Real Life: Stuck.

stuck

I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions this year. Not because I couldn’t think of anything — I definitely could. But really, it was because for the first time in maybe my entire life, I wasn’t looking forward to the new year. That feels blasphemous to write, but it’s true. The funny thing is, it’s not because 2013 was awesome. I couldn’t WAIT for the year to be done. I realized I didn’t want 2014 to come because that would mean making some plans for this year. Making plans for this year means making plans around living in New York. Making plans around living in New York highlights how uncertain everything is for us right now, and how we really don’t know what is in store for us over the next 3-5 years. And highlighting the uncertainty and the unknowing makes me anxious, because we’re hitting our 30s this year, and a year ago life was totally different, and now we’re nowhere near where we thought we’d be, literally and figuratively. Ain’t that the beauty of life?

I’ve NEVER been one to not embrace change — and especially the dawn of a new year — without a lot of positivity, hope, and warmth. I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever been so ambivalent to time marching on. So in a way, it makes me feel guilty. Here I am, in a brilliant city that many people would love to live in, and all I can think about is what’s next. And in this very happy, peppy line of work called blogging, all the pins and quotes admonishing me that I can “choose happiness” make me feel even more guilty. (On that note, let it be said: sometimes, I think, you just feel the way you feel. You have my permission to not be happy all the freaking time.)

I was describing this delightful cocktail of emotions to a close confidante and she pointed out a pattern of behavior I’m wont to do: make everything super black and white. In other words, compartmentalize, compartmentalize, compartmentalize. It’s necessary for emotional survival sometimes, but in situations like this, I’m learning it’s not. I’ve realized I paint everything with such a broad, bisecting stroke: either I’m grateful and happy to be where I am, and if I’m not, it means I’m ungrateful and unhappy. Bad! So then I fall into the trap of when I don’t feel one (positive) way, I convince myself it must indicate something (negative) about me. Does that make sense? I’m not alone in that trap, right?

In any case, as I was telling the close confidante that I wished I could just fast forward to the good part, or immediately address all these uncomfortable emotions, or do SOMETHING/ANYTHING to change how I feel, she stopped me and said, “Maybe you’re just stuck right now. And maybe that’s okay.” I’ve been thinking about it ever since (and here’s where I tie this super meta/therapy post back to resolutions). So often we tell ourselves we must be moving forward, pushing, improving, bettering, doing more, being more. But sometimes, for any number of reasons, that’s just not possible. Instead of making yourself feel guilty about it, maybe you can be okay with being stuck for a while.

There are some major advantages to being stuck. You experience a certain measure of discomfort, probably because you’re not in control of something major (um, hello, any fellow control freaks out there?). But the discomfort is good — we really aren’t in control of much of anything, so I like to think that the discomfort is a gentle reminder. I lean into it, and embrace it (hard as that often is!). Being stuck has also meant I check in with myself more about how I’m feeling. Those self check-ins have allowed me to be more honest with Joe about where I am, and have opened up so many wonderful, frank conversations between us about our hopes and dreams. But the best part about being stuck is it has allowed me to forgive myself, to go easy. I am so. damn. hard on myself, all the time. Taking a minute to let myself be stuck — to not push an agenda, be more, improve, or any of that — has just allowed me to sit with who I am in this very moment and accept how I’m feeling. It’s so much easier than pushing. I like to imagine myself as stuck in some mudpit. It gets messy when I push and move around and try and get out of it; if I stay still and stuck, life’s a little bit cleaner, and eventually, the mud will dry up.

I was walking around the ‘hood recently and snapped this picture of balloons stuck in a tree. I wondered what happened to them — like, who released this pretty, colorful bunch of balloons, and if it was an accident or on purpose or what. But at the end of the day, there they were in the tree, bright against the winter sky. Just chillin’, for now.

