Living with Uncertainty

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Hi everyone!

Until recently, I have struggled with the idea of an ‘uncertain future’. I grew up in a family of government workers. In Turkey, if you work for the government, you are guaranteed for life. You have job security, full health care coverage etc. So, I valued guaranteeing things.

But I also have this side of me which sort of does not want to be confined. That kept me away from government work so far. It also made me move to a different country. When I came to the US, I had no idea what my future would look like. The only guarantee I had in front of me was the 5 years of PhD. I had no idea what would/will happen after that.

When I was in the middle of the PhD program, the reality of job prospects hit me harder. Most PhD graduates struggle with jobs. I was also experiencing personal changes, which made me question things that I was taking for granted. For example, I am not sure I want to live a stressful life anymore. At least not at the level of stress observed in academic circles.

The realization and the changes led to a total uncertainty about my future. Before, I at least had some potential ideas about what could happen later. But I saw that maybe none of these ‘could’s would happen. This challenged my ‘guarantee’ side. I struggled with this for a year and maybe more. This academic year, especially this semester, however, I have come to total acceptance of the uncertainty (as far as I can feel).

The recent situation with COVID19 was a test ground for me in that aspect. Now, a lot of things are uncertain: Will I be able to go back to Turkey in the summer? Will I be able to renew my visa (I have to do this when I go to Turkey)? If I can’t go in the summer, when will I be able to visit my family next? If I can’t extend my visa in the summer, how can I do it later? When will this situation end? I don’t have an answer to any of these questions but I did not react to this uncertainty. I feel comfortable with it. I think being at ease with uncertainty is becoming more of my nature. It is becoming a part of me. I am happy about this.

How do you deal with uncertainty? If you are comfortable with it, were you always like that or did you change (if the latter, how?)? If you are not, do you want to get rid of tenseness about it? Let’s discuss.

Betul

144 thoughts on “Living with Uncertainty

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      1. I try to 😊

        I had this conversation with someone and I was like slapped by reality after. It’s in my latest blog, by the way.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Having worked most of my adult life in the restaurant business, where the bulk of the inventory is perishable, uncertainty is inherent. I have learned to respond to what is happening now and to execute the next task at hand efficiently at service to the objective of the group

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I think you’re right to accentuate the idea of uncertainty. We are used to things being spelled out for us, but now is not such a time. We can have no concrete assurances right now, we have to accept uncertainty in our lives, and keep on going.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I feel this on so many levels, too. My family was supposed to move to Canada next year. Now we’re sitting here with all our documents ready for the visa application, thinking, where will we even be in a year and what’s going to be going on? It’s so tough.
    I love your blog, by the way, you have great content! Keep up the good work xx

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m sure we all struggle with uncertainty. I know I do. Having also moved to a different country, the rules over visas and travel only compound this, even without this virus, which layers another huge level of doubt and fear. But this is something the whole world’s in together.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What’s the saying? “Uncertainty is the only thing I’m certain of”, or something along those lines. It might sound overly simple, but I think it’s true. As other readers have commented, I think all we can do is try our best in the present moment, and do what we can to plan for a bright future.
    Best of luck in your PhD program, Betul.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Being a scientist by training and an agnostic by inclination uncertainty is not an issue. As a child one of my objectives in life was to make it to the age of 47. The year of the new millennium 2001.This in part was driven by my heritage and the stories of the Soviets and past history. European wars seemed much more likely back then.

    If all goes well, I will have beaten my objective by twenty years next year.

    Uncertainty is a part of life, as are sadness, disappointment and fear. There is no need to fear life.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True, but our survival instinct tells us that we need to guarantee things to survive, which is an illusion but something to be learnt.
      Very interesting objective, btw!

