“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards” is one of the calendar mottoes that is actually too important to become a “calendar motto”. (It might or might originally stem from Kierkegaard – stuff like this has to be rediscovered by everyone else anyway.) It was a welcome reminder for me lately to keep a playful heart and a careful mind as my wife and I thought about our time in Taiwan and (put before that decision) how long it should still last.
In moment like these, I jumped head-first into questions of “what it means for me” and “what’s the story.” Being a rather intuitive decision-maker, questions like these have helped me a great deal in the past. Put they also have a stickiness I learned to be careful about.
It is easy to consider my and our time in Taiwan a “chapter” in our life. Sometimes chapters like these reveal themselves only later, when a person takes a more and more important role in our life for example. But here it was clear from the start that this is finite, with a new place, different job, and a time-limited contract. Thus it seemed like a chapter that could maybe be understood forwards a little bit? But of course Kierkegaard remained right, and so with the months passing since then, I was surprised, yet not-surprised by this, then again surprised by how this chapter unfolded and still unfolds so very very very differently from any expectations with which I arrived here.
It’s hard to take a lesson out of this though. Even knowing that we life in a different story than the one we thought we live in, we still have to try to make sense of it in order to live it in the first place. I think the trick here is to do it lightly, to look for stories that are beautiful more than fun, that create possibilities rather than destroy them. Stories of which we would like to be the hero or heroine of – while at the same time to always tell them with a wink in our eyes, to never merry them or fall in love too deeply with the make-believe version of ourselves we created for them.
How do you tell yourself and others the stories of the chapters in your life – especially the one you are currently living?