I’m Back (An Honest Answer to “What’s New With You?”)

There is a question that I think most people dread at one point or another when seeing family or friends they haven’t in a while. That is, “So, what’s new?”

Nothing.

Nothing is new with me.

This past week I was with my family at our annual family reunion, and for the first time ever I was not wholly looking forward to the experience. The idea of having to answer the question of what is going on in my life right now seemed like an experience I’d rather avoid.

As of late, the most honest description I could give of myself is a failure. In several areas of my life, most notably my professional one, or lack thereof (I have now been out of college for a year and am still mostly unemployed), I feel a deep sense of guilt. Here I am, this person that so many have expected such great things from, doing what feels like nothing with my life.

These days it feels like I’m climbing an impossibly high mountain, getting a little higher every now and again, but still falling all the time, and never making any noticeable gains. If you’ve seen Pixar’s Inside Out, imagine the scene where Joy is attempting to get out of the Memory Dump, except for me it’s been about 1,001 tries and I am becoming a little discouraged.

When I got back into the car to leave my family reunion, at which I had given as optimistic an outlook on my life as I could, I completely broke down. I cried and cried, feeling as if I was the greatest disappointment. I had no career, no relationship, no money, no accomplishments of note.All those success indicator boxes we look to for check marks were blank.Now let me be clear, my family is wonderful and did nothing to bring this on, but the simple fact is, my expectations for myself were not met. I had wanted to tell them wonderful things, but I felt I had nothing.

So, I let myself feel all the things that I had only briefly breezed by these past months. I let myself feel sad and ashamed and angry and frustrated. I said the words, “I failed.”

But then, after I allowed myself that honesty, I remembered something I said. The last piece I wrote for NASA Social was on the Hubble Telescope. It contained the following:

“[F]ailure is never the place in which we must take up permanent residence.”

It’s funny how we sometimes need our own advice to get going again. I realized later, this sense of optimism was something I had grown up listening to all the time. Gordon B. Hinkley was the president of the LDS church while I was a child and I believe that man was himself optimism personified. Notable quotes from him include,

“Things work out, it isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out, don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us.”

“Please don’t nag yourself with thoughts of failure. Do not set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know, and the Lord will accept of your effort.”

“You have not failed until you quit trying.”

My circumstances have not changed, but tenacity has returned. I didn’t start climbing the metaphorical mountain that is adult life because I thought I couldn’t do it. It takes a lot of confidence to move yourself across the country to start a life in a city with no job leads or friends. I just needed to remind myself why I did this in the first place. I have ambition and goals and dreams and I intend to see them through. I intend to build a life, and that is no small feat. It will take time, but it will come. 

So the answer to the question, “What’s new?” is still nothing.

But it will be something soon.

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