The Fear of Missing Out
For most of my adult life, I have been in turmoil.
And no, it wasn’t from a terrible trauma (my homeschooled, freewheeling, mountain living childhood was pretty awesome, actually). Nor was it from a psychological disorder (though some may disagree).
No, my decade or so of inner turmoil has been intrinsically related to not knowing what I should do with my life. (And yes, I’m fully aware that this is a “First World” problem.) Regardless, I’ve long been tormented that whatever I choose, I might make the wrong decision. And thus I might miss out on my “destiny.” (This was a thing in my twenties. A very deep and powerful thing. Laugh if you must.)
Since I was 21, enrolled in an acting program at the University of British Columbia, I grappled with the academic and creative sides of myself. Should I become an actor (what I desperately always wanted to do), or go to law school (which seemed infinitely more practical from an income perspective)? Should I join a non-profit and save the world, or write novels and teach yoga? In my young life, it was always an either-or equation. I saw no way to merge these two very strong and battling sides of myself.
It’s laughable now, really, to realize that I thought having all these choices was a problem.
In any case, academia won out in the end. (Or so I thought.) I left a prestigious acting program to pursue more lofty (and partly guilt-driven) ambitions of saving the world (I wasn’t entirely self-absorbed, after all).
I moved to Ottawa on a bunch of scholarships to study international affairs. I focused on heady problems of poverty and child soldiers and civil conflict. I lived in Colombia for four months conducting research on girls in armed groups, which I am now turning into a book. I also met many people who have become lifelong friends and mentors, and I am certainly better for it.
In fact, I was so passionate about my research that I extended it into a PhD. I was too busy to notice how stressed out I was. How miserable and sleep deprived I was. How I rarely had any fun. How I wasn’t actually helping the people I cared so much about. I was climbing to the top of my field. I was respected. I was doing great work. I continued to win scholarships and awards and accolades.
I was not happy.
Now, three years post-cancer, post-PhD life, I am working towards becoming a yoga therapist. And I love it. (What on earth is that, you ask? A yoga therapist specializes in using therapeutic yoga to improve specific health conditions. I am focusing on stress, anxiety, depression and PTSD.)
It's not at all what I thought I would do, and it's a perfect combination of the analytical and creative sides of my mind, and a body that hates sitting in a desk. The difference between this and graduate school is profound. At the end of each day in grad school, I was exhausted and drained. At the end of each day in yoga therapy training, I am elated, excited, and so full of ideas and plans that I stay up too late.
And that, my friends, is what happens when you finally connect to what you were meant to do.