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  7. Uncertainty is reality. Secure certainty is a dream we all want, but it’s not the world we inhabit. It takes struggle to face the uncertainty. Some people never do, preferring the dream of certainty. The benefit of embracing uncertainty is resilience. You rebound better from life’s shocks and disappointments when you aren’t having your whole belief system shattered by every reversal of fortune.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. There’s a quote that I had recently discussed in a brief meeting with my psychiatrist, where “the only consistency we have in life is inconsistency.” That’s the closest to the truth during times like these. Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Life happens while you’re Making Other Plans is my favorite quote. I use meditation and try to focus on what I have control over. Still it is hard but I have learned to deal with stress better as Iage.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s hard of course to feel that way. Well, I learned to let go of uncertainty because when you worry too much you are wasting your energy on the things you can’t control. Instead I am choosing to learn from the situation, because there is always a lesson and always possibilities to experience something new. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In software development, I have come to think of the process of building systems as involving “predictable unknowns”. I invoke this concept when trying to estimate when certain projects might reach certain stages of completion; I can not always know *what* might happen to add complexity or a wrinkle (or as it is sometimes called, an “undocumented feature”), but I can nearly always rely on something unknown happening, if the endeavour is complex enough. As others have said already, there is certainly certainty about uncertainty 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I feel as though personally, there aren’t too many things in life that are guaranteed except death itself. Life isn’t a guarantee for everyone but coming to an end has no identity. For this reason, I try to live my life in a very optimistic way, being thankful of everything that I have learned, encountered, and had been blessed enough to talk about. Nothing in life is guaranteed but we all have the opportunity to see the greatness in everything possible.

    Great read and thanks for the follow!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The great French philosopher Voltaire was working in his garden one day when some of his students came to visit. He continued to work as they were ushered in. One of the students asked him what he would want to do if the world were going to end in an hour. His response?

    “I think I’d like to work in my garden.”

    The past is a dream and the future is a fantasy. The one thing you are guaranteed is that you are alive right now.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. wow you even struggle for work with a PhD. I don’t have a PhD but I am struggling to find work in the field I want so then there is no real concrete pathway to guarantee an end goal like securing a great job. The same applies in other areas of our lives. For me it’s about moving forward even with those uncertainties, surroud yourself with people who believe in you and do your ‘inner’ work more often (meditate, sit in silence etc).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well-said! I think uncertainty is a big part of life. Nothing in life is ever certain. I don’t even know if I will have a tomorrow, for example. No one really knows. We just assume. So, we need to do the best of the present moment.

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  15. wow, I’m also a foreigner PhD student in the US (I am from Europe), and have decided not to go on the academic market AND to take a gap year after I defend in September 🙂 This is uncertainty at its fullest, especially with the covid situation 🙂 All I can do it take it day by day and not think too far into the future 🙂 Good luck with finishing the dissertation 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. My prayers for you to stay confident through this test because God didn’t bring you this far to leave you. Trust!
    I can relate to those feelings of uncertainty that you face. I’m retired but that “good government job” that I had for 35 years was a struggle. I loved helping people but I felt it took too much from my family. I stayed tense many times but giving to others was a joy. I always will have a giving heart! Only when I put my trust in Father God I could say it’s all up to Him! You will make it! Life is being able to see your situation and believing everything will be in your favor. Why? You are here to make a miracle for someone else. Give and it will be given back to you in love.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Betul,
    You have written about an important aspect of life in a beautiful way. I too have faced uncertainties most of my life, and at times i was perplexed as to how to handle those. By and by i learnt to face the situations calmly, and i found that many things got sorted out given time and patience. This quote from Reinhold Niebuhr, which i had across while in college, made a lasting impact on how look at life and my reactions :
    ” Grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
    Yes, i am not too uncomfortable or tense in the face of uncertainty.
    Best wishes,
    Niru Sarawgi

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What a nice quote! We mostly end up accepting uncertainties because there is no other way. Life is just like that and it will teach us that lesson in some way.
      Also thank you for your nice words!

      Like

  18. Certainty is absent in this life as far as i have expeirenced. But to be uncertain about everything takes our recent moments. I always say, sometimes, someone at somewhere is uncertain about uncertainity. Hyper consciousness is a disease but we must keep it alive to gain it at some level.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Right! We must have plans but not be too obsessed with them and leave room for possible changes. But we must also not be too lax about them because then we don’t get anything done.

