Start Running

Recent events in my life have definitely thrown me for a loop. I have around a week of the day job left. The final bits of an event in my life that has lasted for nearly 19 years. After that is the uncertainty of freelancing full time. I have a lot of uncertainty about that. Most people have already switched jobs about half a dozen times at the very least in that amount of time, but not me. I’ve stuck it through during recessions, housing bubbles, tech bubbles, and now the Higher Ed bubble. When I was married, it was the only stability I had. The job market where I have lived for the last 19 years hasn’t been all that welcoming to my skill set; not when you are the sole source of income for a family of five. Quitting would have devastated my family as we had no savings and were usually behind on bills. Long story short, kids, marry someone who is on the same page you are when it comes to making a budget.

I’ve lived modestly, biding my time for when I could finally try my hand at writing. That moment arrived this year in a sink or swim kind of decision. The stability of the boring day job is going away next week. I am thrilled and I am terrified. I see my university as being the canary in the coal mine. It won’t be long now before people recognize Higher Ed for the Ponzi Scheme it really is.

Even the place I am leaving had a $10M deficit each year and these cuts were supposed to curtail that. We had around 108 days of funds left barring any natural disasters…then COVID-19 hit. Now the university looks to be sporting a projected $15M deficit and counting. Per year. That’s up around 50%. I’m glad I took the severance and won’t be looking back.

But the idea of filling my days writing articles and copy for companies is a little panic-inducing. I guess I’ll just have to adjust. It could be the best decision I ever made.

The end of a wonderful 10 month relationship has left me teetering on the edge of just move on with my life and being bitter. Today I choose to just get on with my life, rather than dwell on the details. The whys of “Things were going great and then…they are over.” That just plays into my abandonment issues, trying to change myself to suit what I imagine their needs to be, etc. Nobody asked me to do any of these things. This is just life. Sometimes things just don’t work out, even if you thought they had been.

I was watching a Chris Voss video the other day. He’s the FBI negotiator you might see on YouTube ads. He said something particularly interesting about psychological stress and leverage. As someone who was in the equivalent of FBI special forces, he said uncertainty is the biggest obstacle we have to face. On his training, he said they didn’t do things like torture them or haze them for the final test. He said they picked them up in a car and said, “Let’s go for a run.”

They dropped the trainee off and said, “Start running.” We are all built to know how to pace ourselves if we know how long we have to endure something. He said he could do a six minute mile, but that involved knowing that it was only going to be so far and for so long. When someone says, “Start running” you don’t know if it’s going to be ten minutes or six hours. You just start running. You wonder if you are doing it right. You wonder if you are going to last or wash out. What breaks people is the uncertainty of when, or rather IF it will ever end. Hostages and their loved ones wake up every day without knowing if today is the day that they can stop running, for one reason or the other. It is stressful. This is why routine is important. Run until this, you can make it another 100 yards. You can make it to the next 100 yards. Keep going.

Chris Voss said he had to run for about 45 minutes, but it was one of the most challenging moments of his life. If felt like hours and hours to him. Right now, I feel like that is what I’m up against. I don’t know if freelancing is going to be successful. I don’t know if I will ever meet someone again. There is a gap between right now and what is coming up and I don’t know anything about what to expect.

I am being eaten up by this uncertainty. Someone told me to just start running. I saw an inspirational meme that helped out some. It said something about the space between what is happening now and what you expect is filled with uncertainty. Don’t be frightened about the uncertainty, but be curious about the possibilities.

I don’t know what is going to happen.

All I can do is trust that I’ve made it this far and I have plenty of tools in my toolbox to prepare me for about 80% of what happens next. That’s a lot more than a lot of people have going for them right now. I’m looking down that long road ahead, unsure of what will come next other than the distorted lens my experiences have given me on Trust, future plans, or committment. Too many sad choices. I’m in my forties. I don’t have a lot of faith in people left anymore. God knows they all have their baggage too. I can focus on a few things right now. Getting my business going. Raising my son. Being open to whatever good things are just over the horizon. The list is getting shorter though, I must admit.

I hope to show gratitude for the good that has happened in my life and patience for the moments that challenge me. The work keeps me company. My memories help fuel the work. I have the rest of my life to run. Starting…now.