When I was a child, one of the games we would play in the playground was called Stuck in the Mud. It’s funny how as a child, you look up to adults and think how free life must be. All that choice, all that freedom, all those places to travel and live, all the new people you can meet. Yet strangely enough, when you stumble upon adulthood, you still end up stuck in the mud. And this time, it’s not as simple to figure out as an innocent playground memory.
Feeling stuck is a place I’m sure we’ve all been. Your career has ground to a halt, your love life is dead in the water, and the hopes and aspirations you once had seem further out of reach than they ever have. Sometimes when we’ve been stuck for too long, that rut we’re in becomes a big black hole, and that’s where the danger lies. Because we’re supposed to have it all figured out, right? We’re supposed to make progress every single day when we wake up, right? And ultimately, we’re supposed to know what we want and when we want it, right? Wrong. Sometimes the biggest feeling of being stuck doesn’t come from not having what we want yet, it comes from not knowing what the hell we’re doing in the first place. Muddling along and not having cast iron plans or big aspirations makes us feel inadequate when we look around and see our friends and peers getting their promotions, aspiring to new things, and seemingly moving along with their lives, leaving us trailing miserably behind.
It’s a hard fact to remember when we’re at our lowest and the world seems to be moving on without us that we are right where we’re supposed to be. We may not know the reason, and it may not even be fair (life often isn’t), but we are here nonetheless. And as we are here and breathing, we need to own how we feel in order to move through it.
So when you feel that familiar feeling of getting stuck, go with it. Understand why it is you’re feeling that way and see if there’s a logical way out. There often isn’t, at least in the short term, so we move to plan B. We always need a plan B, because if life always ran to our plan As, I’d be sitting on a desert island right now.
You’re stuck. So what? That’s what you need to ask yourself. And as honestly as you can, become comfortable at least with the notion that you might be able to do little things to help. And if you really, really can’t, you become comfortable with your place in the world. Because no matter where you are in your life or where you see yourself being, I can assure you that you are worthwhile and making a difference somewhere, even if you don’t see it. We are our own worst enemies, and I know our own minds can be the hardest battle we face.
Being stuck is a source of frustration for me most days, and even more so on long, dark nights. And though I hear my friends having the exact same frustrations, it still feels like I’m alone sometimes. But those feelings of not being enough, of worthlessness, of not having enough or failing our very purpose, are lies. Tell yourself every day, even when you don’t believe it, that they’re lies. Eventually the message will start to get through, and who knows—by the time it has sunk in, you will have found yourself coming unstuck somewhere along the way. The good kind of unstuck. The freeing kind. The best times of my life haven’t been the wishing and hoping for things to be better, they have been the moments I’ve looked back and realized it got better without me noticing.
And please, never feel stuck in a place you don’t really want to get out of because other people make you feel bad for being there. Not everyone is born to be a CEO. Not everyone needs to own their own home. Not everyone wants children. Not everyone is very good at being married. Not everyone is good at the same things. And that’s OKAY. You’re okay. And though you may be stuck now, you can never get stuck forever, remember that.
Everything is temporary. The good and the bad. And the best lessons you’ll ever learn, the best ideas you’ll ever have, will almost certainly come from those moments of being stuck exactly where you are.