Image by Victoria McGinley for vmac+cheese

43 comments

  1. By far, best post I’ve seen on this site. Well done, Victoria. The message your confidante iterated is one I tell my therapy clients all the time. It’s ok if you don’t have everything figured out. Iyanla Vinzant describes this feeling as “in the meantime” as opposed to “stuck”, and I’ve always liked that. Glad you’re feeling more at peace with the not knowing what comes next.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  2. Lauren said: replied:

    Just wanted to say what a great, relatable post this is. You’re not alone! Thank you, Victoria.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  3. Steph said: replied:

    I totally understand where you’re coming from, Victoria. My life isn’t currently how I would have planned, either. I thought by 30 I would have figured it all out–family, career, the secrets of the universe. Womp womp. I’m trying to concentrate on the feeling of excitement for when I DO have it all a little more together, hopefully in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, I also try to focus on the good things I currently do have, and I feel grateful for those. Sometimes I do lose sight of the optimism tho, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone in the more on occasion. Hugs!!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  4. Molly {Dreams in HD} said: replied:

    thank you so much for sharing victoria. i am in a very similar situation as you {unsure of my next career path, looking to make a move to a different city} and have echoed many of your thoughts over the past year to my boyfriend. i love your perspective that being “stuck” isn’t such a bad thing, and i always remind myself not to constantly think about the future because it essentially means that you miss the precious moments of your life that are happening in the present.

    Molly {Dreams in HD}
    http://dreamsinhd.blogspot.com

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  5. Sonya said: replied:

    It is definitely okay to feel stuck and uncertain and I appreciate reading such an honest post. I’ve been feeling the same way lately. I have the itch to move out of Chicago but no good reason why and no plan, yet. I’ve decided to just make little plans and enjoy the journey as things happen and try not to be anxious. And by far, turning 30 is the easiest of your problems, I think (I’ll be 33 this year). Age is just a number and not a marker by which we have to accomplish certain milestones of adulthood. :)

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  6. Richelle said: replied:

    I’m not alone! Whew, I feel so much better now! But seriously, this is such a miserable feeling and I can relate. If there is a bright side to this antsy, uncertain feeling it’s that usually – not always, but more often than not, there’s something in the works that’s going to pull you out of this slump and remind you that life is full of good surprises when you need them most!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  7. Ellie said: replied:

    I feel stuck too. On one hand, I am feeling hopeful, optimistic, and excited for a new year (my 25th birthday was just before the new year, so it’s a BIG new start) and I like that feeling. But a couple days before new years, I got laid off from work. While it was a good push to move on to the next thing (onward and upward), it is also scary…both financially and just the idea of not having that structure and purpose every day. The last couple days in particular have been off. I’m nervous for a couple interviews, and those interviews are also making me feel like starting work again could happen soon, and if that’s the case, then I could be making better use of my time off (organizing the apartment, working out every single day, watching less tv, writing more letters, making my blog AMAZING overnight). And just like your friend said, I need to realize that maybe I’m a little stuck and maybe that’s ok. Ok to be scared, ok to watch yet another crappy tv show, ok to let the blog be, and ok to be overwhelmed.

    Thank you for sharing and for being candid, Victoria. Sometimes I feel like the blog world is a little too glossy and I appreciate you opening up. Hang in there!! It will get better.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  8. Rebecca said: replied:

    Thank you for this post!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  9. Kat said: replied:

    Such a wonderfully penned post! I also have been feeling this way about living in the DC area, and for weeks I was making myself feel even worse because I couldn’t find a way out. Eventually my husband reminded me that sometimes you just need to own how you feel. Life has a way of working itself out (usually with wonderful surprises along the way), so I have hope that we will all find our way out of the mud at the right time. And until then I’m going to do my best to appreciate where & how I live!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  10. Mikala said: replied:

    This is exactly how I was feeling about the new year! It is definitely a concerning feeling when social media is constantly pushing the excitement of 2014 from every angle. You’re certainly not alone and I’m so glad you wrote this honest post.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  11. dana said: replied:

    I love this so much. I’ve felt the same exact way lately… My serious (and I thought happy) relationship ended out of the blue. I’m on a career path that I don’t love, so I’ve been hunting like crazy for a new job, and I just am feeling so alone and stuck right now. So I get it – everyone has these times, but when the good and secure times come, you appreciate them so much more. And they will come! Don’t worry too much!

    http://www.thecasualclassic.com

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  12. Holly said: replied:

    I’ve always found it so hard when you’re in a temporary place to just live in the moment and enjoy it – I’m always one to be thinking about whats next and waiting for the next big thing. Hang in there girl, I’ve had these feelings, too. :)

