As of today, I’ve spent 47 years roaming this earth (or at least various parts of the United States) with the rest of you, trying to figure out how this life thing is supposed to work.
And here’s a little something I’ve learned along the way:
If there’s something that you’re good at, something at which you excel and that brings you pleasure or joy to others, you are obligated as a human being to pursue it. You might not get paid for it or even get much recognition by others who do it. But your proficiency at this thing and the joy it brings you are the gifts you have been given as a member of the human race. Whether you see it as having come from a divine source or simply from a combination of evolution, heredity and life experience, it’s one of the biggest qualities of being human that sets us apart from chimpanzees and bonobos.
There will be points where you wonder exactly what you’re good at.There will be times, after you find out what The Thing You Love is, that you will be forced to decide between Work That Pays You Well For Doing Something Else or Work That Pays You Less For Doing The Thing You Love. I won’t ever say “follow your bliss” to people caught in that decision, because bliss does a lot of things, but it doesn’t always pay the mortgage. “Find what you love and make it pay” is much better advice.
But the truth is that the vast majority of us don’t end up doing The Thing We Love. We end up doing something to pay the mortgage, because for one reason or another, we can’t wait, so we do The Thing We’ll Do Until the Thing We Love Pays, But once the tipping point of income/family/lifestyle/financial obligation vs. The Thing We Love is reached, there are few ways to escape The Thing We’ll Do Until the Thing We Love Pays. It just becomes The Thing We Do.
Still, in the background, The Thing You Love lurks, reminding you that it’s still there. Don’t ignore it. Embrace it. Find time for it. Build it into your life and make it part of who you are. It’s not a hobby. Go through life denying the existence of hobbies, because calling it a hobby – particularly when it might involve advanced levels of commitment, creativity and labor – devalues what’s happening. And what’s happening is that your soul and mind are expressing who you really are.
“Real life” – the drudgery of work, commuting, bill paying – will always be there, and some let it consume them until The Thing They Love is nothing but an occasional bit of whimsy or a daydream. That isn’t real life. It’s the nightmare. It’s the wistful sigh when you see someone else doing The Thing You Love, knowing that you’ve disqualified yourself from doing it. The thought horrifies me, and it should horrify you.
Don’t ever let yourself stop expressing who you really are. Chances are, if there’s someone who loves you, The Thing You Love is what attracted them in the first place. It’s an integral segment of your personality and it must be nourished, whether on a full- or part-time basis. When you acknowledge it and make time for it, you’ll blossom and flourish. Time will expand and contract in strange ways when you focus on The Thing You Love. You’ll feel better about yourself, and others will feel better about you.
Because then you’ll be who you really are. And that’s when The Thing You Love will truly pay.