What Makes a Life Worth Living?

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Last Thursday, my job and I broke up.  After 550 some odd days…  after thousands of hours spent in fog or frenzy… after years of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole – we have both decided it’s time to see other people.  God willing, I will never work in the legal field again.

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi once defined success as doing something that makes both yourself and others happy simultaneously.  Gauging my paralegal career against  these parameters, it was a failure.  That doesn’t mean I have regrets.

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While I could say some unsavory things about the environment I worked in, my parting ways with [Insert firm name here] was not entirely their fault.  At a certain point, I had to admit to myself that I am about as suited for paralegal-ing as Lindsay Lohan is for life coaching.

Is it because I’m not smart or capable?  No.  It’s not my passion, and I knew it.  I want to do something I love to do, or at least, something I don’t feel totally indifferent about.

That said, behind me looms seven years of work experience in law firms; nine months of excruciating paralegal school homework; and a parent whom may or not have taken pride in knowing his daughter wanted to follow in his footsteps.

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When I jump ship, some would argue it’s more like I walk the plank over shark-infested waters.  I forfeit good health insurance, financial security, certainty, and structure.  But let’s talk about what I gain.

I gain possibilities.  I gain freedom.  I gain a purpose.  I gain the window to a well-lived life.  I gain a shot at my “somewhere over the rainbow.”

Speaking of which, do you know why “The Wizard of Oz” is the most popular movie of all time?   It’s the most popular movie of all time because the film goes to bat for something we all want more than anything else: it champions hope.

By way of her journey away from Kansas towards Oz, Judy Garland encourages us to believe that we can escape grim realities for dreams not yet realized – maybe not yet known.

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And like Dorothy, I am not in Kansas, or rather [Insert firm name here] anymore.  And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared.

But, and that’s a big but, I defer to Mark Twain’s famous words on this issue: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  Not going to the job I’ve held for so long is scary – but the idea of continuing to go to that job is far scarier.

I am also proud of myself.  I mustered enough courage to leave this chapter behind, and that is brave.  I found the strength to do this by starting with a baby step: by finding out what it is that I really like.  What I’ve discovered is: what I thought I liked, isn’t what I like at all.

Like, I have a passion for color.

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…animals…

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…art…

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…and language.  In all its forms and fashions.

As I begin to read, I lose all sense of my identity, all awareness of my surroundings.  Engrossed by the in’s and out’s of the characters, the beauty of the imagery – all other thoughts evaporate.  Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi calls this a “state of flow” and its a state of consciousness we should aim for every moment of our lives.  Some people find it when they’re putting together an exquisite outfit; some when they’re writing a piece of music; some when they’re spending time with their significant other.

I never really knew that those above were the things I loved most.  I didn’t know that I should surround myself with color; that I should write; or that doing something as simple as buying flowers every week, would make me so happy.

I capture my joy, my state of flow, in stories and in beauty.  Where do you find your joy?  What have you always liked?

The preferences of people are as unique as fingerprints, but what I hope for you, is that you bring to light what it is that you love most – however seemingly mundane, silly, or indulgent – and that you make this, whatever it is, the lifeblood of your days.

This is how I used to feel at work:

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Today I feel like this:

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And this:

Because, although I really don’t know how I’m going to fare in my new life – I have no way of knowing that – my intuition tells me I needed to do this.  I’m following my yellow brick road.  And while the Scarecrow, Tin Man, or Lion aren’t accompanying me on my way, I’ve got some pretty stellar friends, family members and mentors to help put the Wicked Witch of the West in a world of hurt.

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And all of the sudden, things are falling into place.  My best friend and I live together now and it’s awesome (our apartment would make Pinterest jealous); I went on the first enjoyable date I’ve been on in an embarrassingly long time; and professional opportunities are presenting themselves.  Dorothea Brande knew what she was talking about when she said, “Act boldly and unseen forces come to your aid.”

And frankly, we are all a lot braver than we perceive ourselves to be.  I’ve lived in a foreign country; graduated from college with high marks; and recovered from months of bed rest and resultant mind-numbing solitude.  We’ve all overcome challenges we didn’t think we could.  Just because we don’t know what’s going to happen, doesn’t mean we can’t handle it.  You have to trust your instincts, and you have to have faith.  Your life just doesn’t work as well if you don’t.  And each day, I inch towards courage.  I move towards faith.  I believe in a brighter future now.  I believe in myself.

 
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4 thoughts on “What Makes a Life Worth Living?

  1. Natalie, CONGRATULATIONS on moving on. When my book comes out you will see i quit my Public Accounting job and launched into the unknown. You are in for a much better ride. Looking forward to our interview. B.

    Brian Smith P. 760-917-2988 F. 760-943-7370 mr.ugg@me.com

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