When I was 18 or thereabouts, I sat my A-Levels – the UK exams to pass for university.
I wrote them in May and the results were in August
Which meant three months of purgatory, not knowing if I would have a glistening career or a wrecked life. (Even then I enjoyed reaching for the extremes.)
So I would ponder and fret, wondering where I slipped and when I crashed. I would sweat my failure or (sometimes) dream my success.
I’d pace and I’d sip coffee – then pace and sip more.
When the results arrived, I asked my father to peek inside the brown envelope, so sure I would collapse when I glimpsed the Fs lurking within.
The three months of uncertainty were the killer. Three months of suspended animation. Three months of wretched imagination.
Living now, in April 2020’s coronavirus lockdown, I’m reminded of those months. The uncertainty. And the desire for certainty.
And the anxiety when certainty is impossible.
Until March, there was a plan and I was following it, more or less. Things would work out.
So now I try to win that certainty back by reading the news and analyzing the charts – learning about R numbers and exponentials, flattened curves and viral loads. But the more I seek security, the more anxious I get.
It’s still a struggle to remember that when there’s no solid answers, my only choice is to embrace uncertainty. To not care that I can’t plan May. To say screw it to knowing. To – perhaps – enjoy wading in the misty marshlands, where nothing can be seen and the ground is yielding.
Because searching for certainty when there is none is a ticket to distress.
Instead, lie back. Let the water rise – and float.
That, at least, is the aim.