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  19. You’re not alone. I too, at one point felt uncertain about the future, my health, and my prospects with a job. It got to me for a long while and then…I chose not to let it get to me things will work themselves out somehow. And with strong support from close families, or friends.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. What a gift to be so vulnerable. I have never been a big worrier and living in the moment is the best option. COVID-19 really makes you think about things with better perspective. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. I really struggle with uncertainty and I hate that I struggle with it. I know where it comes from. It was born from a crazy dysfunctional childhood where there was always a tremendous amount of uncertainty. I want to exist in a comfortable fly by the seat of your pants, true internal faith that the universe will take care of me state of mind but the reality is that it is work for me to live there. Right now there is an insane amount of uncertainty about our most basic of needs. So I try in my more rational and spiritual moments to focus on what I am able to control- me, my actions and attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your experiences are the reason for you to search for relaxation with spirituality, which is actually what we should be searching for. I am also getting more interested in meditation and spiritual practices in this time, which is a good thing. These practices will show us our higher self.

      Liked by 2 people

  22. “I think being at ease with uncertainty is becoming more of my nature”. This is part of what everyone of my clients is going through. COVID19 is reminding us that while it is a good idea to have a plan, not everything in life is certain and that is fine. Best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I am currently writing my thoughts on the future with how it will be powered and who will have control. Give it a read whenever you get the chance. Your blogs are awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I suppose it depends on the type of uncertainty & the potential outcomes from it. If there’s something I can do to reduce uncertainty where there could be a negative outcome, then I’d try reduce it. I like to have a backup plan if things don’t work out. In some situations uncertainty is ok, depending on what other resources are available. Currently my whole career & where I’ll live is uncertain, but I have options available that means I’ll be ok regardless, so I’m not too worried. Tricky question 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, they’re pretty solid options. I know I’ll have a place to live where I’m living at the moment – it’s not where I planned to be at this stage – I had planned to move to a different part of the UK or possibly abroad this year, but I don’t think I will do that any time soon now. I have loads of admin and advisory experience that I can ‘fall-back on’ if a career in nutrition or health doesn’t work out (I haven’t found anything yet) – having said that, I don’t regret the last 5 years studying these areas regardless of the job outcome. Is it possible for you have a back up plan with an option that’s available to you in case the options you’re striving for need to be delayed/can’t be reached at this time?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, I think I am not going to be unemployed for long, because I have a teaching diploma. I can teach almost anywhere in my home country. That is my Plan Z. I want to do something else but I don’t know what yet, so no options there.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. At least, living with uncertainty is not a lonely position. I think all of us are right there with you. Rather than try to diminish those feelings, we can start looking at what we can do. I watched a video today where an acquaintance talked about a company that thought it might go bankrupt, COVID inspired an idea to help – and it completely changed their business model and success. This is a time to ask questions – whether on visas, travel, jobs – and if so inclined, pray for answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. What a fabulous conversation topic!

    So far as I can tell, being comfortable with uncertainty correlates with being comfortable with reality. The truth is…we never knew what would come tomorrow. That was as true four months ago as it is, today. It’s only that, four months ago, we THOUGHT we knew what was coming. We were able to tell a story about how we knew what we would be doing next week or tomorrow. What this pandemic has done is pulled back the curtain and said “Gotcha! You NEVER knew what was coming!” I think that might be why it stirs fear in so many people. It’s uncomfortable to be reminded that anything could change at any moment. HOWEVER…if we can lean into that, it can be tremendously valuable. It sounds like what you have been able to do is dance with uncertainty. What that translates to me is that you have learned to dance with life as it really is.

    As for me? I have had a lot of changes and upheavals in my life. So like you, I’ve developed the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And that, in its own way is SUPER comforting. Because while I may not know that “everything will be okay”…I can at least know that I will be able to respond well when I need to…so I guess in my own way, I know that “I will be okay”

    Liked by 2 people

  27. While uncertainty scares me at some degree, it also gives me some form of reassurance. I feel comforted of the fact that uncertainties in life allows you to strive for the better and make your own dent on this world, for uncertainty would mean not being confined in a nutshell.

