A few years ago, I went through one of the most difficult seasons of my life. A recent move left me homesick for my old city, struggling to make friends, and dissatisfied with the job that I had accepted after months of otherwise fruitless searching.
During this low point, one of my best friends came to visit for a long weekend. I can remember lamenting my situation while sitting on a park bench with her. After listening for hours and validating my feelings, my friend shared a simple piece of wisdom that has stuck with me after all these years: This isn’t the end of your story.
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She was right, of course: I came to love my new home, made wonderful friends, and grew into my job. And not only were her words assuring at the time — I desperately needed the concrete reminder that I wouldn’t feel badly forever — they have come back to buoy me numerous instances since that particularly challenging season.
For example, I’m one of four siblings and we’re very close…emotionally, that is. This past year, one of my brothers moved to Michigan, the other to Texas, and my sister accepted a job in California. Since we all have either demanding careers or limited funds, frequent visits aren’t an option right now, and our family diaspora left me feeling anxious and depressed. I wondered from my home in Rhode Island if we would ever have the quantity of quality together-time that I crave again. And then I remembered: This isn’t the end of the story.
In our 20s and early-30s, my siblings and I are at a phase of life when we prioritize developing skills, reaching for valuable opportunities, and taking on new experiences. For at least two of my siblings, their current jobs — and therefore locations — are structurally temporary, with clear end dates. We might not all end up settling in our hometown, but chances are that we won’t be flung quite as disparately north, south, east, and west ten years from now. I take comfort in that thought, while also using this time to deepen our relationships long-distance and investing what vacation time and disposable income I do have into family visits.
Additionally, this isn’t the end of the story has been a mantra of mine throughout the unfolding crisis of coronavirus. I am one of the billions of people whose lives have been destabilized by social distancing, concern about the health of family and friends, and the suffering economy. Job security feels like a luxury of the past, and the plans that my husband and I have been working towards these past couple of years are dissolving before our eyes.
The uncertainty sparks self-doubt as I consider what it would be like to lose my job and bafflement as I wonder what other sorts of work I could see myself doing. The absence of a clear five-year plan sends me into the “quarter-life-crisis” that I thought I had avoided, and I tip towards panic. Then, I remember: This isn’t the end of the story.
To be sure, coronavirus and its aftermath are a significant plot point in this chapter of my life, and they are impacting the subsequent storyline of my personal narrative in ways that I don’t fully comprehend right now. But just like my homesick, friendless, and vocationally challenged state was temporary back when my friend first shared her wisdom, my life isn’t always going to look the way it does at this precise moment. This perspective gives me hope, courage, and strength during an otherwise unsettling time.