Ask the Agony Augury: The Fork in the Road

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Today's question has more than a little bit in common with the last question The Agony Augury tackled back in September. I hope today's querent takes a little comfort in knowing that she's not the only one facing a crossroads! 

Dear Agony Augury, 

I recently graduated college, moved back in with my parents, and am working a slow job at a grocery store. My mom has ideas for where my future should go -- and part of that involved persuading me to take more classes at a local college -- but I don't want any part of it. It's hard to be motivated about something you didn't decide on, y'know? I've been enjoying a fraction of the freedom I had at university, and I've had to lie to my parents every day which makes me feel awful. I quit my classes but haven't told my parents, for fear of their reaction. I'm feeling trapped, like I'm a teenager all over again, and I'm starting to resent my family; all I want is the freedom to decide my own life path and take risks without parental guilt/expectations looming over me. To add to the frustration, I haven't been contacted by any of the jobs I've applied to. To get to the point: should I stay and not make (more) waves, or should I walk out I my parents (my boyfriend will soon need a new housemate) to carve out my own life? Should I stay or should I go -- what can you see for me in the cards? 

A Girl at a Crossroads

A Girl at a Crossroads, thanks for writing in! As I said above, this kind of question crops up all the time for tarot readers, so take a little heart in the knowledge that everyone finds themselves paralysed before that fork in the road at some point in their lives. To answer your question, I've decided to get back to basics, and use a classic, three-card spread. We could spend a whole bunch of time exploring option A versus option B, but I think it's more useful to cut out the umming and ahhing and go straight for the jugular. Let's dive right into the heart of this situation - ie, right into your heart - and see what the cards can illuminate for you. 

For your reading, I'm using the Dreaming Way Tarot. It's a whimsical and supportive deck that isn't afraid to dish out some firm advice when the situation calls for it. Just what the doctor ordered!

At first glance, this spread gives me the feeling that you're in the midst of a developing story. A crossroads indeed! It's impossible not to notice the two trumps, Temperance and The Devil, which are numbers fourteen and fifteen in the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana represents all the possible stages of development we can experience on our life's journey, and to see two of those consecutive stages in sequence here suggests that there's a lesson or a major life development bubbling away under the surface here! 

1. The Situation - What's really going on here? XIV Temperance

Temperance speaks to the fact that you feel caught at this crossroads. In all aspects of this situation there are two sides to the story, two options at play, and you're frantically trying to keep them in balance. There's what you want, and what your parents want for you. There's following your own impulses, and trying to keep your parents' approval. You're in a situation where you're trying to do two things at once - you've quit your classes because that's what feels right to you, but you're also living something of a secret life in order to keep your parents happy - and you're trying to keep both of those contradictory balls in the air. It's stressful, as you've no doubt discovered!

Temperance often gets associated with the word "balance," but for me, it's about so much more than that. What we're talking about here is alchemy, the creative and magical combining of two disparate ingredients in order to make something entirely new. What you're working with right now are the ingredients for the recipe, not the final product. As in cooking and chemical reactions, in order to get to that final product, there has to be a catalyst. You have to activate what you have on hand to bring it together and transform its nature. 

What does this mean in the context of being stuck at this crossroads? This situation is calling for more of your creativity and courage. Trying to keep all these options open and not make any waves isn't making you happy, but you also don't want to say, "Screw you!" to your parents and cut them out of the equation. Temperance says that you can't keep these two parts of your life separate forever. There must be a way for you forge your own path and to preserve your relationships, even if, as in making a cake, you do need to apply a little heat to the situation in order to spark a change! One thing is certain here, though - you are the alchemist. If you'll allow me to extend the cooking metaphor, it seems that this situation - and your wellbeing as you try to weather the status quo - is reaching boiling point. Simply having your ingredients on the table isn't enough. You have to be the one stirring this pot!

2. The Obstacle - What is the nature of your biggest blockage or problem in this situation? Page of Swords

Crossroad, it's my hunch that the Page of Swords is about your relationship with your parents. Pages are the children of the deck, that playful, youthful, fresh and inexperienced energy we all need to channel from time to time. When this energy comes up as an obstacle, though, it suggests a lack of agency, perhaps childishness on your part, perhaps infantalisation of you on your parents' parts. Put simply, even though you've left home and received a university education, it's easy to slip back into being the kid when back in your family home. It happens to the best of us! For some inexplicable reason, as an adult my first stop as soon as I cross the threshold of my parents' house is the pantry, where I madly and vacantly eat dry cereal out of the box, even if we're just about to sit down to dinner. What's with that?! I haven't lived at home in over a decade, and in my "real" life I don't ever even buy cereal! Something adolescent comes over me when I get into that house, clearly. But, I digress!

