Full stop.

I wonder if lots of us are feeling this way at the moment? That we have reached the limit. The end. That it’s hard to even look beyond the point we’ve reached. I know I’ve felt, and written about, before the sense of facing greater uncertainty than expected earlier in life, but that sense of unknownness really has reached a peak for me recently.

I am well into my second period of lockdown here, and much as it seems there are glimmers of hope for a vaccine and a return to ‘normal’, I’m not quite sure I even know what that will be like. I have no doubt that I will go and eat in restaurants and travel and such again, but that’s not really what I mean. I mean something a little deeper. Who am I going to be? What changes have happened and what need to be made? What will my life like on the other side of this?

It seems that what I thought was a comma has become a full stop.

It’s not just a pause before returning to the same busy life, as much as I have been lucky enough to enjoy some of the upsides of pausing, but a chance to start a whole new sentence.

This is brought into a little sharper focus for me for a couple of reasons, but I am sure this feeling of uncertainty is relatable for many.

Firstly, this year has been an intentional ‘victory lap’ of sorts for my current job and city. For an assortment of reasons I feel that this will be my final year living in my current home. The chapter has seemed to be ending for a while and I’m enjoying the opportunity to have one more go around here. Of course, it has been a rather unusual year, with some of the normal rhythms of life and work dramatically different. But still, the prospect of moving jobs and country add to the sense of coming to a full stop this year.

Much as when you come to the end of a perfectly formed sentence, it can be hard to know what comes next. I have been teaching for a decade at this point. I’m at that point when I have almost had a whole career already. I feel that I should be an expert, and I’m sure I am in many ways, but I also know that there are many years to come in which I must make choices about work and career.

I’m not quite sure what that will look like. I think that’s OK. Part of the pleasure of coming to the end of a sentence is reading it back and reflecting on it. I hope to be able to do that and am fortunate enough to be able to take a moment before rushing onwards. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that taking time out can be a good thing (even if I’d rather not have a global pandemic to force it upon me).

Secondly, and more existentially, I have undertaken the rather less clear process of coming out and coming to terms with my sexuality in a much more hands on way in the last year. In terms of this finished sentence, it has been more a process of reflecting on a much amended, crossed-out and annotated piece of writing. I’m still not sure what the next words will be.

I know that I am frustrated at the lack of capacity for action on both of these fronts while at home and locked down. But perhaps that’s OK. Maybe it’s good to have to hold my horses and look inwards rather than just rushing headlong into ‘doing things’.

In that process of re-reading what has been written before, there are things that cannot be erased. Things that have caused pain and confusion, and continue to do so. Maybe this full stop can be a time to try to understand those things a little better. To stop and reflect so that the next chapter can be better. Or at least more self-aware.

This full stop is time to pause and to plan. To hope and to reflect. And hopefully, not to worry too much about the next sentence.

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