Remember when we were kids? Better yet, remember when we were kids and we were all asked this stereotypical question at one time or another:
"WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?"
You have to admit, it's sort of comical, looking back on it all. As if a six year old kid would have any idea what they truly want their career to be when they grow up. Being innocent to the world around us, we'd of course blurt out answers such as, "a fireman" or "a doctor" or "president" because the idea of being all those things didn't seem impossible to us. In fact, the idea of being these things - these types of "people" in our society - felt all too real because there was nobody telling us that we couldn't do it.
And then suddenly, here you are. You're all grown up. And one day while you're clearing out your house, you come across a piece of paper from nearly 18 years ago. The writing is horrendous, misspelled and all around barely legible. But the core message within the note stands out immediately:
"WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO BE ________"
We laugh to ourselves reading the nostalgic filled note, but there's another part of us that isn't laughing. There's another part of us that is beginning to resurface after years and years of slumber. The part of us that we'd like to forget. The part of us that we'd like to not be reminded of.
The part of us that didn't end up becoming "blank".
I don't exactly think it's fair to assume that we all had this "idea" or "vision" of what we wanted to do when we grow up while we were kids. Our dreams change. Our visions shift. And that one idea you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life aspiring to yesterday, might turn out to be something completely different the next day.
EVERYONE FIGURES OUT WHERE THEIR PASSION LIES AT THEIR OWN PACE AND TIMING IN LIFE. BUT THE SAD TRUTH IS-- NOT EVERYBODY HAS ENOUGH COURAGE TO FOLLOW IT.
Our past self that screamed "I'm going to be president!" with absolute confidence at age six has gradually become drowned out by the reality that surrounds us on an every day basis. Now there ARE people telling us that we can't do it. In fact, there are more people telling us we CAN'T do it than there are telling us that we CAN.
The tables have turned. The grass is not greener. And suddenly, we open our eyes and we're sitting at a cubicle asking ourselves, "Why did I pick up that note the other day? Why did I have to read that note and remind myself of what my life has become?"
EVERYTHING I JUST DESCRIBED SOUNDS PRETTY DARK, RIGHT? BUT THAT'S JUST THE POINT--THIS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE OUR LIFE.
It doesn't have to be this way. And I'm going to tell you exactly why... speaking from my own personal life. And more importantly, speaking from my own personal dream.
Why do you think most people end up doing something they don't love? The answer isn't as complicated as you might think. It is NOT some uncontrollable factor that cannot be changed. It is NOT some kind of destiny that got thrown your way because you didn't roll high enough. No, the reason that most people end up doing something they don't love is because they settle for what is already in front of them.
They go for what is convenient. They go for what is stable enough to get them by. And once they have that stability established (even if it's something they don't love doing), they hold on to it and never look back. Because to them, this is the best they can do. Or at least, that's what they begin to believe over the years. But the reality is, in believing this, they have become more lost and disillusioned than a 6 year old boy expressing his dream of becoming the next President of the United States of America.
Let me open the door a bit for you so you can get a glimpse. Over the last 8 months of my life, I have exited college and entered the working world. The "real world", so to speak. I have been fortunate enough to have found a job right away. Better yet, I have been fortunate enough to keep this job and move up in it within the short time frame I've been at it.
Is this job something I am truly passionate about? No.
But is this job something that's paying the bills and providing stability in my life?
The truth is, as the months started to pass, I started becoming more and more terrified that I would end up exactly like the "they" I mentioned above.... Working at a job for the rest of my life doing something that doesn't utilize or fulfill my passion.
...AND WHAT EXACTLY IS MY PASSION?
. . .
"Dad... did you ask Mom about it?"
"Don, what's he talking about?"
"A journal. He saw a journal he liked at the book store earlier today. He wants to go back and buy it."
"A journal, huh?"
"It's a 'Goosebumps' version one!"
"He does love 'Goosebumps'..."
"Listen sweety, we'll buy that journal for you. But you have to promise that you'll actually write in it and not waste it."
"I will, Mom. I promise."
"You have to fill each page, okay?"
"Alright. Let's go back to the bookstore later this afternoon and get it."
. . .
I was in second grade when this happened. My parents bought me that journal and for the first time in my life, I started to write using my imagination instead of something a teacher was telling me to write about. Every day I started filling the pages more and more. I wrote about my life. I wrote about what was happening in it. And I wrote about the future too-- the things I was looking forward to.
That journal got filled up, and by no means it was 'novel material'. But from filling up that journal, I did come to realize perhaps the most important epiphany of my entire life:
MY PASSION LIED IN WRITING. MY PASSION WAS WRITING.
I always told myself that, someday, I would write something that would have a positive affect on the world. But ever since I graduated and ended up "not saving the world" one day at a time, I have to admit that I had become discouraged up until now. The fact that I would wake up and go to sleep not having satisfied that passion in my life was killing me inside. And then, just when I was feeling at my mental worst, I got really sick (walking pneumonia). And remained sick for about an entire month.
Today was the first day I started feeling like myself again. But more importantly, today was the first day in what feels like forever that I told myself, "I'm going to write something today."
And here I am.
Everyone has their own source of inspiration and they lean towards it and hold it up like a light in the dark when things seem their most bleak. For me, my inspiration has always and will always be my Mom. I don't need to go into the whole story because I feel like many of you already know it, but there are TWO life changing events that happened with my Mom that I always look back to and remind myself of when I am ever feeling like that dream of fulfilling my passion is fading away.
1) On my 13th birthday, my mom gave me a card. Within the card, it expressed to me how she thought I was special. That there was something much more to me that I hadn't discovered yet and will some day down the road. After she read it, she looked at me and told me "I really do think you're special. And I'm not just saying that either." A few months ago when I was moving out of the house I had lived at my entire life, I found that same exact card she had given me. And the message has been instilled into me to this very day.
2) The day my mom passed away. That day fragmented me in many ways, but the one part I will never forget is the promise I made when I got into the hospital room. When I had accepted the fact that she only had a few more minutes left to live, I lost it. And I started talking to her. And one of the things I told her was that I promised I would be somebody. I promised I would go out and use what I've been through to help other people and make something of myself. And that's a promise I literally remind myself of every single day of my life.
Getting back to the point... if you ever find something that inspires you... and please, trust me on this-- listen to it. Listen to whatever is inspiring you and use it as your weapon. Because there are going to be a lot of shitty things that happen in life. Things that you probably hadn't planned for, prepared for and that will sometimes knock you down so hard you won't want to get back up again as the same person.
BUT ALL THOSE "SHITTY" THINGS ARE LIFE EXPERIENCES THAT WILL DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON. AND FROM USING THAT INSPIRATION AS YOUR SECOND WIND, YOU CAN STILL FIND YOUR WAY IN THIS WORLD. YOU CAN STILL BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE.
You can still be happy.
I made myself another promise today. I promised myself that after I finish this big fundraising project I've been working on that will occur in July (and believe me, it's going to be BIG), that I would turn my attention during my off time between work on my writing.
And more specifically, on turning my writing into something the rest of the world can hopefully someday see.
So if you're like me, and waking up to go to a job you might not necessarily "love" tomorrow, just remember-- you can still be who you WANT to be in life. And just because you're not where you want to be yet, doesn't mean it's not going to ever happen. Use the fact that you're not there as a means to try and bring the dream closer to you.
One day at a time. Don't give up.