Is something in the air? Left and right I’m hearing reports of good news from the people I care about most. (I’m sure the people I don’t care about are also celebrating some good news…but I don’t care about them.) It seems like everyone is getting what they want and have been asking for. Babies, engagements, jobs, home purchases, school acceptances, opportunities to move close and far…quite a range to suit a range of people.
I have somehow managed to surround myself with incredible people…really incredible people doing incredible things. But sometimes even the most incredible people get stuck. I have found myself stuck on many occasions – and that’s right, I’m classifying myself as incredible, just like my friends. I’ve been in jobs I hate, I spent three years in law school, which introduced me to my first bouts of depression, and I have been in relationships that made me feel less than incredible, which, if you were paying attention earlier, you would know is less than what I actually am. In each of those situations, I have focused only on what’s directly in front of me. “Please get me out of this awful job.” Or, “I’m begging for a class to address something I actually give an *ish about.” Sometimes it’s “get me out of this city.” Or my favorite, “please let this be the last year that I’m single.” I have had a tendency to focus on what needs changing and dwell on that misery until it’s changed. And now, more than ever, I’m realizing you get what you ask for – good and bad. I’m not making any statements of spiritual belief at this time. No matter who or what is being asked, there’s definitely someone or something listening.
Let’s start with the bad. When I first moved to Oakland in 2004, I had no money and no job. I had been hustling in Philadelphia for over a year, paying rent, feeding and entertaining myself with money from tutoring and privately teaching the children of the M.O.V.E. Organization. Surprisingly enough, with minimal bills to pay, that didn’t work too badly. But in Oakland I had to give up my slightly lucrative hustle for what I hoped would be a slightly lucrative job. But when I got there (and while I was planning my move), jobs weren’t falling from the sky. So I started to seek anything that would pay the bills and rent…anything. A job that had some relevance to a future career (whatever that would be) would be a bonus. And sure enough, that’s what I ended up with, a job that only paid the bills and not much more, had a slight relevance to a future career, and was a living hell (shout out to my fellow MTA survivors). I never asked for a job that was hell on earth, but I also never asked for a job I believed in or a job I loved. I only hoped for the basics – or what I thought of as the basics at that time. Since then, I have only found and accepted jobs with organizations that seem to be a professional fit, personally satisfying, and provide an enjoyable work environment. I’m gradually getting better at being more specific with my requests.
And then the good. Well, the best example I can think of is Amsterdam. Last year I stopped looking for a boy or eternal happiness in NY. It had become clear to me that those hopes were a wrap. So I put my focus on moving. I began to respond to the “have you met any guys recently?” question with something like, “I’m not looking. My energy is on finding something in Amsterdam.” And although I sometimes struggled with the lack opportunities in Amsterdam, and the silly feeling of claiming a city to which I have absolutely no ties, I forced myself to call Amsterdam by name. The uncertainty of it made me really uncomfortable. But sure enough – I’m getting what I asked for.
The trick might not be in how frequently you ask for what you want, or even how badly you want it. I’m beginning to think it’s more about having a clear understanding of what it is you want, and recognizing it when it arrives. And more importantly, adjusting accordingly when you realize the original ask was somewhat misguided. And maybe most importantly, not being afraid to ask for what you want, no matter how unlikely it seems.
I’m looking at this post as simply a reminder to myself. I have a feeling this clarity may last no longer than a fleeting moment.