Loving + Losing (the Illusion of) Control
by Kayla Gladysz, Contributing Writer.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor of my apartment’s entryway, I cut my bangs with a pair of kitchen scissors. Partially for frugality purposes — I’m a recent grad with minimal income — but mostly because I know exactly how I want them to look. I don’t trust that I’ll walk out of a salon feeling satisfied.
I ride my bike all over the city. Job interviews, dates, dinners with friends… two wheels get me there. Again, cost-effectiveness is at play here, but my riding is mostly driven by my desire to be on time. The possibility of a transit delay interfering with my plans sends me into a spiral of anxiety. Those who know me best will tell you that I’m usually about 5 minutes late, but you can bet your butt it’s because I was manipulating my aforementioned bangs into laying just so; not because the bus was behind schedule. When I’m late, it’s in my control. Because I am a control freak. If you want it done right, do it yourself is my evening prayer.
For all my life, my actions have been measured. Each idea thoroughly considered, with back-up plans to my back-up plans and emergency contacts at the ready. Looking both ways before crossing any one-way street, the efforts I take to know what my day, month or year will look like make me feel safe.
Sitting down in front of my mirror with scissors and a vision, I “know” what my hair will look like in 10 minutes. I don’t actually know, though. What if I’m about to snip a centimetre when my cat startles me, and I end up snipping an inch? My neurotic need to control everything is an Indigo throw blanket in a snowstorm… soft and comfortable, sure, but it won’t be long before it’s destroyed by the elements.
This knowledge — that I don’t actually have control — was seeping into my consciousness when I decided to quit my gig as a receptionist, give notice on my apartment and accept a job offer at a hotel in the mountains of British Columbia. I told everyone who would listen that I was leaving. It seeped deeper on the morning I woke up to my heart crying that I’m not ready to leave my friends, my family, this city. Cut to me back-tracking, apologizing to my parents for flip-flopping over the idea of moving 3700 kilometers away, and frantically job-hunting so that I can put first and last month’s rent down on a new apartment. Perhaps this knowing — this understanding that I’m not really in control of anything at all — is what prompted me to toss the ingredients of my life into the proverbial Universe-Vitamix and press “blend.”
That we don’t have control over anything is a terrifying prospect to consider. Sure, I can decide that I’m going to eat mixed greens for lunch, but who’s to say an asteroid won’t mix up the surface of the planet before noon? Unlikely? Yes. Dark? Certainly. Strangely... liberating? Uh huh.
I’ve always enjoyed school and I think that’s because it feels controlled. You may not know what you’ll learn next, but you can count on the fact that you’re going to learn something. Same hallways, same faces, and the same consistent goal: to get high enough grades that you’re welcomed to continue onward to the next year of learning. I graduated from university in April and honestly, I didn’t feel many emotions about it at the time. As September neared, however, I started to realize that the system which has guided my life for the past 18 years no longer holds me. The direction that has been laid out for me for so long has evaporated, and I am left with vast, uncontrolled potential. On this realization, I panicked, and made the impulsive decision to escape.
My decision to move away fit the trope of new grad travels to discover herself; I knew it would be widely accepted, but it never felt authentic to me, for me. Upon reflection, I see that it was a fleeting attempt to lean into the chaos that I felt consuming me without the safety of a campus to return to. While that may be fair, it didn’t sit right, and I’m glad that I swallowed my pride for long enough to write to essentially everyone I know to say “Just kidding, I’m staying put.”
It turns out that what I’m left with in Toronto: a jobless, soon-to-be apartment-less life, is still a pretty accurate representation of chaos. I don’t need to move across the country to lean into a lack of control. I don’t need to make a major life-change to majorly change my life. It’s already happening, because it was meant to no matter what.
I think it’s important that we don’t use our lack of universal control as an excuse to throw all caution to the wind. Instead, I think it ought to be framed as a liberating recognition. When you can’t truly know what will happen next, you’re free to take big chances. When you feel stuck, you’re free to make change. When you can’t control, you can trust. While I’m spooked by the messiness of my current situation, I also feel inspired by it. My creative energy felt stunted in my last job, and I’ve wanted to get out of my basement apartment for a long time.
Cutting myself loose from situations which breed discontentment, with no direct route forward, is the opposite of my character. This means it’s a prime opportunity for growth. I’m being responsible, using my free time to write, taking on temporary work assignments and hunting for a job and apartment that feel right for me right now. I’m practicing trusting my heart instead of solely relying upon my head’s logic. My brain has gotten me far, but it has also led me into the depths of an anxiety disorder. My heart is what brought me out of those depths and I want to get to know her better. I’m surrounded by loving friends and I’m finding the courage to ask for help. I’m trying not to rush; not to panic.
You can’t stop the waves, can learn to surf, etc. etc. Seriously though, there’s something beautiful about loosening my grip. Not giving up. Not even letting go… I don’t think I’m there yet. But yes, loosening my grip. Allowing a soft energy to flow through my burning hands and realizing that I can still turn the wheel without holding it so tightly that I’m hurting myself. I will continue to apply for jobs, apartment-hunt, and ask my friends and family for help when I need it. But I will not rush myself. I will not kick myself. I will trust. And I will continue to cut my own bangs.