    Thank you for sharing your insights about uncertainty. It made me revisit my perspective on the subject matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Wow, your post was beautifully written! I’m only in middle school, so I don’t worry about the future too much! ☺️ But when I do, try to look at the uncertainties as opportunities. Opportunities to learn, grow, give back to the community! We can’t predict the future, but we can always maintain a positive attitude and be kind towards one another. I hope that you will get to see your family as soon as possible, and please don’t stress yourself out! Take this time a to think, not worry, about the future and what you want it to bring! 😄

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  29. As a Christian I realize my days have already been established. This does not mean I don’t have choice but I can choose to partner with a plan prepared for me. This plan will give me the deepest sense of fulfillment and bring me an attainable peace regardless of the current circumstance. Jeremiah 29:11 says, I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.
    It is on this promise I can rest and know security.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I learned to accept what I can’t control because I discovered I really can’t control all aspects of life. I make peace with the anxiety it gives me. In a way is surrendering to the energy of the universe positively. Nothing is under control but at all moments we can control our state of mind. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Having faith and seeking wise counsel are what guide me during a period of restlessness. The uncertainty is like taking a step without guidance from God. It is foolish to take a step. Most of the time it is best to wait for God’s answer and have patience. It can be frustrating, but the wait can be truly rewarding once the wait is over and God’s plan for you is revealed.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I understand that each stage of your life has its unique challenges. So uncertainty brings out my Plan B. plan C… instinct for having reasonable control of my currentcircumstances. Sadly, faith has little to do with this credo.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Thoughtful post. I’m on the extreme other end of uncertainty, I’m an artist, month by month,for decades, I don’t know if I’ll have money to live. On the other hand I have 100% freedom to pursue my art—no commissions, no commercial work—just following my soul. The few times I’m disparate collectors come to the rescue. Very few people can live this way, but the reward is extravagant silence of freedom. My vision of art absolutely rules the process. If you live with uncertainty what is making that trade off worthwhile? Are you taking advantage of the freedom to do your life’s calling? I’m sure if I didn’t have my art then family and responsibilities would drive me more towards security.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Betul, thank you! You received so many meaningful and thoughtful comments to your post. That is an exceptional talent. My professor of art, Edgar Ewing, told us “find something to make money and do your art out of love.” For something so beautiful it takes a certain kind of ruthlessness. Well intentioned people often try to direct you to give it up, or to compromise. Be wise, clever, and be kind to yourself.

        Liked by 1 person

  34. While I am neither a regimented nor complacent person, I do value continuity and dependability. While I like the freedom of choosing what I do and where I will go, I also like knowing where my sustenance is coming from. This is why, in spite of being a creative person, I have never tried to turn those efforts into a livelihood. I like the certainty of a paycheck so that I may enjoy my creative efforts without worry. Now, even that is threatened with the virus situation, more so because I am in the medical field, although a non essential specialty for the most part. I am also not a young person so the risk is greater every time I am ‘out there’, yet I am not old enough yet to retire. I feel badly for my children and grandchildren since their lives have only just begun. 😔

    Liked by 1 person

  35. A really frank note on thought reflection indeed.. Thumps Up Betul!
    Uncertainty in itself is an individualistic trait.. found in me too.. so here we are sailing in the same boat.
    Accepting uncertainty in totality reflects your maturity and the will to make peace with ourselves… Yet, the more we dwell on uncertainty, the more nerve-wracking it is…
    Hence, it’s best to seek measures to overcome the same… simultaneously to cultivate a strong mindset to face our unpredictable future,
    Wish you the Best!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Check out my blog post that’s being released tomorrow which has a humorous take on coping with Corona (not to imply that this is a funny topic but as the saying goes….laughter is sometimes the best medicine). I mix up music and movies with workouts so one day I’m Eminem, another day I’m Jonny Cash and another day I’m Rocky. My way of coping both today and beyond. Hope this helps.

    Liked by 1 person

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