I’m generally not one to compare myself to others. However, I often envy those who know what they want in life; those who have an intense obsession that they’re willing to pursue no matter what.
I listen to a lot of podcasts and read books and recently I’ve heard a common theme: Wanting something so badly that you sacrifice. You work hard. You practice. You become an expert. You do it well. Maybe you make a lot of money when you finally break through.
Here’s where the comparison comes in:
There are few things that I’ve been so strongly passionate about that I haven’t imagined not doing it. There are a few potential goals that made me emphatically declare, “I am willing” to do what it takes.
And while there are things I love to do, I often feel that that “one thing” eludes me. Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me because of that.
I prefer to live a life of ease and flow and work what makes me feel good into the day-to-day. (Um, I’m a Pisces?)
A lot of the podcasts that I listen to are interviews with actors. When Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were teenagers, they had a joint bank account that they put all of their earnings in and only used for acting-related activities such as travelling to auditions, headshots, and classes. I learned this from listening to an interview with Damon — I think the podcast was Off Camera with Sam Jones.
Chrissy Metz worked as a talent agent for ten years, community two hours each way — for a total of four — to get to work. After doing some inner work, she started showing up for herself and tweaked her schedule a bit to go to acting and voice classes again. In her showing up for herself and sacrificing for her career (instead of “sacrificing” as busy work to distract from it), she started getting consistent, full-time acting jobs (American Horror Story, This is Us). I read that in her autobiography. I also learned that there’s something she won’t do: Wear high heels.
Good. For. Her.
I can’t imagine commuting more than an hour, and I prefer 45 minutes, tops. Everyone has their priorities. That’s mine. I feel like I’m less productive if I don’t have that balance. We’re all different. Still, the idea of working hard and doing what you need to do to reach an end goal is something that I feel is lacking. Like, my soul was given this body, but that body — the whole physical and electrical structure — was not 100% complete. God forgot something.
(I say “god” as a figure of speech. I don’t believe in a monotheistic, bearded-man-in-the-sky “god”. My spirituality is broader than that.)
It’s not the working hard part that’s lacking. I can do that. I can enjoy that. Hard work can be invigorating. I love the feeling of looking at my accomplishment from the end. It’s finding something that’s worth it in the long run. The dream. The long game.
Why NOT me?
I’ve read and been inspired by Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? and Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please”. Both have given me words of advice that I’ve quoted over and over for several years.
Kaling’s, “Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.” is gold. It was part of an excerpt published in a magazine and what made me want to buy the book.
Poehler’s “You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” nails it.
Both of these books sit on my bookshelf.
Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich — initially published in 1937 — addresses goals with gems such as this:
“When a man really desires a thing so deeply that he is willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win.”
What a different story men would have to tell if only they would adopt a DEFINITE PURPOSE, and stand by that purpose until it had time to become an all-consuming obsession!
Barnes succeeded because he chose a definite goal, placed all his energy, all his will power, all his effort, everything back of that goal.
Wow. Powerful stuff.
Truthfully, I haven’t finished this book. It was a library loan, e-book version, and it expired. It’s back on my holds list.
The Happiness Factor
Two of the things that make me happiest in life:
Communicating through writing, and especially educating through writing.
That’s the closest I get to soul fulfillment.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Here’s a secret that I feel strange admitting: At 43 years old, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, nor do I want to “grow up”.
Ugh. I hate saying that.
I feel like 1) I should know and 2) Somewhere inside me I know, but I’m afraid to admit it.
When I was a child, one of my first answers to the question of what I wanted to be was “a doctor.”
Then I heard that there were lots more years of school and, as a child who preferred recess and art class, I didn’t like that idea. Eventually, I started to like school more — partway through summer break I’d even begin to miss the intellectual stimulation — but I’d lost interest in becoming a doctor. I was a creative type.
BUT I knew that I wanted to help people. Furthermore, I had a few doctors in my family. I do come from a family of healers.
In high school, I considered pursuing a law career because I wanted to advocate for those who needed it. I wanted to help the good guys. The idea of the LSATs intimidated me, and I didn’t even try. I still don’t know if I could have handled the pressure. I hate saying, “I don’t deal with stress well” because in saying it I’m manifesting it, but I also know myself.
Again, I knew that I wanted to help people.This is a common thread.
Helping through sharing and imagining
By my final year of high school, I considered one of my strengths and the one thing that I’ve always returned to:
Another strength and source of enjoyment:
Learning, preferably on my terms.
In school, I loved all writing assignments and was always grateful when I enjoyed the books that I was assigned to read. I thanked a teacher for making me read To Kill a Mockingbird.
