The clock was ticking.
People around me were getting into law school and accepting jobs.
Yep -- I’d committed to teaching 2nd grade for two years in the Bronx through Teach for America.
But, now it was May. And my time was up. I didn't have a job. No bright idea on what to do next.
And it didn't help that everyone in my Teach For America program seemed so "together" and accomplished.
I'd tried to figure out what to do. I'd met with a career coach. I'd applied for a couple of jobs. But nothing felt right. It all felt forced.
I felt like a failure.
Whenever people asked, "Hey! What're you doing next?" I'd want to run to the bathroom and hide.
Ever had that? When you didn't know your next step and it gave you major anxiety?
I only had a few weeks to figure out my next move. And my stress about it was at an all-time high.
I needed a break from trying to figure things out.
So my friends and I went on a mini-vacay to a lake house.
And I didn't google or obsess over what I was going to do next.
My problem felt miles away.
And the last morning we were there, we went for a kayak on the lake. Leaning back in my seat, I looked up at the clouds in the sky.
And it was at that moment -- the strangest thing happened.
"I should go to grad school for social work."
BOOM. A seemingly random thought entered my mind. Sure, I'd thought about grad school for social work. But, it never felt quite right until now.
My body melted into the kayak seat. I felt calmer than I had in months.
I was so relaxed from the trip.
I'd stopped thinking about what to do next and then -- everything felt clear.
All of a sudden -- I had my answer.
So when I got back from the trip, I hustled to get everything in order to apply.
I was applying to grad school for social work.
And I figured, "Well, this will either be a desperate hail mary attempt. Or I'm on the right path."
But the application process was seamless. Things flowed. I used it as confirmation I was on the right track.
I felt this pull inside me. The decision to apply last-minute felt like a good one.
Transcripts got back quickly. And the personal essays poured out of me.
So I submitted my application. And I waited. And I had thoughts swirling in my brain like, "What if this was a huge mistake?"
And then, one morning in July, I checked my email. And waiting for me in my inbox were the words I'd been waiting for --
You've been accepted.
Tension melted off my body. I had an answer for, "So what're you doing next?"
But, I had so much more.
I had the lesson - when you don't know what to do, it's okay to take a step back and get out of your head.
BTW, I'm not writing you this story to be like "look how effortlessly I handled this situation."
I'm super imperfect at how I handle problems and stuff I'm thinking about or feeling stuck on.
I'll still obsess about a problem, only to realize I need a break from thinking about it. Progress, not perfection, right?
You don't have to be perfect at taking time away.
I bet you've had a time in your life when you felt stuck. But, when you let go for a bit and took time away -- you got your answer.
Maybe you felt more relaxed after a yoga class or weekend away.
And from that place of relaxation and chilled-outness -- you had a fresh pair of eyes on the issue at hand.
When you relax - your intuition - your inner magic -- has the chance to pop in.
So if you ever feel stuck with a problem -- here's your daily reminder: It's okay to take a break
Get out in nature.
Go for a run.
Blast music and dance in your home.
Take a 72-hour hiatus from thinking about it.
Change up your surroundings - even a new coffee shop will do.
You might just get your "aha moment" when you least expect it.
From my heart to yours,
Devon McLeod, LCSW
PS Looking for a book? Highly recommend:
1 - Finding Your North Star by Martha Beck. I always come back to it for ways to follow your gut.
2 - The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. An inspirational true story about one man's life lesson in truly letting go <3