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  13. Rachel Johnson said: replied:

    Beautiful post. I love your honesty and openness. This is so real, and so encouraging to read!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  14. Julie / Bound said: replied:

    So sorry to hear that you’re feeling stuck in the mud pit. I have to reiterate all the other comments and say you are SO not alone. My husband and I have been on the brink of moving for the past year…first to Boston, then to San Francisco, all because both of us are trying to break out of corporate law. But if the jobs don’t come through, then…you’re stuck. Luckily, one finally did materialize (for him) and we’re really moving this time: to NYC! Something really will eventually come through, and I think you have the perfect attitude to enjoy being in the moment until it arrives.

    (Also, I know it doesn’t help the global situation, but I feel like making a new friend always pumps me up a little! Maybe we can meet for coffee!)

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  15. Marisa said: replied:

    UGH I know just how you feel! I just wrote a post about this and how I want to change. But sometimes it feels good to be stuck. Or too hard, and eventually you pick yourself up and make whatever change is necessary. Life man, it happens!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  16. Janel said: replied:

    you rock. that is all.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  17. Sara said: replied:

    I am in the exact same space in my own life. Thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings into words.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  18. alexa said: replied:

    Victoria I think being stuck can definitely be a good thing. It makes you sit around and be, without always thinking of the past and future.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  19. Where you are this year was how I felt all of 2013 – which, while it was a great year, started with the same relief of the previous year being over and the uncertainty of the year ahead.

    2013 turned out to be one of my best years ever. And learning to live in with the purely gray zone of uncertainty allowed me to examine different options that I NEVER would have considered.

    It taught me that you’re not supposed to know what’s next, not supposed to have it all figured out. When you leave it up to chance, some pretty miraculous things can happen.

    But being a “having a plan kind of girl” like yourself, it drove me (and Sri, subsequently) absolutely BONKERS for the first quarter. One practice that helped was writing morning pages, a la The Artist’s Way. Getting those icky emotions out of the way first thing in the morning allowed me to approach each day with excitement. Try it out!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  20. Maryn said: replied:

    You so beautifully articulated what I’ve been feeling lately. I think getting stuck is just a part of life and I’m learning to accept that. What has been helpful for me is to just focus on the little things that I can feel good about…making an awesome dinner, reading a good book, getting outside on a pretty day. These are the things I can choose to do, and they make me happy, even if I don’t have the rest figured out.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  21. Nnenna said: replied:

    I definitely know how you feel. I’ve been feeling a version of this for the past few months, maybe even the past year. Of course I wish I could snap my fingers and just move forward, but just because that’s what I want, doesn’t mean it will happen. I haven’t quite come around to accepting this “stuck” state yet, but I’m going to work on it.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  22. Anne [A Squared] said: replied:

    Thanks again for an honest post. And I don’t think you’re alone in that feeling at all– in fact, I am finding that it is REALLY common among the ladies our age! I had a “stuck” year last year– after a years of several big events: losing jobs, starting new jobs, getting engaged, getting married, moving… NOTHING happened last year and I felt like I was crawling out of my skin waiting for the next ‘big thing’ to happen. Taking it a day at a time/enjoying the moment is easier said than done, but I’m working on it. Chin up!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  23. Jamie said: replied:

    I read your blog every day and this post really resonated with me. I love NYC and have been living here for 5 years. My boyfriend recently accepted an amazing job opportunity in Dallas, TX and we’re moving in 10 days! Breaking up with NYC is VERY hard to do and Im nervous about what life in Dallas has in store. You’re very right–we never know what’s coming next in life! I love reading your honest posts about the challenges of building a new life somewhere outside of “the plan.” Good luck on your continued journey!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  24. Bethany said: replied:

    I totally feel you this. I tend to do the same thing–life is either really good or really bad. Or at least that’s how I’m tempted to feel. And I’m definitely stuck right now. Awesome post, and beautiful picture!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  25. Ginet said: replied:

    I’ve felt this way more times than not since college, especially approaching 30. What am I going to do with my life? Heck, forget thinking that too far ahead – what am I going to do next year? I wrote this blog post (http://graciousdelights.com/a-dose-of-inspo-olivia-wildes-advice-for-turning-30) on my 30th birthday a couple months ago. We kind of just have to roll with the punches and enjoy being “stuck” for a bit. Sometimes the best ideas spark from feeling this way, and more often than not, the best times come about when you’re just going with the flow.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  26. Mia said: replied:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a fellow SF girl (we miss having you here!!) this next year for me is a little bit in limbo as well. It’s a daily practice of reminding myself to enjoy being healthy, having a wonderful family, and appreciating the small things!