I went to university while the internet was coming of age. Also, I performed better in university than in high school because more often, I was allowed to pick my essay topics and that’s when I could really nerd out. I looked at citations in books and then tracked down the source material. I still do. I nerd out on learning. But, that isn’t a career, it’s a hobby.
Also, with only so many hours in the day, the amount of time I let myself read books is minimal.
A few years ago a life coach suggested that I find a way to monetize my love of research. I did subsequently help a few people out with research on a freelance basis.
I didn’t go to graduate school. I didn’t write or defend a Ph.D. thesis. I did my five-year university program and a one-year specialized college program that gave me my first career. I sometimes feel like I’ve been wandering aimlessly since.
After university, I entertained the idea of working in advertising or PR. Advertising seemed too cold for me — selling things. The PR school didn’t accept me as an applicant (I went into the test and interview with a bad cold). Both of these might have been careers, but clearly, they weren’t the path meant for me.
My passion came back to writing, though. I never stopped. From stories as a child to poetry. I stopped writing non-fiction at some point, even though as a child I was always making up stories in my head.
Nowadays, I blog when inspiration hits, or weeks later when I haven’t had time to feed that inspiration. This post itself has been writing itself in my head for several weeks. On February 28 I tweeted, and then posted, the following words (emphasis added):
Now I’ve got too many thoughts for a Twitter thread, and it’s stepping on the blog post that I’ve been writing in my head about not having a singular goal or passion to work towards, but hey, when inspiration strikes, it strikes.
Helping people lights me up. I’ve often said that I see my role in life as that of “helper”. I don’t have one passion in life at which I’ve worked hard to achieve success (e.g. becoming a lawyer or actor), and that bothers me sometimes. Helping others has been an overarching theme.
In that same post, I shared,
My writing is an attempt to be useful. I’m not getting paid for any of this, but it’s fulfilling. It’s creatively fulfilling, but there’s this part of me that thinks that if someone else’s writing is meaningful to me in some way; if I identify with something that someone wrote, others will experience that while reading my writing.
I love writing. It fills me up. Sometimes the idea of starting is daunting (I have several pieces of work in my head right now) but I love letting the words and ideas flow from brain to fingers to screen.
Usefulness through writing — and happiness through writing — keeps coming up.
One of the reasons I tweet is to keep sharing thoughts and opinion, in a timely and convenient manner. “Microblogging”. There are many days when I find inspiration for a blog post and don’t have time to execute, or the idea of getting started exhausts me.
I know, just start.
Maybe I need to aim to write for just ten minutes a day and see what happens, treating it like my yoga/workout practice, which has been going for over 80 consecutive days.
I often wish that there was a way for the thoughts in my brain to jump to a computer automatically. I recently spoke some ideas into a transcription app, but they came out a little more clumsy than they’d been in my head. I suppose that practice will improve this. Moreover, editing helps polish the writing. In our lifetime, who knows what will be possible with technology? Years before the fax machine was universal I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could send paper with writing on it through the phone?” (I know I was a child, but damn, I could have been rich!)
I know. Just start.
Here we go with the comparison again…
But, I sometimes feel that, like those actors whose stories I hear and read, there SHOULD be a profession that I actively want, a career that I strongly choose to pursue.
I feel that I could be mistaken for having a poor work ethic, but that’s not it. Or it might be it. There have been times when I’ve felt a high while staying up late and working hard on a project. I’ve experienced the endorphin rush of enjoying a task or project. I’m aware that not every day has to be like this and that everyone has shitty days. You suck it up, because that’s what humans do, and you keep going towards that goal.
“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” — Amy Poehler
The wellness piece
I got certified through an online health coaching program so that I’d have letters beside my name and feel more credible as a health writer. I thought that letters beside my name would make me sound more credible to others. Wellness was a passion, which became evident as my food blog evolved into a wellness blog in the way I was approaching subject matter such as a restaurant opening. Wellness goes with helping people and that childhood answer of wanting to be a doctor, but not wanting to be a doctor.
The online health coaching program promised to teach me about the science, psychology and spirituality of nutrition, and more. A lot of the information shared in the program was information I already knew.
Sometime after my training, I developed and published an ADHD management system. I didn’t train as an ADHD coach, but I don’t think that matters in the grand scheme of things because “ADHD coach” is in itself not a licensed profession. Furthermore, my own experience is useful. I can read all the same books that instructors do.
After I got the idea to write the system out to share with the world, I couldn’t not execute it. I felt palpable unease at the thought of not taking action. This is one way you know that you’re on the right track.
