Are you coming or going?

Airplanes in a line waiting for takeoff

I don’t remember why or when, but I recently wrote down “am I coming or going?” on a post-it note. I think it’s a feeling that anyone who has ever been in a liminal space can relate to — perhaps in a time of change, facing a big decision, or just feeling uncertainty in general.

To me, the question encourages thinking about whether or not I’m where I need to be, or if it’s time to leave something behind.

And then I thought about some other things…

I have a memory of visiting my dad at work when I was a kid. There was an event happening and his office was open to the public. He managed a special piece of equipment that was used to train astronauts to handle G forces. You could say that it was a bit of a tourist attraction.

Here’s what I remember about my dad’s office: it was an industrial setting with high ceilings and exposed pipes and such, there was a desk without a computer but with a large paper blotter absolutely covered in doodles.

They were arrows, going in both directions, like this:

A post-it note with doodles of arrows going in both directions

At the time, and to this day, I wondered… what does it mean?! Sure, it could be mindless doodling while on a phone call or something, but it always made me think about that feeling of not knowing which direction you are going. Forwards? Backwards? Both at the same time? I remain curious.

Some more memories, this time in an airport, the ultimate liminal space (literally everyone is coming and going!).

Not one, but two airports. Both trips were work related. Both trips I did not want to go on.

On the first trip, I was headed to Toronto, which required proper documents, and a whole lot of confidence to go to a client kickoff with a team I was essentially auditioning for. I was really nervous about it.

There were terrible storms happening on our route that were causing a major delay. We were finally able to board the plane, and just sat there, not taking off, for what was certainly hours.

While we waited, I worked through my fears and anticipation. I just wanted to know if we were going or not. It was maddening.

The time ran out and they pulled back to the gate. The trip was off.

I rebooked a flight first thing in the morning, kicked ass at the meeting and flew home the same night.

The other airport though. I didn’t want to go at all. I had to fly across the country for onboarding at a company that I knew wasn’t going to work out. It was one of those gates that had multiple jetways. It was crowded and stressful.

As I sat there waiting, I thought about how much I did not want to go. No, I focused on how much I did not want to go. The flight was delayed for one hour, then two, and so on.

I sat there in limbo, with my noise-canceling headphones playing calming music, and waited, and wished for this flight to be canceled.

It was canceled. And I think I was partially responsible.

While I waited, I didn’t wonder if I was coming or going. I knew I wasn’t going to go, and I didn’t.

When you hear these stories, I wonder what comes up for you.

  • Have you ever felt like you weren’t sure if you were coming or going? What does that feel like? How did you get through it?
  • Have you ever experienced a certain knowing about something (a situation, a choice) even though you felt that you still had to ride it out for a bit to let external factors decide for you? How did that go for you?
  • If you are feeling that now, like you’re caught in the middle of this knowing and not knowing, what would happen if you just decided? If you trusted your internal compass and didn’t wait for the external signal?
  • What are you currently moving towards? What are you leaving behind?

You’re on your way.

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