You cannot tell someone how to live their life. I did not create the world in seven days or revoke Lucifer’s right to his angel wings. I cannot turn water into wine, and the Apostles aren’t crowded at my desk writing down everything I say (can you tell I was raised Catholic?). I am not God, so how could I give such advice? I can’t even find two clean socks. Certainly, a clean sock-less individual is no authority figure on what it really means to find purpose. I can’t point anyone in the direction of their right and ultimate goal, and if I tried, that would be egomaniacal. I don’t know what you should do with your life because your experiences are different than mine. Your thoughts are different than my thoughts.
I think about gluing vintage buttons to tacks from Michael’s. I think of the way my Grandma labored slowly, step by step, up her stairs yesterday, and the way her voice sounds when I call her – happy and with a tinge of lonely. As I near my 26th tour around the Sun, I remind myself to be amazed at the world because time is a slippery fish. Much of my brain space is stuffed with how I am going to make myself and my parents proud. I step on a scale, see a pleasing number, and decide I’ve either lost all my muscle mass (more likely), or weight loss is a starving artist fringe benefit. My home life is a great one. My parents provided every opportunity. This is my world and these are my thoughts. My reactions, my perspectives.
Events and circumstances changed the person my Mom took home from the hospital in 87. Heartbreaks, bedridden-ness, family fights, etcetera engraved a deep memory because that’s what pain does. It engraves a deeper memory. I failed at things, tried to make them work, and failed again. I learned that if you’re ever going under the knife, make sure there’s a plastic surgeon present, because you could end up with a scar on your upper back which makes you rethink your wedding dress dreams. But hey, in my maybe future wedding, I was thinking of going more traditional, anyway. Perhaps a lace jacket or capped sleeves. For sure (in my hypothetical wedding) I am wearing a veil now.
The things that happen to us, whether good or bad, change us. We all know that the graduation party keggers and flying caps aren’t the stop to our changes. We continue to change, and sometimes I can’t believe how much so. Two things don’t change, though. What doesn’t change is what we’re good at. The other is what makes us happy. Your happy. Not an episode of Boardwalk Empire and a bowl of Cookie Dough ice cream-happy.
Hunter S. Thompson said:
“The formula runs something like this: a man must choose his path which lets his ABILITIES (his caps lock, not mine) function at the maximum efficiency towards the gratification of his DESIRES. In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy… A man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life – the definitive act of will that makes a man an individual.”
Thompson continues on to say that we should look for the way of life we want, and see what we can do to make a living “WITHIN that way of life.”
Once upon a time, all of us wanted to be something. Maybe we stopped wanting to be that thing or that person, but what Thompson says is it’s not us who have changed. It’s our perspectives that changed. Thompson struck a chord with me, and maybe with you, too. And it’s my belief that a lot of the time, maybe always, what you want to do most and what you are good at are in harmony.
I think what I struggled with for a long time was “The Plan.” The idea that I would graduate from high school, then college, then I’d become a lawyer/teacher/accountant, I would walk down the aisle, have 2.5 kids, and cue the Disney movie music, *The End.* Purpose was missing from that equation, and I think not having one made things a lot harder for me. So while I’m no Alex Trebek or Oprah, and far (like, billions of dollars and two TV shows) from it, what I believe is we have to find meaning to make the most of our lives. It’s what I am working on, anyway.
We all know those lines in Shakespeare’s Hamlet which start, “To be or not to be: that is the question.” But what he goes on to say is better, “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles.” Thompson quoted this and said, “And indeed that IS the question: whether to float with the tide or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we all must make unconsciously or consciously in our lives.”
Looking at Thompson’s interpretation gives me courage, and writers need courage. The short and sweet of it is, I believe a lot of us harbor concealed dreams. I think the greatness, the heaven on earth we dream of, is not out of reach. So hey, dreamers: I hope you go for it.