I’ve been a bit under the weather during the past few days, and as a result haven’t really had the energy to see a lot of people nor have I read as much as I usually do; two activities that are my greatest source of inspiration. And since I haven’t had a lot of new impulses, I find that I’m sort of at a loss of what to write about on my blog this week.
While I was working on my thesis, whenever I would feel stuck and just sit there staring at the blank screen, not knowing how to even start, my husband would say, “Read something!” He had noticed a pattern, which I just hadn’t seen. When I read other people’s work I would get ideas and feel inspired, and it would help me get started. So now a days that’s what I do, whenever I find myself stuck, I take a break and read. Sometimes, however, I forget and have to be reminded.
I horseback ride in my free time. Sometimes if I’m doing a particularly difficult exercise with the horse, and if I keep getting it wrong, my instructor will say “If you get it wrong and continue doing the same thing over and over again it’s going to continue going wrong in the same way again and again. Try doing something differently, anything – your posture, the position of your hands, how fast you’re going – anything.” She is right of course and although this is so simple it is sometimes hard to see. And the same goes for life. If you want your life to be different, you’re going to have to do something differently, and if you don’t know what, just start with something, anything. If you continue doing what you have always done, your life will be what it has always been.
I’ve mentioned before how I often get asked for advice on how to opt out, or rather how to find a new lifestyle to opt in to. People want to hear about what other people have done, thinking maybe they will hear a story that they can adopt or duplicate. But it isn’t that simple. Finding what it is that is going to feel meaningful and work in one’s own life is so individual. And there are no short cuts.
But the advice that I sometimes do give when pressed (because although I’m something of an expert on the opting out phenomenon, I’m not an opting out coach or consultant) is that clarity comes with action. And when you’re looking to change your life, there are two things that I think are important.
First, talk to people. Talk to anyone really about your thoughts, your dreams, about what you think you want to do, or just that you want to do something different but you don’t know what. Who knows, someone may have ideas, or even know of opportunities, but also saying things out loud usually helps you see things in a new light and clarify what it is you really want.
And second, try different things. If you don’t do anything differently, if you don’t try anything new, like my riding instructor says, things will continue being the same as they have always been. Again, who knows, one day you might actually try something that you love that turns out to be the thing that you end up opting in to. But if you never try anything new, you will never find anything new.
To be honest, I had no idea how much I was going to love doing research when I opted out and in. I knew I wanted to study more sociology and social psychology, but it wasn’t until I actually started working on my PhD that I realized I wanted to be an academic.
The same can be said about this blog. I was thinking that I should have some sort of platform where I could write and talk about opting out, but honestly I felt reluctant to start blogging. I had never done it before, and although I had been on social media to a certain degree, I really hadn’t been very active. Unexpectedly, this blog has turned out to be a great source of energy for me. I like writing, and as an academic, writing non-academic texts is not only fun, it feels incredibly liberating. Also, the comments I get from my readers here on the blog, on other social media, and in person give me the energy and inspiration to keep writing. It’s exciting to be involved in debates and discussions around the topics that I feel are relevant to this phenomenon that we call opting out, and to how we will organize and reinvent our private and professional lives in the future.
So, now that I’m better, I’m looking forward to inspirational lunches and discussions again. How about it, you know who you are!