The in-betweens are times to take stock and decide what we stand for, and what we really want. Maya Angelou once said: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” In-betweens normally happen at the point of “knowing better”. That’s when things can get a bit thorny. That’s normally when you realise you’re standing at the edge of something potentially life-changing, but it requires… well, changing your life. Sometimes giving up things that are no longer working for us; sometimes admitting a huge, I got it wrong before, and I’m sorry. How hard is that, right?! We know at that point that things can go wonderfully right or disastrously wrong, and so would require a huge leap of faith.
Personally, I am paradoxically risk-averse and adventure-yearning. So these forks in the road are very often slightly agonising. At least.
That’s where wise words from people who have been through their turning points, who have braved their purgatories and battles, come in really handy. I have a friend who said she carried Steve Job’s speech with her when she was going through her quarter-life crisis. I carried that speech with me when I moved countries for the second time, terrified but determined that I would forge my own path. That, and Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess. Hey, don’t judge me till you’ve read it and met at least one of your Waterloos. So:
Those of you just graduating and deciding/fretting/giving yourself an ulcer over what to do with your life;
Those in midlife/quarter-life/third-life crises;
Those stuck and contemplating taking a risk;
Those who have leapt and are now freaking out;
Those who feel you lack direction and feel restless;
Those who think you have failed and will never bounce back;
Those who stand ready to take a leap of faith:
I highly recommend you read these, if you haven’t already (or if they were not the reason you’re taking a leap in the first place).
- Steve Job’s Commencement Speech to the Stanford Class of 2005: “You’ve got to find what you love.”
- J. K. Rowling’s Commencement Speech to the Harvard Class of 2008: “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.”
- Adrian Tan’s Commencement speech to the Communications graduates of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore: “Life and How to Survive It.”
- Ellen Huerta: “Why I left Google.”
I would LOVE to know of more of these deeply inspirational speeches, columns and commentaries, so if any of you know of any more– things that really touched you, changed you or moved you in an inspirational way– it would be lovely if you could share them in the comments.
I am grateful for the in-betweens, for they give us space, something to look forward to, and a chance to gather up and use our courage.
Picture attribution: Fork in the Road, Urban Living
As a related aside: I love this poem by Robert Frost. It’s almost a cliché for these in-betweens, for life-changing choices, but that’s why it has survived in the common consciousness for so long. There is truth in every old adage and cliché.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.