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  27. Alison Dulaney said: replied:

    What a great post – I have felt the same way too. I am getting married in May and I want the time to arrive but I need to enjoy the exciting time leading up to our big day. It is funny, I usually feel this same sort of ‘stuck’ feeling during Jan – March, but then when the sun begins to come out I feel like a tulip or daffodil (as cheesy as that might sound) I feel life’s potential.

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  28. Courtney said: replied:

    Victoria,
    Thank you for such an authentic post. And no, you aren’t alone. This post is so relevant to my life right now as well. I have found some peace in waking up in the morning and taking a simple 5 minutes to myself before I check emails, cell phones, mirrors, etc and repeat motivational mantras to myself. Just remember our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it. Ninety-five percent of what happens to us in our lives is out of our control and worrying about it keeps you from enjoying the good right here right now. And from what you write in your blog it sounds like there are so many good things to be grateful for. Focus on those! Hope you find peace in your “stuckness.”

    15 Jan 2014 | Reply
  29. […] An honest post I can really relate with. […]

    16 Jan 2014 |
  30. Tierney said: replied:

    I found this post of yours so relieving. Actually, I suppose if I’m being honest, I found this post more shocking than anything else and that’s only because I was actually stupefied to find that I’m not the only one out there who feels that if you’re ever disappointed in your life, then everything must be wrong and immediate action is necessary. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited Pinterest and littered throughout almost any section is some sepia-toned landscape in poor focus with an inspired quote in Helvetica plastered on the front. I’m conflicted {like I imagine you are} every time I see one, because at its heart, it’s not wrong. They are inspiring. But even gentle reminders, like these, if seen every single day, become more harassing it seems. I find myself think things like, yes, I am the only change I can make for myself! Or, if I’m too afraid to act on a dream then it’s a hobby. None of these things are wrong, but it sometimes makes me feel that I must always be changing. And if I’m always changing, does that mean that nothing is right? And if nothing is right, should I be dissatisfied with everything? Or am I making something of nothing?

    16 Jan 2014 | Reply
  31. Victoria B said: replied:

    You are not alone. I felt like this post-college when I had no idea what I wanted to do and I kept getting job rejections. I was single, living with my parents, and working a part-time job in retail. What helped me back then was setting goals for myself. Sure one of those goals was “find a job,” but some of the others were just fun, like “go to Disneyworld” and “read 12 books.”

    I think working towards something, anything is better than feeling stuck. Goals don’t always have to be serious or important. Sometimes it’s good to just enjoy yourself.

    This year I feel similarly again. This time last year pretty much everything was geared towards starting and enjoying my new job, planning a wedding, and enjoying a honeymoon. Now that all of that excitement is over, I wasn’t sure what direction this year was going to take. I did Lara Casey’s goal setting steps to make what matters happen.
    http://laracasey.com/2013/12/27/2014-goal-setting-part-1-lets-do-this/

    I would recommend it as it helped me form some definite goals I want to accomplish this year. And as I said before I’d rather work towards something than feel stuck. I don’t know if this would help you too, but know you are not alone either way. Good luck!

    16 Jan 2014 | Reply
  32. Christine said: replied:

    Such a great post! All I can add, is that in the year+ I have taken off of the blog world, creative projects, etc. I’ve learned a lot about what matters. Being present, not being fearful of missing out because my life is what I make of it and also that, being stuck is a great thing.

    It allows you to feel things that most try to sweep under the rug. It makes you more open to opportunity when it presents itself because you can internalize more adeptly. I too consider myself to be a bit stuck at the moment. I was supposed to start new grand plans in January, and thus far, have resisted doing so.

    But I’m okay with that. I’ll stay stuck a little longer!

