Remembering To Go With the Flow
"I accommodated myself to the water not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived." - Taoist Parable
I've revisited again and again in these last few days this Taoist parable from a recent Calm meditation on non-contention - that is, "not being opposed to anything; to flow with the current, not fight it." All the while, regrets and what-ifs have swirled all around me this week, reaching a crescendo and mixing with newfound curiosities and ironies. For one, I found myself pleasantly surprised to be enjoying two Coursera offerings, both from my graduate school alma mater, the choice of which is often chief among my regrets. Even more ironic is how much more I've enjoyed its courses as compared to other free and/or affordable courses I've explored from other graduate schools that I imagined would have been a better fit. And in yet another dose of irony, I've attended COVID-19-inspired webinars from these same aspirational graduate programs, only to find the webinars from my graduate school alma mater more engaging and accessible.
Lest these anecdotes suggest otherwise, my graduate school experience was anything but ideal; it was rife with shortcomings, frustrations, and major disappointments, not to mention a whole lot of NOT fitting in. So why then, in my two years there, didn't I explore these very same course offerings with the same professors? Why didn't I feel this same appreciation for and connectedness with the culture and quality of instruction? In another twist of irony, when completing my mid-year performance review with my employer this week, I was surprised and strangely satisfied by how much I had achieved in the last five months of the current performance period, in some cases exceeding the aspirational goals I had set for myself, all despite feeling as though I've spent the last year and a half drifting from and flailing in one rotation to another, again lamenting my choice and feeling frustrated, disappointed, and as though I didn't belong, only to be jettisoned into a launch role that, while strategic, I wanted no part of. So why then do the skills and knowledge I'm gaining there align with some of the most industry-agnostic, in-demand skills, as well as the online courses that I'm enjoying the most? Meanwhile, for the functional areas that I thought I would enjoy more, I've now been presented with the opportunity to do substantive work in those areas for our black employee resource group with a team of people I'm excited to work with.
Naturally, this all has dovetailed with my participation in an unrelated professional organization's partnership and recruiting program with a company that I had declined interview requests with four times during graduate school only to apply there repeatedly in the last year and be rejected every time. After a lackluster conversation this week with one of the company's recruiters, who was, by all means, thoughtful, kind, and notionally helpful, I withdrew all further participation. I thought back to the Taoist parable and decided that I was, and am, done fighting the current.
Since I was young, I have had this belief instilled in me that I could be and do whatever I put my mind to; and, in a lot of ways, I have. However, what I often forget in the present moment, and only recognize in hindsight, is that my dreams and desires do come to pass, just never in the way I had imagined. It's not to say that I don't have agency or a part to play in working hard to make my dreams a reality, but rather I've wasted a lot of time, energy, and emotions trying to chart a particular path instead of flowing with the current that I'm in. As I've attested above without going into too much detail, flowing with the current doesn't guarantee a smooth path, but I've realized that it does help me to reserve and redirect my time and energy from fighting vain battles to embracing challenges and opportunities that help me to learn, grow, adapt, and, ultimately, thrive. So here's to remembering to flow with the current and that dreams still come true, just in new and unexpected ways.
Photo Courtesy of Courtney Dianne