You're in a situation where you have hidden your true desires in order to keep parental approval, and you're resenting and rebelling against the dominating influence of your parents, your mother in particular. On the flipside, you don't sound particularly excited about your current job, and the hunt for something better is frustrating and disappointing. No wonder you're feeling like the Page of Swords, with that powerful Queen (that'd be your mum) and King (the world at large) trying to thwart your destiny! All of this has cohered to create a situation where you feel like it's impossible to make a decision, let alone know which path you'd want to take.

Another aspect of this Pagely obstacle is the idea of making a new start. You are in a transitional period of your life, between the end of one major commitment and the beginning of whatever comes next. Scary shit, dude! We put a lot of pressure on people at this crux of college and "real life" to make the right choices, as if your choices are immutable and the life you want for yourself at 21 will be the life you'll always want. That blank slate weighs heavy indeed, and I think the Page suggests you're feeling that acutely. Perhaps in some ways it feels easier to hide under the parental blanket and be resentful, because the alternative is, "What the hell am I supposed to do with my life?!" Realistically, though, you don't want that. You've said as much. This situation is becoming untenable, and your fear of making a move is going to level out with your irritation at your family any minute now and force your hand!

To tie all of that into a nice little package, the obstacle that you need to overcome is your lack of agency and autonomy. I don't mean to suggest that your relationship with your parents isn't good, and it's certainly a wonderful thing to have family to support you during this transitional time in your life. This isn't about saying, "Screw you, motherfuckers!" and riding off into the sunset so much as it is about you allowing yourself to take on your fully adult form. You're not a child anymore, and while you'll always be their baby in your parents' eyes, that doesn't mean you need to live your life as if you are an actual, literal kid. You really don't have to take classes that don't interest you, and you don't have to pursue a career path you don't like just because your mother thinks you should. How you negotiate your blossoming adulthood with your parents will probably take some consideration (as I said, there's no need for door slamming!), and it make take some time for them to accept your decisions, but this is coming to a head. The pot of your adult life is bubbling! You're the freakin' alchemist! 

3. The Advice - What course of action or approach can you take to get that energy flowing again? XV The Devil

Ooh, mama! I love/hate it when The Devil shows up, because this means we need to do a little work on ourselves. Oh, joy! Well, I say "ourselves," but really, I'm just the messenger. You're the one being called to do the heavy lifting! The good news is, though, that the rewards of The Devil are great. This card really forces us to get to know ourselves, and to work through the demons we might be sheltering that get in the way of us being happy and fulfilled. 

The question that The Devil is proffering to you is at once extremely simple and highly complex: What do you need to do right now in order to let yourself grow up? I don't mean that as insult; please don't think I'm being flippant or accusatory. What's at stake here is the chance for you to evolve (which we're all being called to do, regardless of age or experience - it's all the journey, or whatever it is they say!). We've already noted that you have two sequentially numbered Major Arcana cards in this reading. You're in a transitional, liminal place in your life, AND you're engaged in the most archetypal of conflicts, the cutting of the metaphorical adolescent umbilical cord! I know I keep saying it, but Crossroads, your pot is boiling! 

And yet, you're stuck in limbo. Why is that? Is it fear of that new beginning, fear of taking responsibility? Fear of upsetting people you love? The trap of old habits in your relationship with your parents, making you behave in ways that don't serve your interests? Uncertainty about how to navigate adult conversations with the people who've known you since babyhood? All of that is completely understandable (hell, I confessed to my compulsive parental cereal eating, so you know you're not the only one!). We all have little devils within us that stop us from growing. The thing is, you're obviously unhappy and looking for an out, so it's time to take those little devils to account. 

The enemy of The Devil is self-reflection. The shady shit this guy gets up to can't go on once you shine the light of your awareness on it. Rather than tackling the problem of what to do for the entire rest of your life, start with the inside of your head. What's going on between you and your parents? Do you feel like a kid when you're with them? Are there any childish or regressive thoughts or behaviours sneaking in as a result? What are your fears and hopes for this situation? If you can't get those jobs you're going for, what would a bearable plan B for you right now? In what ways might you be contributing to your own stuckness or holding yourself back? Confronting The Devil can be really uncomfortable, so go gently, but I think you'll find that if you're prepared to do the work, you'll be able to navigate yourself out of this corner. Whether that ultimately means you decide to move out, or apply for different jobs, or go back to school, or wait it out and spend some time chillin' at the grocery store and living amiably and honestly with your folks is all up to you, but a little inner inquiry will go a long way towards helping you cultivate true agency and use it in service of your own good! 

Good luck, Girl at a Crossroads, and thank you for writing in!


The Agony Augury

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