It’s great when you don’t even have to try to create a nice narrative for a blog post. For example, this time around, life has offered me a great circular composition for this very post. You see, I came up with this post when I was sitting in my quad last week. No special event at all, but it was completely empty for the first time in months (aside from my packed suitcase on the bed opposite mine). Specifically, last time the quad looked like that was eight months ago, when I spent my first night on campus. I had just arrived in the US and I was sitting in the exact same way but with a feeling of skräckblandad förtjusning, best translated into English as equal parts fright and delight. It was a crisis; it was a beautiful crisis.
When I graduated High School a few months before that, I had a feeling of crisis too and now that I get to celebrate a bunch of my friends’ graduations this year (both here in Sweden and in New Jersey), I feel it might be timely to write about how I try to deal with it, and taking leaps in life that really matter. While I don’t pretend to know all the answers, I think I’ve created a little theory that at least fits “well-enough” to be useful for me and perhaps others as well. So, allow me to present the Sten Sjöberg Certified Four-Step Leap-Taking Process™ (if nothing else, I think the fourth step is actually worth reading):
Step #1: Desire
Any big decision starts with some type of desire. This might sound awfully obvious, but I want to keep it in mind in the future, so that I can prepare a bit better. For example, I knew for a pretty solid while that I didn’t want to stay in Sweden after HS. Far earlier though, I knew that I had an insatiable academic hunger (read: was/am a huge nerd) and felt Sweden was a little small. Perhaps if I connected the dots earlier, I could’ve prepared just a little better. No matter what, staying aware of my own desires going forward certainly won’t hurt in preparation of leaps to come.
Step #2: Opportunity
It’s important to keep in mind that sending an application is not the making of a decision, it’s just exposing oneself to opportunity which, if it is at all true that luck is where opportunity meets preparation, one ought to do. The important take-away from this step is to always just send that application, sometimes even if there are no plans to accept it. Trying for something is not a commitment, and usually the worst thing that can happen is just getting a no, which you would’ve gotten had you not tried at all. This is definitely the most tedious part of the process however, mostly because there’s usually a lot of friction during it, without much immediate reward. It’s probably the step where you can do the most though, so the long-term benefit are important to keep in mind for the sake of actually going at it.
Step #3: Decision
I have the belief that you don’t usually need to be brave. Courage is something you need a few seconds at a time when desire and opportunity has been brewing for quite a while, or when you’re just presented with a crazy circumstance. However, while persistence is pretty useful all the time, when bravery is needed it is very useful, but very seldom so. This step is by far the hardest for a lot of people, since we are all afraid of what is to come. Crisis is, almost per definition, scary but it is important to account for all aspects of crisis because crises really are quite awesome. You’d think the decision step would be the most elaborate, but I’ve noticed that the decision itself isn’t too bad, but that the crisis afterwards is what holds us back. So, let us move on to the main point: the ode to crisis.
Step #4: Crisis
Whether it is moving to another country, stepping into a new job, committing to an education, or all of the above at the same time, there will be a crisis. The word, unfortunately, has a lot of negativity associated with it but a crisis is really just a “crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point.” The crisis isn’t some unfortunate side-effect of a big choice; it is precisely what you’re aiming to reach when making a leap. A leap is scary, but it’s supposed to be scary. Scary is just another word for new. This is why thinking of the crisis as a crucial part of the process is important; it’s a lot easier to deal with when it comes as an order rather than as a surprise.
The biggest growth in my life has come from crises. For example, when I came to spend a lot of time thinking about literature, history and psychology after years and years of identifying as a natural sciences type of guy, I had a small identity crisis. Suddenly, what I thought I knew about myself was no longer true. However worrying it may have been, in the end this led me to consider Liberal Arts, which led me to the US. Of course, there are dozens of examples like this but the bottom-line is that I think crisis should not be shunned or avoided; crisis should be a little revered and simultaneously embraced. I say this to myself and anyone who will listen but most of all I say it to my great friends with whom I had the pleasure of celebrating graduations with this year.
Personally, I hope to have a life filled with desire, opportunity, decision and, especially, crisis. Right now though, I am just happy to be in Sweden for a bit of celebration and down-time. I know that my next crisis is right around the corner though and I continue to be filled with skräckblandad förtjusning in anticipation.
My most sincere congratulations to Izabella Holmström Praesto, Pelle Melin, August Klynne, Emma Granberg, Andrea Unge, Wilhelm Michaelsen (finally) in Sweden and Anyssa Chebbi and Brandon McGhee in NJ (sorry I couldn’t be there) all of whom will go on to do amazing things!