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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Wowk


Lift. A piece inspired by comfortable uncertainty.

The fog settled in and nested itself along the highest peaks in the Faroe Islands. There was a stubbornness about the way it lingered, the way a tuft of cotton catches on a thorn. Cyndi suggested we wait it out, carefully eyeing the pack of hikers above us that were slowly diminishing in distinguishability with each step of their upward trek.

“Eighteen,” I counted.

As far as we could tell, they weren’t following the cairns laid out before them. As an experienced climber, Cyndi knew better than to follow them; from this distance, we couldn’t ascertain if they were locals or tourists. If they were the former, Cyndi hesitantly admitted they may be knowledgeable enough to make the climb without the traditional aid; if the latter, it was plausible, but impossible to differentiate, there was an experienced guide among them. We decided to wait it out, hoping the fog might lift.

Thirty minutes passed. The hikers, now mere specks of assorted primary colors, moved glacially across the terrain. The fog, steadfast in its indifference to our hiking intentions, had similar speed restrictions. Disappointed, we decided to call it. We bid adieu to the peak, and the pack still in its pursuit.

Back home in New York City, two weeks later, I was leaving the office with an overall accomplished joy; feeling grateful that I’d survived my first Monday relatively unscathed. {Warning: two weeks’ holiday will encourage feelings of peace, positivity and effectual cheeriness. Symptoms are contagious.} As I often do, I peered up at the skyscrapers dwarfing any and all life below them. The sunshine of the morning had turned to a misty evening, fog lingering and covering the tops of the skyscrapers. I couldn’t have imagined I’d parallel any experience from the Faroe Islands, a place so charmingly desolate, with the seething, beating heart of the modern world. But there it was, loitering in the clouds amongst the peaks of New York City: comfortable indecision.

When I turned 29 last December, I made promises to myself for the year ahead -- don’t spend birthdays alone, write more, run more, and most importantly, don’t turn 30 waiting {for love, for inspiration, for happiness, for fulfillment}. And here it was, June 15th, six months from 29 and six months until 30… and had I stopped waiting for any of it?

From the very moment I arrived in New York, I’d been comfortable in my uncertainty of how long I’d stay. I’d made my attempts to move back to the UK. I’d knocked at the door of opportunity, and each knock was answered with a “no”, or a “not right now”. I’d nod in superficial, patient understanding. Somewhere along the way, my comfortable uncertainty had turned to indifference; how dangerously stagnant I’d become while waiting.

Unlike adding a stone to the cairn along my mountain trek, each attempt to lift the fog on my life in New York, each effort to stamp an end date on my self-imposed visa, added a layer of uncertainty to the direction I should head. {To my credit, I’d also tried my hand at standing still; but how does one accomplish this in a city that doesn’t stop moving?} Uncertainty bred confusion; confusion bred frustration. It was no longer just a question of how long would I live in New York, but a disintegrating conviction as to why I had come at all; could I make it here; was this dream worth the sacrifice? The creeping doubts were inevitably stealing the sustenance of today to feed the clouding hopes of tomorrow; as a result, my soul was starving for attention.

It became artfully clear that something had to change. This shift in my confidence was not me; the loss of enthusiasm in my purpose wasn't either. The peaks I coveted were uncertain and the path towards them unforgiving, but that didn’t mean my inner compass was at risk of obsolescence. And somewhere between the rugged peaks of Eysturoy and the restless parade of Manhattan burned the insight to lift the fog -- while I have no power over the outside, I can control everything on the inside.

Inside, the dreams you seek to summit may be clouded over; the attempts to climb towards them may result in failure. Failure, though, is universally beneficial; we learn so little from success. When we fail, we’re forced to redirect and traverse a different path, and we so often stumble upon a better vantage point. Inevitably, from this vantage point, you will extricate one of two serendipitous notions: (1) an innovative strategy to reach the nearest peak, or (2) the realization that the nearest peak is suddenly unambitious, and with renewed courage, you amble on to conquer bigger dreams.

If you want to influence the outside, the space of endless, unorganized chaos, you needn't look further than your own intentioned thinking. It's the lesson you search the outside world over to find; every answer is, was, and always will be within. Yet, to arrive back at that place of certainty and decision, sometimes, we just need a lift.

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