"How are you?" asks Wise Friend, a fellow mum, at school pickup.
Erm...I know this is not supposed to be a difficult question. A myriad of one-word answers burst like bubbles in my head. Confused. Elated. Panicked. Insane. Fuzzy. I blurt out, "I just applied for a career break. So..... I'm not sure.... I cant really tell up from down at the moment..."
"Oh, that's brilliant!" says Wise Friend.
"Is it...?" I smile weakly, hoping my eyes aren't looking too manic.
"Yes", she says, "you're in the fertile void - its a great place to be."
The chattering monkeys in my head hush for awhile. They seem to be thinking about this. Their momentary silence is quite refreshing. The Fertile Void... its a Thing. Its amazing how comforting a label can be. No longer am I in limbo - I'm not flotsam being buffeted about in a swirling mass of uncertainty. In fact, I'm in the fertile void, a place of infinite possibility.
As I reflect on the impact of this more positive re-framing of my choice, I realise how much weight I have accorded the various titles or labels I have assumed with each job I have undertaken.
I started out on a 'sensible' career path in part to appease my parents and in part because of the absence of any obvious life-purpose (which I think seems fair enough at age 18). Stepping onto that path is more like stepping onto a treadmill or a conveyor belt. You are on your way to becoming a.... (insert label here). You must be successful if you are now a ..... (insert label here). When people ask, 'what do you do?', you have a glib, instant answer, "Oh, I'm a .... (insert label here)"
And there you are, before you know it, you are what you do. Part of your self worth is attached to the institution that employs you. How curious, if this was not something that you necessarily chose, consciously, all those years ago....
So, absent this affiliation to the lofty institution to whom I have given my most recent ten years of service, who am I, I wonder?
What a fascinating question to explore.
And how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do so.
"Leap, and the net will appear" John Burroughs