It’s easy to see how overwhelmed we have been feeling for quite a while. I feel like we have rediscovered our teenage year’s narrative when we talk about the past months: everything is just so unfair. As much tired as we might be of talking about the pandemic that took our 2020 hopes and dreams away, it would be unrealistic not to consider it, after all, it has helped the burn-out crisis reaches a new high, paired with other common side effects from our daily demands. According to a report performed by Linkedin’s Glint Platform, employees have been feeling both mentally and emotionally exhausted. Of course, COVID-19 has a role to play here, but the credits must be shared with how the industry has been treating us (or how we have been letting ourselves be treated).
People (and I include myself in this extensive list) have forgotten one crucial concept that has a powerful change of behaviors. We must remember that everything, and everyone, is ruled by the impermanence of being. Whether you are struggling with a stressful time in your career or a personal life challenge that has been knowing you out, keep with me so you can, hopefully, change your vision and make things lighter for you.
What does impermanence mean?
There’s a certain difficulty to explain something so obvious, yet so confusing when we don’t pay enough attention to its core meaning. When we talk about impermanence, we are talking about not being attached to something, either a person, a material object, an outcome, or even ourselves. You are not the same as you were last year, are you? We are not inert to life, we change a little bit every day with our own stories and experiences. Since everything is meant to pass by our lives, including the life itself, why should we feel triggered about losing something that’s not in our control?
Buddhism embraces the impermanence under a very warm explanation. Everything changes. We live in a constant, it’s unnatural to grab onto what’s beyond our souls to simply satisfy our needs. I personally believe that doing that can even block your self-development. Happiness passes us by, so does sadness. Youth passes us by, so does wrinkles in our pretty faces. Beloved people pass us by until they are gone (sometimes because we have chosen different paths, sometimes because they simply passed away). The logic is pretty much the same for every other thing: jobs, houses, cars, clothes, careers, opinions, suffering, love… It’s not under our control.
For an instance, I recall one specific situation at one of my past workplaces that frustrated me to the point I lost myself. In my heart, I felt like I didn’t belong there, once I couldn’t agree to the values of the company, the processes took internally, how they were treating me, and some other bad stuff that I will not mention. In my mind, the scenario was crazy: I was attached to the company, to the idea of stability on a job, terrified to lose it even though I knew it wasn’t the place for me. This contrast has awakened me to analyze the situation with wider eyes. Why would I bother losing something that I didn’t even want to be a part of? Materialistic issues aside, that wasn’t the place I wanted to be at, so why was I so attached to the idea of success to other people but not for myself? Long story short: I am grateful for that place that shown me so much, but I decided to move on because I didn’t fit there anymore.
The exact opposite occurred in another job that I absolutely loved being a part of. But I knew that it would be over someday, so I kept mindful and enjoyed everything I could. Things are meant to come and go. The real question is: how you handle it and what are you going to do about it?
That job you love, it’s impermanent. You will, eventually, move on from it. That house you live in? Also impermanent. You will find yourself living somewhere else, or remodeling it. That relationship you treasure? Impermanent. Clothes? Impermanent. State of mind? Impermanent. Pandemic? Guess what! Impermanent!
It’s important, though, to state that impermanence does not mean insignificance. Those situations we have in life are here to teach us something – and they do. That job I mentioned has taught me to chase my happiness somewhere I would fit in (as I did, several times since then). My past relationship taught me how connections are made and they fade away as soon as we both grew up… Sometimes, apart from each other; some other times, in a different connection and still together. The list goes on, but I am grateful for each and every piece I learned, from each and everything I’ve been through.
Understanding this concept has helped me a lot in how I deal with situations I cannot control. I have been going through a rough time due to an enormous amount of activity I have committed to. My exhaustion brought me to an anxious state of mind that could have ruined my willingness to keep my projects, but I didn’t let that happen because it doesn’t matter how exhausted I am. This is temporary, just like other situations I have been facing. It’s okay to feel frustrated sometimes, we are only humans after all. However, when I learned the concept of impermanence, many things that bring me down immediately vanish away because those things simply don’t matter anymore.
Impermanence as you grow mature
My mother used to say that when I was a young kid, I never finished a project. It was, indeed, something I used to do. Starting new things excites me, I love learning about it, being challenged about something completely new. I like to try it out, it has always been like this. However, when the activity reached a flat line in my excitement chart, I got bored. For years and years, I suffered, punishing myself for how uncommitted I was to my own achievements. Today I know how wrong I was by doing so. Inside my naive little mind, I was embracing the impermanence and moving on from it.
I know it might sound too romanticized, and it would be if I kept this mindset over the years. As an adult, I learned how to deal with impermanence in another way. Instead of dropping out of things, I seek inspiration to finish them under alternative lightenings. I don’t know if this is what people call thinking outside of the box, but I get excited by the intriguing and unknown facts around my goals. Being excited the whole time is unrealistic. I embrace my boredom because it’s not only impermanent, it’s the ignition for me to find excitement again with other angles.
Impermanence has a lot to do with accepting our self-development and meditating about how we deal with life and how we make space for the new to bring us that joy we often miss. Change is good, even when it’s not. Things are not permanent… And that’s okay.