Be the passenger

It started with a yellow letter addressed to me and my husband.

“Thank you for your continued residency at (address),” the letter began.

It then went on to inform us that our current lease was ending on June 1, and because they require a 60-day written notice, we needed to notify our landlord no later than April 1 of our intentions to stay or leave.

The plan was always to leave. My husband would find a job as an assistant professor, graduate in the spring, and we would move to a new location to begin the next chapter of our lives. We would finally ditch the furniture we’ve been holding onto since college and actually invest in a real couch and dining table. We would either buy a house or find a nicer, newer apartment that granted us enough space to have company over. We would have the time and income to take those vacations across the country and around the world we’ve been dreaming about for years.

That was the plan. The plan we’ve had since I moved to Milwaukee four years ago this month. Everything that has happened since then has been progressing towards this moment.

But plans can change. And as I’ve recently learned, I’m not very good at handling that.

As it stands right now, we don’t know where we’ll be six months from now. We don’t know if my husband will receive an offer somewhere and we’ll be settling into a new city or if we’ll still be here in Milwaukee. And if we are still here, we don’t even know if we’ll be in this apartment; if we decide to commit to extending our lease another year or move into another apartment that offers a shorter lease or allow us to do month-to-month.

And those are too many question marks in my life for me to be comfortable with. Too many variables and uncertainties. Too many “What ifs?” I feel like I can’t plan anything in the future because I don’t know where I’ll be and what will be going on in my life. I feel trapped in unknowing. Stuck. Like my life is on hold.

And it’s turning me into a crazy person.

So it felt like a sign from God when I received an email from Amber Rae recently that said the following:

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Life is not a straightforward path. It’s filled with ebbs, flows, twists, turns, and unexpected detours. My friend Dhru always says, “confusion is not knowing, but the need to know. The ‘needing’ changes everything. The needing is where the anxiety and stress comes from.”

I had to pause when I read that. I read it again. And again. I knew Dhru was right. The only reason I feel as stressed as much as I do about this is because I feel like I should know where I’m going to be six months from now. That I should be able to plan. Instead of learning to go day by day and trust everything will work out in the end, I feel I need to know it will right now.

It took me back to an epiphany I had ten years ago when I was a teenager trying to figure out the rest of her life.

It was a Sunday evening and my dad was driving me home after my weekly church youth group meeting. Our route followed along the Great Miami River and I was enjoying the scenery through the passenger window. The way the lights reflected on the water. The color of the sky as the sun set. The little houses situated across the way. The tiny details I would’ve never noticed if I had been driving myself.

And I thought to myself, Maybe this is what life looks like when you let God be the driver. Instead of worrying about where you’re going and the traffic and keeping your eyes fixated on the road, you can just enjoy the present moment and all the tiny details that make life beautiful.

Ten years later and I am still learning to hand over the keys. To stop worrying about where I’m going and how fast I’ll get there and to just enjoy the ride. To trust God and my intuition to keep me on course and get me where I need to be. And I can’t help but think this whole situation is designed to teach me that lesson.

So as much of a control freak I am — as much as I want to take the wheel and have my destination, my route and every pit stop along the way mapped out — I’m challenging myself to take these next few months day by day, one moment at a time. To let go and be the passenger. And hopefully, in every moment, take a look around and appreciate life.

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