Do you ever feel like you are stuck in a big, metaphorical, cartoony bloop of chewing gum? And that as hard as you try, as much energy you put into getting free, you just can’t get your shoe out of it?
I’m pretty sure everyone gets stuck in a rut sometimes. Life takes an unexpected pause. It might take a while to notice you aren’t moving anymore. The rut isn’t always easily recognisable, because it can take many shapes. It can be a person, a place, a profession. Any plurality of things.
Once we realise we are in a rut, we stay against our better judgement. Because we feel like we have to. Because we don’t know where else to go. Because we are scared of looking for something else, or feel we don’t really deserve it. Or because we constantly second guess ourselves. “It could be worse, after all,” we think.
“It could be worse” is a pretty depressing principle by which to live our lives.
Ruts are very personal — one person’s rut may be another’s utopia. I recognise that my rut, ironically, is somewhere a lot of people dream of going.
I keep trying to leave, I keep coming back. Even though I hate this city. I feel like I can’t be myself here. There isn’t enough green space or sense of community. A lot of the things I would like to develop in myself — my creativity, my activism, just shrivel up when they enter the shadow of the Eiffel tower. There’s surely nothing wrong with Paris per se — apart from the fact that Parisians are rude and that everyone acts like that is normal. But I have too much history here. There are too many metro lines which I have unabashedly had breakdowns on. Too many exes to run into in bars.
And yet, it is my history, too, which keeps me here. The force of habit. It makes it the default place my feet come back to. To familiar places and old friends.
But my friends will remain my friends, whether or not we are in the same city. I decided almost a year ago to leave Paris for good. But I’m still stuck. I’m scared of moving on. I’m scared I won’t go the right place. And so I stay somewhere I am certain is the wrong place. But my tickets are booked, my colourful, oh so exciting visa is printed in my passport. I’m leaving in two weeks. To China, Mongolia and India. Then onwards.
I’m trying not to regret my rut. It isn’t productive to spiral and hate yourself, to say: “You stupid, stupid bitch. You’ve wasted a year. You’re so stupid and weak and worthless.” It isn’t a mindset which is very conducive to change. Self Help books, unsurprisingly, don’t include that in their mantras.
Plus, to be honest, there have been good things in my rut. I met a great guy and began to build a relationship with him. A relationship which may now be strong enough to survive the distance. I through myself into Aerial Silks, and my writing.
To get out of the rut, what is important is not to beat yourself up with regrets, but look back at the positives, and then stand up and say, firmly, to oneself:
It is Time.
Time for what? Time for anything. Anything that will get you out of the rut.
When were are in the rut, we tend to procrastinate by planning a million and one ways to get out of it. And yet it literally doesn’t matter in which direction you make that first step, as long as you get some distance between you and that big bloop of chewing gum. The first step is the scariest, we put so much pressure on ourselves, feel so much fear about making that first step away from a path we sense is wrong. And yet, the only thing that matters about that step is that you take it. It doesn’t have to be the right direction. You have so much time to course correct. When you are trying to get out of that chewing gum, it doesn’t matter if you have to take a step back the way you came if that means pulling your shoe the right way to get loose. Once you are free in your movements you will be able to get back on track.
But all that matters, when you sense something is wrong, is to move on, in any direction, until things start to feel right again.
And when in doubt, remember Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Little hobbits caught up in the world too big for them. But with a smile and a song, and a good lot of daring, they always managed to weave their way through.
The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
— J.R.R Tolkien