Letting Go Like The Waffle Man
Befriending an uncertain future.
We parked, stepped out of the car, then pulled on our sweaters and vests before locking the doors to our white Renault Logan and marching down the street.
After a two hour drive, my Dad and I were desperate for coffee.
Like any tech dependent traveler, I checked the reviews – 4.7 stars, 159 Google reviews — on the first place we walked by, La Wafflería.
Good enough. We stepped inside.
I greeted the man behind the counter with a half-hearted hola and we took a seat.
The salt and pepper haired middle aged man I had greeted walked over with two, single sheet laminated menus, and welcomed us with bright blue eyes, a cheery British accent, and fluent English. It was the first time I had communicated with a waiter in more than smiles, nods, and pointing in two months.
He asked us where we were from and what we were doing here.
Canada. We’re here to see Patagonia. What are you doing here?
It’s a big country, which part of Canada? I’m selling waffles.
Toronto. We can see that. How did you end up here?
He told us he was born and raised in England. Just south of London where the fields are green. The expensive part.
He came to El Bolsón, a remote town in Patagonia, Argentina, seventeen years ago, in his early thirties. The father of his Argentine wife wanted to retire and needed someone to run the family waffle business.
So, not knowing how the future would play out, he and his wife and young kids uprooted, left prosperous England, and moved to El Bolsón. He learned Spanish after arriving and took over the business which he’s run for nearly two decades now.
If you asked our waffle wielding friend what he would be doing at age fifty when he was twenty, running a waffle shop in remote Patagonia wouldn’t have made the list.
If you asked him when he was twenty five or even thirty, he still couldn’t have known.
Yet he seemed perfectly happy and proud of his waffle shop.
I’ve struggled with significant periods of anxiety since graduating from university just over two years ago.
The source of my worry is singular:
Trying to predict and control the future.
As a hard-charging, future-focused, Type A, I have a natural urge to want to know and control my future, especially in the most uncertain area of my life, my career. But no matter how strong my need for certainty, I’ve begun to realize that I cannot predict or control what lies ahead.
And I’m starting to believe that’s a good thing.
Five years ago, 19 year old Jack hated writing. He wrote when he had to for school assignments and had been told by teachers his whole life that he sucked at it. If you told him that in five years he would quit his business job to write full-time and travel, he would have laughed. Write what?
Like the waffle man, my younger self couldn’t have predicted where I would be today, yet, I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else.
If I had planned out my life after landing the business job I quit, then I would have shut the door to the intentional and intuitive life I’m living now.
Rather than listening to my gut instinct, being self aware, and boldly following my genuine interests — which led me to writing what you’re reading as I look out my window at snow capped Patagonian mountains — I’d be sitting in a drab office, pretending I liked my job, and forcing fake enthusiasm into every interaction I had.
By surrendering to uncertainty, I’m carving an authentic life aligned with my values and passions.
Although I’m equally uncertain as to whether I’ll end up shooting heroin and living in a tent on East Hastings Street or somehow carve a lucrative career out of the work I love, I’m slowly learning to befriend uncertainty.
My approach to the unknown is shifting from “predict and control” to “intention and faith.”
As I’ve painfully learned, the more I desired certainty over a future outcome, the more I suffered. The greater your need to eliminate uncertainty, the greater your need to befriend it.
In life, it seems that he who is least attached to outcomes while being intentional about the day-to-day process wins. With intentional inputs, you give yourself the freedom to remain open to outcomes that could exceed your wildest imagination.
In the fleeting moments when I remember the words I wrote here, life is good. I welcome uncertainty with an open heart and embrace where I am and what I’m doing in the moment.
My thoughts still despairingly drift to what my life will look like in six months or six years, imagining failure and wreck much more often than breakthrough and success.
But I’m trying to keep my focus on the microscale of today, pursuing the daily inputs with intention and faith, and reminding myself that, if I do, the next five years might be as wonderfully unpredictable and unexpected as the last.
Where in your life are you holding on to unpredictable outcomes instead of focusing on daily inputs? How might you shift your focus from future results to present process?
Thank youand for your invaluable support and feedback in the process of writing this piece.