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Trust vs. Clarity


“I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.”

Trust vs. Clarity
© Wes Gow

May 2016.

This quote has been at the forefront of my thoughts for the last few weeks for two reasons. First, I feel relieved. Relieved to learn that evidently I’m not the only one without a clue, that it’s ok to be uncertain.  Somewhere, somehow, there exists in the primordial parts of my brain a stern voice which tells me I should have it all together, and furthermore that everyone else does, indeed, have it all together. Relief comes in realizing that neither of those it true. Second, I feel peace, if only for fleeting moments. I differentiate the sense of peace from that of relief (in this context) in this way:  the relief frees me from guilt, the peace frees me from fear. I’m not lost. Not entirely. If someone as historically influential as Mother Teresa can confess to living without clarity, then I’m in the same boat, which thus implies that I’m neither alone nor am I altogether lost.

I’ve been in the throws of career transition for many months now.  The pale surroundings of the “land-in-between” are daunting, and they’ve been the source of many bouts with anger, anxiety, fear, depression, and probably everything of the like. But through this process I’ve learned what I’ll describe as the art of the lean. For the last 9 months I’ve had anything but clarity:  this is a full on career transition, not a lateral move from one job description at company A to the same job description at company B. I left an industry (church ministry, of all things) and really have no damn clue what I’m going to do.  What I have had, however, are hunches.  

Having spent quite a lot of time in introspection and self-discovery (more on that here), I began to filter my job search and general activities not directly through titles or salaries, but through gut-level desires.  Do I really want to do that?  Would I be a better husband, friend, and father by doing that?  In truth, circumstances don’t always afford one the opportunity to ask questions of this nature related to work; bills gotta get paid and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do (which I did and have done). But after months of making myself miserable in a general labor job while additionally trying to find time to network, job search, fill out applications, and endlessly tweak resumes and cover letters, I discovered a metaphor that made sense, and one that allowed me to step out.

You’ll never have clarity, you’ll only ever have trust.  I was (and still am somewhat) completely disoriented. I love to surf, and I’ve taken more than my share of head-over-heel dives.  Maybe you’ve seen that guy out in the break:  pulling hard for some sissy wave only to have the nose of his board dip underwater at the critical moment, launching him into the white-foam chaos of legs and board and leash. That’s me more often than not, and for some reason I love that junk.  When that happens you are momentarily disoriented, sometimes uncertain of which way is up. But soon you realize that you’d better start pulling, because your life depends on it, and it’s as simple as swimming away from what looks like darkness, and toward what looks like light (however faint it may be).  [Let me insert an important distinction here.  By light and darkness I’m referring only to what is personally healthy and fulfilling for the individual, not the inherent virtues or vices of the work or job or activity itself.]

That’s what I’m doing.  That’s what I call “leaning into.”  That’s how I connect to this quote on trust and clarity.  I don’t have clarity, but I do have trust and hunches and the faintest hope that what I’m pulling toward looks more like light than what’s behind me.