Still Searching: A Growing Guide for 2023

At the beginning of 2023 and I'm not lost, just searching again for the next place to grow.

4 minutes
Haley Stomp

I’ve been called restless several times in my life. Sometimes my restless energy has fueled me to do great things. Other times, it’s been the impetus to take a risk, try something new. And, yes, sometimes, it’s left me feeling unsettled or unsatisfied.

Am I restless because there’s something I really want but don’t know how to get it? Am I restless because I’m avoiding something? Am I restless because no good Midwesterner sits idle for fear of spontaneously combusting? Is it an innate nod to my pioneering ancestors who had to work every minute to survive? Can I blame it somehow on being Gen X? Maybe a little bit of all of it.

Many times, I’ve dreamed about my life being a choose-your-own-ending adventure, where you can go back as many times as you want, make different decisions and live several different lives. I can imagine so many paths on so many continents. Being open to opportunities and new ways of seeing life is an adventure and an asset in brainstorming exercises, but it can be hard to be OK with here and now.

Recently I uncovered my old piano recital music from high school. It would take me months to be able to play some of those pieces again. I wonder what would have happened had I followed my love of music to college.

In my late 20s, I researched a dual MBA-Viticulture degree in California (viticulture is basically learning to grow grapes and make wine). I dreamed of finishing my master’s degree in sunny California, working at a vineyard and living happily ever after in a Hallmark-worthy romantic setting. Instead, I entered my thirties still in Iowa, got married, had kids and worked my way up in the same company for the next eighteen years.

Now I’m in my late forties with a lot to show for it. I am financially fine with a great family and years of work and travel experiences. But I’m restless again, and I’ve chosen again to jump to a new place in the book down a new path. It’s a process of refinement, getting closer to the goal with every move.

This journey has taught me that sometimes you need to sit and observe the restlessness and fight the urge to push through it blindly. Slowing down, being patient and not trying to control everything results in lots of cool surprises; it’s amazing what can happen when you get out of your own way. Your life doesn’t have to be a three-ring circus to be happy. Comparatively, constantly trying to control the chaos, adding more chaos and avoiding feeling things just leaves you beat up and still feeling the things you tried to avoid. Once in a while, you have to let it all fall to the floor, stand back and laugh at your big mess, pick up the pieces that really matter and get to building back something better.

If the last three years of my life were a tree, the 2020 “situation” shook the branches loose. I pruned the tree pretty hard in 2021 and brought a lot of baggage out of the closet and into the donation pile, literally and figuratively. 2022 was about finding new soil to support growth. I learned about starting a business, about the tech industry, about hopeful young entrepreneurs and college students and I learned a lot about the types of challenges that fuel me. I’m so grateful for the people who believed in me, supported me and especially my clients who trusted me to help them market their businesses. We all did some pretty cool things together last year.

I did a lot of building last year to shore up the roots of the tree and learn about the types of soil where I grow best. I’ve learned so much about the process of career change and refinement. I’m no longer a novice and I’ve built a network of amazing people for support and knowledge. I knew more quickly last year it was time for another transition and I was less afraid to refine. I also have a new appreciation of when to harness my restlessness for action and when to sit and observe the “feelings tornado” with a bowl of popcorn, a notebook and a sense of humor. Like U2, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but I’m getting closer. I’m searching again. Not lost, just growing toward the sun. Let’s go, 2023!