They all knew it before I did. Friends are annoying like that– they often spot your garbage before you even smell the stink. Truthfully, I probably saw it, too. But admitting it would surely send me into a tailspin of confusion and dejection, and I didn’t want to visit that dusty wasteland again.
But there they were, three women who know me well, who listened patiently as I vented my frustrations and hang-ups, and who could read between the lines of my story. In just under five minutes, the truth became painfully obvious: I was doing the wrong thing with my life. Again.
I tried my hand at couples’ coaching once before. I know so many relationship coaches, they’re all fabulous women, and I’ve got communication skills I spent a ton of money to obtain, and I’d like to actually utilize one day to earn an income. But after a few months of trying, I abandoned that ship. It didn’t feel like the right fit, and every step forward felt like nails on a chalkboard.
Following that implosion, I stripped away all the shiny, high-fallutin’ bells and whistles from my website, turned it into a blog, and returned to what I know best: pure, honest writing. And it felt amazing! But months later, that tiny voice popped up in my head again… this isn’t going anywhere… you’d better grow up and figure out what you’re doing with your life.
In a fearful panic, I again tried on the coaching hat. The website looked different, the product packages were brighter and shinier, but I was travelling the same worn road. And right on cue, I hit the same wall I face-planted onto just one year prior. I felt no passion, no motivation, no real drive to break through it. I felt stuck, worn out, and lost, and none of it clued me into the real problem (until my friends took that bull by the horns): this road wasn’t mine to travel. I was trying on someone else’s shoes, living someone else’s life, and it was a poor fit.
But we all try to live up to standards we didn’t set, to fill a mold we don’t quite fit, because we worry about what others will think, or fear that we might let someone down by simply being ourselves, right? It’s a lesson that plays on repeat throughout my life, like an existential, much less funny version of Groundhog Day.
And yet, it seems I needed another reminder. Several weeks ago, again feeling fearful of my grossly uncertain future and incredibly uncomfortable to just sit here and write, I chose action over inaction. I forged my own way, full steam ahead, piecing together a magical concoction of my natural gifts and abilities, learned skills, and what I’m convinced the world needs from me.
Fearful that I might never find my One True Purpose in the world, I made something up, leaving behind the singular most important thing: authenticity. The process wasn’t magical; it was all me, striving for something that didn’t come naturally. But sometimes it’s hard to remain content with what we have. It gets predictable, loses some of its shine. And when the thing that brings us joy doesn’t bring us “success” (read: financial gains), we fear we’re being stupid and wasting time.
Having just re-learned this lesson, I’m here to remind you that FEEDING YOUR SOUL IS NEVER A WASTE OF TIME. Maybe, like me, you feel this insane pressure to “be something big,” or “make something of your life.” Maybe in the world’s eyes the thing that brings you extreme joy isn’t super valuable, or lucrative, or viewed as “successful.”
It turns out, a lot of people are “successful” at the expense of enjoying and experiencing life. And if it’s safety and security you’re looking for, I’m not convinced that loads of money will solve the problem. You can’t buy a predictable future, however much I wish you could.
So let’s you and me take the road less traveled. Maybe it won’t lead anywhere flashy. Maybe nobody will ever know our names or pay us just to be ourselves and do what comes naturally. Maybe we’ll marinate in purpose-filled mediocrity for the next 20 to 50 years. It’s still worth it. Because when I die trekking the Himalayas, or am trampled by bulls in Pamplona, my last thought won’t be “Man, I’m so grateful for all that money and fame.” It’ll be “I’m so grateful for this life. I had an extraordinary experience and lived it well.” Or some (much shorter) version of that.
Life’s too short to try and live someone else’s purpose, when yours is already pretty great.
*This post originally appeared at The Dirty Laundry Show.*