not letting money guide my decisions; about how I’m happy to live without security or a fixed plan; and about how important it is to follow one’s dreams… and yet another part of me was saying, “it’s too hard, the door is closed, it’s not meant to be.” I guess yin and yang of life means that no matter how much you believe in freedom, the voice of fear will always creep up inside you.

Am I going to let fear guide my future? No-sir-ee I am not.

I observed as my mind processed the variables, and contemplated possible scenarios. I watched as my mind sought more signs, did more research and tried to connect with “that” feeling one gets inside – that feeling of intuitive satisfaction one feels when they imagine living out a particular future.

I observed as my mind selected one story:

I was “meant” to continue my research without a scholarship. I could start with the smaller research degree – a Master of Philosophy – and then, should I feel so inclined, I could use this degree to get a scholarship and do a PhD after that. Yes it means more work, but maybe is part of the journey I am supposed to take. Yes. I would continue. I love what I’m studying, so why should I let a money-related issue stop me from doing it?

After I had decided on this story I suddenly felt great.

I felt relaxed, and full of an energy I hadn’t remembered experiencing in a long while. The kind of energy that seems to appear when you are connected to the universe. It’s almost drug like – this energy that seems to enter you from no-where – similar to when you do lot of exercise, eat a lot of chocolate, or fall in love. It wouldn’t surprise me if when one feels they are on their optimal trajectory, the same happy buttons in our brains light up.

Observing this mental process, and the emotions and feelings that connected with different stories, got me wondering about self-determinism and predestination.

Is your optimal trajectory something that you choose, or something that chooses you?

This entry has gone long enough. So I’ll finish there and revisit this question tomorrow…

Photo credits

Photographer – Gilbert Rossi