I had two conversations with friends yesterday that have me thinking. Both said that there had come a point (or several) in their lives in which they got “stuck” in some way and had a hard time getting unstuck. It’s a relief to know I’m not alone in this. What I’ve come to realize is that being stuck takes many different forms:
- Stuck in a career – you don’t like the career you’ve chosen or you’re bored with what you’ve done for the last x years.
- Stuck in a job – you love where you work but you’re feeling unfulfilled or you like what you do but not where you do it.
- Stuck in a relationship – you’re in a bad relationship or you’re in a good relationship but you’ve gotten bored, lost each other, gotten stale.
- Stuck in creative endeavors – writer’s block, wanting to get back into something creative you did before marriage, before kids, in college.
- Stuck in education – I’ve advised many students who have changed majors umpteen times, gone to school with PhD students got stuck at ABD (all but dissertation), and talked to many who want to go back to school but “can’t” because _____ (fill in the blank here – too old, can’t afford it, too busy, etc.)
And these are just a few.
I’ve been thinking about how stuck I am for, oh, going on a good year now. So who am I to talk about getting unstuck? But one of the ways I was stuck was geographically. I liked where I was living, but there’s only ever been one place that has had my heart. A place I knew I was meant to be. And in May 2014, we moved back to this place. Finally. After 25 years of living elsewhere. Finally, we’re back. Finally, we can afford to be back. Finally, we accumulated the right combination of education, experience, and risk acceptance to move back to our little town and make a home here. Sure we had to downsize and change our lifestyle in certain ways. But sacrifice is also part of getting unstuck. (Hey, I think I just discovered my next blog post topic. Yay me!).
One of my biggest challenges (which I’m sure is shared by others) is paralysis of analysis. I’ll think about and talk about being stuck. I’ll lament and complain and get depressed about being stuck. I’ll whine and bitch and moan (and then wonder why suddenly none of my friends are available for lunch dates). But none of that does a damn thing to help me get unstuck. The only way to get unstuck is to Take Action. So we took action on the geographic stuckness. Big Action.
But all action to get unstuck doesn’t have to be Big. It can be small action. It’s a lot less daunting to consider small action, taking one tiny baby step in the direction of getting unstuck.
In the past when I’ve felt stuck in a career (which has happened to me a lot! I get bored easilly), I haven’t (always) just up and quit a job and gone back to college. I’ve started by having a cup of coffee with someone who was in the career I thought I wanted to be in. Sometimes it validated my interest, sometimes it made me realize that wasn’t the career for me. I ❤ career counselors and have talked to a few at colleges and who have private practices. I’m also a sucker for personality inventories and trying to tie personality traits to careers that appeal.
I haven’t personally gotten stuck in education (hence, the four degrees on my wall), but have advised traditional and non-traditional would-be students alize to consider taking a degree or non-degree class or even a workshop in the field they are interested in at a community college to see if they really like it. Online courses make this pretty easy. When I have wanted to go back to school, I start collecting degree requirements from different schools and programs to see which one “feels” right. And you are Never. Too. Old. My oldest student – in an online master’s program, no less – turned 70 just before she graduated. So take that!
Of the friends I talked to yesterday, one stuck in his career took a job in a field he had previously only volunteered in. While he’s not sure it’s the “right” place to be for the long haul, he took action and is (a) at least drawing a paycheck and (b) feeling like he’s contributing to society again. He took action. The other one, also stuck in her career, quit her job and took a low-stress (and low-pay) job. Ultimately she realized that it wasn’t worth it to her and she went back to her old employer but in a new position. Her action led to important information and an improvement in her situation.
Everyone’s different, but we all get stuck at times. When I was single (and wanting to be not-single), I used to say, “The right guy isn’t going to come walking through my living room” (although he did come through the T1 line to my computer–G*d bless online dating for geeks like us). Likewise, the solution to stuckness isn’t going to come walking through the living room. We have to go find it. By taking action.
Carpe baby steps!