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When you’re in-between life stages: Look behind.

Classes have finished, papers are graded, and I have a little more time on my hands. So as I’m between stages (finishing my course-work and onto thesis writing), I decided to spend my time by getting out of my study chair. My muscles have become as stiff as a plank of wood. So since I get winded when I run up an extra long flight of stairs, my joints crack after sitting for over 20 minutes, and I also have terrible balance, I did the most natural thing: I enrolled in an adult gymnastics class at a nearby athletic centre.

But this post is not about physical fitness. However, it was my original intention; I had planned to go into detail regarding my first gymnastics session in over two decades. I had it almost fully written, and it’s still in my drafts. However, this is just a small part of the bigger picture. Instead, I’d much rather talk about being in-between life stages.

Classes are finished, papers are graded, and I have a little more time on my hands, yes, all these are true. But this is really quite disorienting for the perpetual student like me. And as I’ll be graduating with an M.A. later this year, marking being in school continuously for two decades, it’s hard not to have a mini identity-crisis. I’m not sure where life is headed. I feel at peace when I have a concrete goal in mind. I like certainty. But now, it’s as if the flat surface I was standing on has temporarily turned into a rolling wooden log, and my survival depends on which direction I move towards. In other words, where am I supposed to be? Am I there? Where should I put my foot next so I don’t fall off the log?

But while I wonder what will happen in a year from now, or even five or ten years from now, I have to look at the past. My parents have often recited a quote from Winston Churchill, “A nation that forgets its past is doomed to repeat it”. And while there’s truth to that message, being that we must realize the impact of our mistakes in order to not remake them, I also think that there might be another reason to look at one’s past. A person who doesn’t look at their past likely doesn’t hold much faith or hope for the future.

This isn’t that they shouldn’t have faith – but faith (at least for me) is based on depending on the patterns of where God has provided in the past in order to know if He’ll provide in the future. Nearly every single time where I’ve worried about a potential result, my worries don’t actually come to fruition.

So this is how I’m choosing to handle my own concerns – I’m asking myself the question: God’s led me in the past to where I needed to be, so why would He abandon me now? Faith is trust.

One year ago, I graduated from my undergrad with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from a prestigious university, determined to be the best syntactician who ever existed. Five years ago,  I finished my first year of university and was determined to be the best neuropsychologist who ever existed. Ten years ago, I was ready to start high school that Fall with the ambition to be the best chemist who ever existed. Chemist, neuropsychologist, syntactician. These aspirations don’t seem to have surface-level similarities.

But if you look at a roller coaster – the ups, the downs, going upside down and side to side – you are moving in a different direction at any given moment. If you were to take pictures of individual moments in time, these moments wouldn’t necessarily appear linear, either. You came down because you went up, and you needed the speed from coming down to give you the momentum and centripetal force to flip upside down (i.e. the reason you don’t fall out of your chair).

Likewise, my own past aspirations may seem random, but I can assure you that they weren’t. These goals were each based on core principles: the desire to help people and the desire of discovery. I became interested in being a chemist because I liked discovering what and how elements work together, and I thought I’d be a doctor to help people. Without my interest in chemistry, I likely wouldn’t have been as drawn into Neuroscience as I was to want to be a neuropsychologist. Brain chemistry intrigued me. Without my interest in the brain, I likely wouldn’t have been as interested in Linguistics as I was, and how language is represented in the brain. I’ve always had an interest in language, but my intellectual curiosity wanted to discover everything there was to know. And with time, I realized that every discipline overlaps.

And as for me now…

I’m happily somewhere in between. There are many things I could do with my life that fulfills both wanting to learn and helping people. As long as I keep a strong prayer life and allow God to guide my footsteps, I don’t need to have an identity crisis because my identity is in Him.

How exciting, eh? We don’t need to know everything. This is a refreshing realization in a society where we’re constantly asked what our next plan is. Instead of spinning on this rolling log, maybe I’ll jump off into the water for a nice swim. Who knows? No one said I had to stay on the log. The water should be warming up soon anyway with summer coming. I don’t want to miss it.

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