Perspectives: Animal Reincarnation

I left for my run this morning anxious about the day ahead. I have slightly more on my plate today than usual, and the run was another checkmark on the to-do list.

A few steps outside my apartment complex I spotted something flailing on the sidewalk. My mind tried to dismiss it as leaves caught under a rock, but I knew it was an animal.

Once I got close I saw that it was a colorful bird on its back, quite alive but unable to turn itself over. Uncertain about its current mood in a fight/flight situation (no pun intended), I used my foot to gently turn it over. I expected him to fly away immediately.

Sadly, the bird just looked up at me once it was right-side up. It flapped its wings helplessly, and I couldn’t figure out if a wing or leg was broken. I wondered where the bird was from, since the typical brown city birds were the only others gathered nearby.

As I stood there wondering what to do, an old Hindu woman (bindi dot prominently placed) approached, concerned. “Is it alive?”

“Yes,” I said, as I bent down to pet it gently with a finger, diseases be damned.

“Do you have water?” she asked me, as well as others passing by who appeared unconcerned. No one had water.

We both frowned at the little creature, and I suggested we move him to the grass so he wasn’t stepped on or run over by a bike, which I believed was the incident that left him like that in the first place.

The stranger cupped him in her hands, mumbling something repeatedly to him in a language I couldn’t identify, but she said it in the manner a mother would repeatedly say “It’s ok, it’s ok…” to a crying child. She pet him and mentioned water again. I don’t think either of us had very high hopes for the little guy, and I was beginning to feel quite sad about the situation.

“He will have a better life next time,” she said simply.

I felt a ping of hope. It made me feel silly, of course, but being raised Christian we didn’t talk often about animals’ afterlife. The more I learned about Christianity, the more I learned that many denominations don’t believe animals will have an afterlife, as they don’t have souls.

In Hinduism, from the little I know, the soul passes through multiple stages of reincarnation, or samsara. The bird’s next life would be as a non-fish/bird animal, before reaching its pinnacle form as a human.

As we both walked off from the animal, the woman suddenly found a small container, and excitedly ran back up to the place she had left the bird. When I returned from my run half an hour later, the bird was no longer there. I hope she found a way to nurse it back to health, or at least to give it some comfort.

My perspective on the day was shifted by this small incident. I felt a larger connection with the world, and acknowledged my miniscule role in the process, regardless of religious beliefs.

The Feasibility of Five-Year Plans

I’m doing (nearly) everything I can to escape the grind of a 9-5 job right now. It’s all I’ve talked about on this blog for months as I get new work up and running. The Irrational Mind is doing well, and I’ve got Pampered Pets Travel mostly automated at this point. I’m still writing and selling ebooks under a pen name (what name? what genre? what publishing site(s)? I’ll never tell….). I’m now editing ESL academic manuscripts for three different companies. I have my first tutoring client with PrepMatters and I’m still keeping my eye out for additional freelance writing and editing opportunities. And, hey, this blog still needs to be updated!

Where am I going with all this?

I don’t know.

Many millenials, including myself, have given up on a five-year plan out of necessity. Forget the ten-year plans, the life plans, the retirement plans–we’re all just doing the best we can.

Job woes have led me to reconnect with friends I haven’t talked to regularly in years. Friends of all ages in what would appear to be stable, government jobs are dealing with reduced hours or the loss of their positions entirely. The job hunt isn’t friendly to anyone with any level of academic or work experience. If I were not married to Matt, I would most certainly be living at home, in Culpeper, working retail or fast food with my M.S.

But it’s not just all about the Millenials.

The sadness I feel when I see someone older than any age reached by my grandparents (all dead for years now) working to bag my groceries or greet me at Walmart is unparalleled. Yes, I deal with chronic depression, but the realization that these elderly people will most likely work until they die is another type of sadness entirely. Perhaps they got bored in retirement and decided to go back to work–this is always a possibility–but more and more seniors are being forced to return to the job market.

My five-year plan a little over a year ago, while I was still in grad school, was to finish my PhD and find a good postdoc. Matt and I still planned to get married this past May, but our living situation was undecided. We pretty much assumed we would end up in Oklahoma, with Matt working remotely for his current company (side note: his income alone would have bought us an awesome house in Oklahoma).

Suddenly, my five-year planned changed. I left grad school and have gone through about ten jobs (add dog walking, nannying, and my corporate position to the list in the first paragraph). Matt and I have gone from casually discussing the possibility of him being a stay-at-home dad while I pursued an academic path to setting myself up with jobs I can manage from home once I become a stay-at-home mom.

We would really really like a house before we have children. We think we’ll be able to accomplish that goal in the next five years, but a freelancer’s income is oh so variable that we rely mostly on his income.

But hey, at least I’ve already “accomplished” the feat of finding someone to marry. How about my friends that feel at a loss without a significant other? I would probably feel the same if I were in their shoes, as much as I like to pretend to be a hardcore independent woman. Matt’s usually my only human interaction during a day. Sometimes more interaction is overwhelming for me lately, as I continue to struggle with anxiety.

My mental health struggles have really forced me to “let go” more than I was ever able to in the past. Having a great support system in my friends, family, and Matt has been invaluable. I’ve given up on the five-year plan. Right now I have a today plan, which I mostly accomplished. The today plan included calling the dentist’s office to reschedule an appointment, picking up a prescription, writing this blog post, and checking my emails to make sure I’ve not overlooked a potential customer in one of my endeavors.

My next week plan involves continuing my new running routine (I’m running again!), a couple of tutoring meetings, and…I don’t know yet.

This isn’t my favorite place to be, routine-wise. But I’m dealing with it. And so are many others right now.