Sometimes I feel weird that I didn’t want to see clients in a health coaching practice. Did my poor work ethic keep me from getting clients? No, it was my mental shit — my imposter syndrome, my fear that I wouldn’t get the right clients, that I couldn’t help them. For years I’ve been working on getting out of my own way.
It was more than that, too.
I did consider seeing clients. I created an assessment form and coaching packages. Through the motions, I went. Then I decided to stop pretending that this is what I wanted.
My soul pulled me towards creating the system, but my soul was resisting client work. It wasn’t lack of work ethic; it wasn’t that I didn’t think I could help people. It’s that while my ego told me that it was the only path, something deeper said to me that it wasn’t the right path for me and that there are other ways.
And yet, sometimes I come across a health coach’s website, and when I read their services page or their prices page, I do think, “Maybe I could do that.” Then I remember the physical feeling of resistance to that idea.
One way to tell if something is right for you is to feel it in your body.
I want to want to see clients but on no level does it bring me joy.
Helping people in the more general, day-to-day
If people close to me decline my genuine offer to help it often hurts me and I have to remind myself that this is my issue, not theirs.
There are disingenuous reasons that I take action too.
During one of the snowstorms this winter — coming inside after a heavy shovelling session — I realized that I often take the initiative because I want the validation. I want the recognition of having done something, to prove my worthiness, value and purpose in the world. Proving my worth wasn’t a new idea to me, but realizing that I sometimes engage in particular activities so that I can later hold it up as if I deserve a trophy was a new one. (Shovelling snow, walking the dog, doing the dishes, and so forth.)
To love for the sake of being loved is human, to love for the sake of loving is angelic.
Sometimes helping people out of selflessness is validating, but if it’s validating, is it really “selfless”?
I’m not going to make this post about any particular podcast as I have in the past, but on Dax Shepard’s podcast, the discussion about increasing our self-esteem by helping others, and whether that’s selfish or not, comes up a lot. A conversation between actors Chris Sullivan and Michael Rosenbaum’s on Rosenbaum’s podcast inspired my post about whether an emotion is an attainable goal. This post in front of you had already been rolling around in my head when I chose that episode for my walk.
But, as I often point out, “selfish” isn’t necessarily bad. “Bad “ and “good” are judgments that we put on things, and those judgments affect how we define situations, people, items, etc.
Some final points about my need to be helpful:
👉I hate making my helpfulness about me. Sometimes my eagerness to please might seem needy.
👉I feel like I don’t do enough helping towards friends and family. Sometimes I feel like an asshole or a hypocrite.
I share all this because I know that I’m far from unique in experiencing it all. It’s part of being human. And as a human, I probably am an asshole on occasion.
But yeah, helping people makes me happy. It could have lead to many career paths, and it’s still leading me.
Communicating through writing.
Talking to you right now.
It’s not about a cry for attention or my need to write (though thanks for indulging me), it’s about sharing. Posts like this, in particular, feel worthy of sharing because as I open up and share my experience, you might relate and we help each other.
As I previously shared (quoting my post “Is An Emotion an Attainable Goal?”),
My writingis an attempt to be useful. I’m not getting paid for any of this, but it’s fulfilling. It’s creatively fulfilling, but there’s this part of me that thinks that if someone else’s writing is meaningful to me in some way; if I identify with something that someone wrote, others will experience that while reading my writing.
This article is about me not having a passion
This article is about me not having a passion that I’m willing to sacrifice for and how sometimes I feel like there’s something wrong with me or like I’ve failed at life because I don’t have that thing. It’s gotten off track a bit, but I keep returning to the theme.
This post is an example of wanting to help and communicate. I rarely write introspective pieces, but I also know that being vulnerable in writing can help others.
This needs to lead me on my path.
The vulnerability is also one of the reasons it’s taken nearly a month to get this out on the screen. You may notice that my thoughts are a bit scattered too. I’m trying to work it all out.
My businesses — the ones that I’ve created for myself — have failed because I wasn’t willing to cut through the imposter syndrome and do anything it takes to succeed. Even though I told myself, “I am ready, this is my time,” I suppose that I didn’t fully believe it.
“When a man really desires a thing so deeply that he is willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win.”
This is a small thing, but a significant incident because it felt like the Universe nudging me: A recruiter recently submitted me for a “Senior Content Manager” full-time role. My immediate reaction to the job title was a heart flutter, followed by the thought, “Of course I should be going for Senior Content roles! Why have I not been?” It made sense.
Sometimes I feel like the Universe — or my soul — is physically poking me.
But that strong pull, that yearning, I’m not sure I’ve ever fully had it.
I am going to keep writing and keep helping people. It’s all got to lead somewhere.