Life is Not Linear: Where Do You Want To Go Next?

“I think we’d like life to be a train… You get on, pick your destination and get off. Every day, you have to see where the wind is and check the currents and see if there’s anybody else on the boat with you who can help out. It’s a sailboat ride — the weather changes and the currents change and the wind changes. It’s not a train ride. That’s the hardest thing I’ve had to accept in my life. I just thought I had to pick the right train — and I worked hard to pick the right train. And darned if I didn’t get off at the end of it and find out that was just a midway station.”

– Barbara Brown Taylor

As so poignantly said by Barbara Brown Taylor, life is not a straight shot path. And that itself is a lesson that so many of us have to unlearn. The timelines, deadlines, and benchmarks of life condition people to think that moving forward means moving in a predetermined, sequential order. Midterms to finals to graduation. High school to college to career. So when an event or decision veers us in another direction, anxiety ensues. Why are things not going as planned? Why isn’t it easy to stay on course? Some people are able to, so why not me?

The problem with these questions is that they are asked on the basis that veering off in life is unfavorable, incorrect, or negative. The funny and elusive fact about life, however, is that deviating from the expected order can be positive and beneficially life-changing.

Ever heard of “Slash Careers”? It’s when an individual with multiple interests pursues multiple careers successfully. Yeah, it’s a thing. There are people out there who start off pursuing a career that they had always planned on but additionally spend time in their already-busy lives to grow an additional vocation. Think a lawyer/filmmaker or therapist/violin maker (that’s real, check out his story and more here!). If you allow yourself to act on your interests, adding a “slash” to your life might be what you need to feel more whole. It’s definitely not something that everyone plans on, but it may just be the adjustment that binds your career(s), passions, and purpose together.

It’s ingrained in all of us to hold on to things. To hold on to plans, people, and expectations. If we always do this, we risk opportunities to create something new and our potential to live freely. Looking for a new job or losing the one you have, changing your college major, taking longer than expected to graduate, backpacking through South America, applying to graduate school or deciding not to, anything and everything that we may not have seen for ourselves, can be a possibility to reroute. We can try to live from point A to point B, but definitely not all the time. There needs to be an awareness and acceptance of life’s true trajectory. It’s not a line, it’s a design that’s yet to be made.

Image: Gratisography