I spent this past weekend in Seattle, facilitating a leadership retreat for the University of Washington. On my flight from Denver to Seattle, I boarded the plane per usual, got “comfortable” in my middle seat, identified out how my 6’2″ frame would settle for the next three hours, and took the deep, and-here-we-go-I’m-about-to-be-in-the-air, breath. Up to this moment, it was a pretty typical travel experience.
And that’s when it hit me, I had to pee. Bad.
Like, really bad.
By this point, the plane’s door had been closed and the flight attendants were maneuvering through the isles with purpose. And, in what felt like the longest lapse of time I had ever encountered, twenty minutes had passed and we were still taxiing and still on the runway. I’ll be honest, this was the point when I started contemplating my current reality: How long can one actually hold it? Is my bladder normal-sized? Is, “normal-sized,” an offensive term re: bladders? Will I be thrown off this flight for getting up during taxi? How much can one (bladder) truly endure? Where is Justin Guarini these days?
I was in a real life dilemma, and one which could certainly scar me for the rest of my life.
And that’s when I peed my pants.
Okay, I didn’t pee my pants. However, I did seriously consider this as a viable option. Thankfully, and after enduring a forty minute hell-in-the-skies, I sprinted down the isle to seek relief and bathroom-refuge.
We do this a lot, don’t we? I’m not talking about waiting to go the bathroom before it’s too late (although you already know I have had my fair share of struggles in this area). I’m talking about that point where things become so assumably unendurable, and we either, A. Think in a dramatic and extreme manner, or, B. Do something stupid. Thankfully, I didn’t actually pee my pants, however I honestly and truthfully actually considered this as an option. Let’s pause here for a moment.
It’s no secret that I’m in a job search right now. How’s that for not having any control? If there were ever a time where you metaphorically felt like you desperately had to use the bathroom and could not actually do so, it’s while searching for jobs. The idea of “feeling ready,” yet with no opportunity, is resonating with me. And more so, “feeling ready” and seeing opportunity, yet having to pause and be patient for the circumstance to flourish, strikes a chord. I know many friends and colleagues are in a similar boat, and I have found some nice solidarity with those who have reached out during this time. It does, however, still remain a very unsettling feeling.
“What if…,” can be the scariest thing we experience as young professionals.
And, consequently, “What if…,” can also be the best thing for us. Not having control of a situation or experience (in a healthy context) is often needed and celebrated. I know I need to better embrace this concept in my current reality, and I’m working on celebrating it as a value. But, I don’t think we’re talking about this. I don’t think we’re talking about the realities of those moments when you don’t find the bathroom in time, or you hustle as fast and as hard as you can, and still have to deal with the consequences of an accidental stumble (while, still going with this, almost-peed-my-pants, metaphor, of course). Does this make sense?
Associations and colleagues spend a lot of time mentoring professionals and graduate students, painting pictures of easy and seamless processes. Unfortunately, I believe we are somewhat failing to acknowledge that, at times, you’re going to possibly pee your pants. I have previously aired my thoughts regarding the state of education these days, and I think there are similar sentiments in this piece as well. Specifically, let’s have real and raw conversations – let’s be honest about our current realities. Let’s grow and learn and develop. Let’s talk about control. We’re not really talking about control. We’re not talking about power, and the systemic and societal power that exists in the form of privilege, oppression, capital, etc., and how this relates to a job search. These conversations are essential to growth and continued understanding. When I lived in China this past fall, a friend and I talked a lot about the idea of control, and how it plays out when you’re a foreigner in another country. Ultimately, as a visitor and traveler, you have no control. Sure, you can go out, walk around, and exist pretty normal depending on what country you’re in, however at the end of the day, you’re still a visitor. Your passport is everything. And in today’s context, the bathroom is everything. Where is your bathroom? What is your bathroom?
In those particular moments with my friend in China, I was affirmed by vision, and by hoping and dreaming. And, of course, I was also humbled by the pause it requires to truly trust the process. Truly.
Are you trusting the process? Is the process trustworthy? What can you control in this moment? In what you’re going though, what cards can you play to move closer to a healthier and more seamless process? Are you vulnerable yet?