“Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity…” – Gilda Radner
I’ve read and re-read this quote over the years. It’s kept me comforted on dark nights, and moving forward when the path ahead feels unknown. Though every time I read this, the words feel new– like I’m discovering that it’s okay not to know, again and again.
I first read this quote in a card. It was a parting gift, from someone very special when I moved away from my home in New England. It was the comfort I needed; I wanted to know that it was okay to leave home and to not have a plan. Or rather, to leave him and leave my plan behind.
Deep down I always thought I’d return home, at some point. Everyone does– I thought I’d be one of them too. But I surprised myself when I didn’t. When I stayed. When slowly, the west became the place I called home. And suddenly, things felt ambiguous again, because I wasn’t following the unspoken plan I had assumed for myself. Like I was moving forward into this beautiful great unknown.
. . . . . . . . .
It’s a overwhelming feeling looking far into the unknown. It is like looking at a beautiful new child, the child that is your life. A position of such joy, such love and yet, such great responsibility. Responsibility to do yourself justice, to follow your path, your gut, your intuition. To leave your fingerprint on the earth in some way.
This quote is a profound reminder, that life doesn’t happen as you plan it. Life is not a movie: I will not move to the big city, discover myself, get a terrible demeaning job, get fed up, find my passion, meet a wonderful man, build my dream career… and scene. Tie a bow on it.
I know, many of these things, these big momentous life moments, will in fact happen. Some of them, I will not plan on. Some of them, I will work hard for; lust after, dream about, strive and struggle to achieve. But some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Sometimes things just happen. Life falls into place. It may not always happen like you want it to, but it happens for good reason.
What matters is this: we must all, in our own way, come to peace with the fact that life is about not knowing. It’s about trust. And keeping a smile on your face. You will have to change. You will not know, with absolute certainty, what’s going to happen next.
. . . . . . . . .
Long ago, my brother offered me some words of comfort. My best friend was about to move in with her college boyfriend. I felt like I was losing her, like I was losing our way of life. I was certain that things were about to come to the final scene, where she would get engaged and the director would yell cut and her story would end happily. And that I would end up on the outside.
He told me, “Hannah, nothing’s permanent”. I sputtered, I interrupted, “but, but …”
“No, Hannah– nothing’s permanent.” And, honestly, his words did make me feel better.
They made me feel better when she broke up with her boyfriend. When she changed her life drastically, and then when she did it again. It was a reminder that life is always in flux. Change can be counted on. Even when you make your lifetime commitments, sometimes, unexpected changes will still carve you a new path. Life does not work, in fact, like the movies. The scene keeps rolling and the story continues, even after the screen goes black.
So the challenge– for all of us– is to find peace, amongst the unknown. To confront each day with a smile out of the corner of your mouth, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Enjoy the delicious ambiguity. And smile because, well, it’s today.