I always wondered if there was something wrong with me. I was a flake, you see, never sticking to one thing for very long, never committing to a lifelong direction. I thought I was the sort who, had I been rich enough, would suffer from Material Dissatisfaction (always buying something new; never happy with what I already had.) It seemed that I had a bad case of Purpose Dissatisfaction (always doing something new, wanting another career, or giving up on something I’d done for years.) What a flake!
I couldn’t stick with anything. As a child I wanted to be a fire fighter (yeah, I know, I’m a girl but that never slowed me down back then,) a rock star (I make Steven Tyler sound like a trained opera singer so that wasn’t going to happen,) a professor of history, a writer, a comic book artist. The list only grew as I got older.
Sitting with Susan Bishop (www.mindover.com) chatting over tea, she gave me a little insight as to why I’m not a flake. Why the soul never “seems” satisfied. Why we never stay the same. You see, our souls appear to know exactly one statement: “That’s great – you finally did what I want – next!” The soul yearns for exploration, it cries for a good stretch, it wants to know everything first hand. We often hear it called the Restless Soul. But name suggests that there is something wrong with all this. And our culture is going along with that assessment. We’re told to pick a career and to do it from now on – forever and ever. At age 18, entering college, you need to determine your life’s path, sign up for the right major, and begin. If you want to be a doctor now, then you’ll be a doctor all your life. Yet, statistically, that’s an insupportable belief. Most people change jobs and careers five times in their life (that’s always been the case – look at the career paths of some historical figures and you’ll see a laundry list of lawyer, banker, Civil War general, etc.) People change marriages today because where they grew together yesterday, they have grown apart today. The cliché that the only Constant in the Universe is Change is valid!
For 25 years I religiously attended the Renaissance Faires as a participant. I was obsessive about costuming and props and details. Today: not so much urgency. In fact, I haven’t been to a “big fair” in years and don’t have the court costumes I once adored. Is there something wrong with me? All throughout the 1980’s and much of the 90’s I went to every possible Sci Fi Convention, even travelling up to Canada for one. I was an artist. I had a table in the Artist’s Alley. I drew comics (and not very well but they were fun!) But today, I haven’t gone to a regular Sci Fi Convention in ages – in a decade at least. I used to be involved with Falconry. I wanted to be a Marine Biologist because I loved painting and learning about Whales. But not today. Why can’t I just settle down? What is wrong with me?
We do things that bring us joy. We do those things that satisfy us at a level that is amazingly intimate and impossibly deep. We make our souls happy. And we do more than just survive day by day because we learn to listen to our souls. But the soul then asks its favorite question: “What’s next?” And that is natural. So now, I am a writer. And you better believe it is going to get 250% of my energy and attention. To say writing satisfies me seems an understatement. Will that be satisfying to the end of my days – possibly. I’ve certainly had the writing bug since childhood. But what if 20 years from now I change?
Then I change.
Wait – you say – but you’re not writing full time! You didn’t jump off the cliff of monetary needs, throw caution to the wind, and cut loose your inner Hemingway. Nope – because my soul may need satisfaction but my landlord needs a cheque on the first. We live in a material world. So we do what my friends in Bangalore call “the needful.” We satisfy our souls in the way we each know is best – some of us escape routines designed by others that do not satisfy our souls by ripping that band aid off! Some of us soak it off gently. I cannot say which is your path. But if you’re like me and really hate the rent money job, a change of attitude may be needed. It’s not your purpose and YOU ARE NOT YOUR JOB. It’s a means to handle the practical, to “do the needful.” If you’re in tune with what your soul wants this week/year, you then know that the practical too is temporary. If you are not your job, then you are free to be what you are now. And if you are not your job, then it cannot permanently harm your soul.
Thus I offer to you: if you are an opera singer – be an opera singer (even if you need to manage a business to get the paycheck to pay the singing coach.) You are not a manager – your soul doesn’t want you to be a manager – you are an opera singer. And who knows – perhaps you will become an opera star. But please don’t kick yourself if 10 years down the road you’re an actress or a surgeon or a public school teacher. Your soul and mine are apparently rather fickle. Look at it this way: imagine doing everything on your bucket list with gusto and OCD energy? Wow, what a life – what a range of experiences – and not a flake in sight.