Lao Tzu said, “At the center of your being, you have the answer. You know who you are and you know what you want.” So what is it that you want?
In the days before I owned a bra or a razor, I knew what I wanted.
Wisdom dwells in Hawaiian Punched years when you’re crushing on someone with a bowl cut. My parents still pushed me out of the way when glass fell on the floor, and covered my eyes during the steamy Titanic sex scene. I remember the tether balls and the feeling of grass under my bare feet. And if I try really hard, I can remember my unafraid and hopeful heart beating ga guh, ga guh. Sandwiched between Chickenpox and letters to Santa Clause, I remember the openness you feel before the world takes anything from you.
I licked Snozberries on wallpaper, and flew sideways in the Great Glass Elevator. I dove 20,000 leagues under the sea in the Nautilus, and ate off a broken plate with The Box-Car Children. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s yellow prairie stretched my heart a million miles wide, and I believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast with Alice and the White Rabbit. Limitlessness lived in illustrations dancing across covers, and in libraries and in bookstores, I felt the most me.
I desperately wanted to be like the ones who dreamt up giant peaches, and spiders who spelled out messages in their webs. And as I ran across playgrounds circled by trees waking with red and orange, I wanted to paint my world beautiful with my rainbow colors. I wanted my imagination to burst at the seams with Vermicious Knids and Tom Sawyers. I wanted my mind to be busy creating beautiful worlds that were not of this one. Roald Dahl and Jules Verne were the people I wanted be when wrinkles started marching across my face.
I forgot my dream for awhile because it’s an “unrealistic” dream. But if I wanted it then, and I want it now… if my talents are there, and my love is, too – doesn’t that mean I should pay attention to this? And shouldn’t you, too?
I know who I am and I know what I want, and I have a feeling you do, too. Because when we are born, we are born with passions that are sewn into our souls. We often ignore the voices that say “try this” and “do this.” But the thing is, those voices are never going away. It’s hard to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. But it seems to me I’d be really stupid to not write. My dreams are also my gifts, even if mine is a talent on training wheels.
And yes there are risks. Like Sylvester Stallone, who was so poor as a writer, his wife left him and he had to sell his dog for money. But necessity breeds invention and that same week, Stallone wrote Rocky in 24 hours. Jim Carrey was homeless for a time, and so was Halle Berry. Artists often live off beans and rice, go into debt, and fail over and over again. But let’s weigh the risks: living your life wrong or trying for your dream and failing. Would you have ruined your life if you fail? No. You might be living with your parents, but more likely you started working at Starbucks. And you would have tried, and you’d probably have started building a fire that encouraged you to never give up on your dream, no matter how many times you failed. I’ve always wanted to be this, and finally trying, finally setting goals for myself and seeing them through, that will catch me my bluebird of happiness. I know that’s the right thing to do to find my joy and keep it close in it’s cage.
But it’s scary. And when I get afraid of the dark, sometimes I think, “Can I really do this?” “Do I deserve it?” “Is this what I really want?” Etcetera. When the night falls like this each of needs a North Star to guide us home. My North Star is the tingly feeling that runs up my spine when I think about my wildest dreams coming true. My compass is the goosebumps I get thinking, “What’s the best that could happen?” Those thoughts keep your butt at the work bench and your nose to the grindstone. Think about the promises you made to yourself when you were little. We’re going to die someday, and I would regret not making good on my little girl dreams.
When I rode a bike for the first time, my Dad let me go, and I was so pissed at him, because I knew how to pedal, but I didn’t know how to brake. So I pedaled so fast my Dad couldn’t catch me until I ran into the wall at the opposite end of the street. At that point in my life that experience had been the scariest thing I’d been through. But I survived, and overcoming that fear meant I could now ride a bike. Anything worth doing will require you to face your fears. You’ll have to dig deep and do the hard things – the scary things – but once you do them, you’ll be a bigger, better person.
The truth is a lot of people live life on other people’s terms. But as author and Ted talker Jake Ducey (his happiness interview will be posted next week) put in an interview today, “Happiness is living life on your own terms.” So what are your terms?