    16 Jan 2014 | Reply
  33. Juliette said: replied:

    Yes. I can totally identify. Something that has really helped me in these phases is to zoom way in on life and be good about ‘right now’, like even down to taking it half a day at a time. Zooming too far out just made me depressed and/or frustrated. And it sounds cliche, but it was true for me: taking time to smell the roses helped put things in a better perspective for me. The ‘zoomed out’ view wasn’t so frustrating anymore.

    Anyhow, there’s also a lot of freedom in restrictions, too. Since you can’t do X, you are now free to do Y and not feel guilty about it!

    Good for you for keeping it real.

    16 Jan 2014 | Reply
  34. Liz {What Dress Code?} said: replied:

    I’ve been feeling very much the same about the new year and it’s so refreshing to see someone take the time to articulate it! Also, I can’t get over how perfect this image was for your post, great eye for a great image, lady!

    16 Jan 2014 | Reply
  35. Bekah said: replied:

    This is beautiful. Being stuck is beautiful, too, once you stop struggling enough to notice. But damn, it’s hard. Here’s to being stuck, and still finding it beautiful – content to be!

    16 Jan 2014 | Reply
  36. Gabrielle | Savvy Home said: replied:

    I feel for you. I remember your post when you mentioned it taking 3 (or was it 6) months to get used to living in a new city. From personal experience (twice now) it takes more like two years… It’s normal to feel stuck and looking forward to the next chapter right now, just know that time will make things better. Even if you don’t end up spending your life in New York, you’ll feel more comfortable and at home soon, I promise! xoxo

    16 Jan 2014 | Reply
  37. Kirby Todd said: replied:

    I know how you feel, I’m someone who feels emotions strongly so if I am sad I am really sad, if I am happy I am really happy, and if I am just tired or uninspired I easily make it into so much more. It’s refreshing to hear that it takes you more than a cherry Pinterest quote to cheer up, like the rest of us!

    16 Jan 2014 | Reply
  38. Thank you SO much for your honesty, Victoria! I’ve been struggling with these same feelings for quite some time. I couldn’t wait for 2013 to be over: it was such a weird, difficult year for me (after all, I was supposed to get married last year, and I didn’t). My life changed drastically (new country, new job, no fiancé), and the whole 2013 was about adjusting. I welcomed 2014 as the opportunity to start all over again, make amazing things, grow, become a better person, but…somehow I don’t know where to start! There are so many things I want to do, that in the end, I feel paralyzed and end up doing nothing. And that’s my personal definition of being stuck. I should stop being so hard on myself, but I don’t always know how to let go. I guess I should stop focusing on the big picture so much (like where I want to be in 5 years), and focus on the little steps I can make today to become who I want to be in the future. Easier said than done, huh?
    Anyway, it feels encouraging to know that I’m not alone in this, that other people have their struggles too, and that the blogging world isn’t all about perfection, after all.
    Thanks again for your honesty!

    xx Ivana
    Macarons and Pearls

    18 Jan 2014 | Reply
  39. Anna said: replied:

    I absolutely love this post! It’s so honest and true, and you always seem to talk about things that are also happening to me! It is hard in the ‘blogging’ world when everyone is saying how amazing 2013 was, how they can’t wait for all the incredible things in 2014 …. blah blah. It can be incredible frustrating to now know what your life will look like – I have no idea where I will be 1 year from now, so I totally get how you feel- it can certainly be an almost maddening experience of emotion!I’ve started to try and live each day as it comes, staying as much in the present moment, and always listing what I’m greatful for each day. It’s not magic, but it certainly makes you feel a lot better, and lets you be more at ‘peace’ with whats happening or not happening in your life. It’s so wonderful to know that other people feel this way – even though I don’t wish these feelings on anyone, it makes me feel less alone!:) Thanks for writing this!

    19 Jan 2014 | Reply
  40. […] right lost. If you’re feeling any of these things right now, you should definitely check out this wonderful post by […]

    19 Jan 2014 |
  41. […] January rolled around, I was still in a daze. It wasn’t until I came across Victoria’s lovely post that I found the word to describe what I had been feeling for approximately 21 days – […]

    25 Jan 2014 |

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