Back when she left for college, two weeks after turning 16, people plied me with questions about whether or not I thought she was ready. "Ready in what way?" I replied drily, "There are grown men who still aren't ready for college."
I don't thing there's such a thing as ready, at least in the blanket sense. There are always ways in which we're not ready, even when we think we are: those are called blind spots. And there are ways in which we're ready, even when we think we're not: that's fear.
* * * *
I was kind of proud of myself this week. I transitioned a print newsletter to an email campaign. This is something I knew I could do, but for a while I found myself balking. Then I realized, "Oh -- I'm afraid because I've never done it before." Having named the fear, I could nod at it and drive on by.
It's unspoken, unidentified anxieties that have the ability to steer me off course. One of my kids has this Mental Floss t-shirt:
When I can name what is behind a vague sense of unease, I'm more than halfway to pulling out of it. I suspect that being ready to face our fears may be the closest we will ever come to being blanket-level ready.
* * * *
The whole idea of being ready for something is kind of odd, if you stop to think about it. It carries with it the assumption that we have (or should have) a choice about when things happen. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don't.
When we say, "I'm not ready", we often mean:
- I'm afraid I won't succeed; or
- I seriously don't like this and don't wanna go through it; or
- This will be way too much work to be comfortable; or
- I'm not good enough at this to avoid looking (or feeling) inept.
It could also mean, "I genuinely need additional time to develop the skills to do this," but I suspect that's not usually the case.
* * * *
I wasn't ready for Eldest to move halfway across the country, in the sense that I was surprised at how hard it was to adapt to the idea that I couldn't hop on a bus and be at her doorstep $25 and five hours later. I'm slowly getting used to it.
And is Eldest ready to hold down a job, live on her own, and be independent? I daresay she is far more ready than she thought she would be. She likes her job, likes her apartment, likes her town. There are things she is learning -- some because she wants to, and some because she has to -- and that's good.
Sometimes we're ready. Sometimes we're willing. Sometimes we're able. I'm not convinced that we need all three at the same time to move forward. What we really need is an honest assessment of what's holding us back. Often it's simply fear.