Today is May 15, 2020.
I will be 35 in 11 days.
I don’t harbor expectations of a grand celebration crowning my place in the mid-mid-thirties because life is, well, QUIET right now.
Worldwide, many of us have spent the last few months in undistracted solitude with the same few faces and numerous different thoughts.
And, undoubtedly, many of us are wondering — and trying — to imagine what life would truly be like in the “new normal” that’s been slowly gnawing its way into our carefully planned, packaged and sanitized existence.
There are TWO things that many of us now recognize:
- That our benchmarks for success and security, i.e. degrees, jobs, housing, and, if we’re lucky, savings and investments, are woefully fragile concepts.
- And that we are largely unprepared for the mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual upheavals that times like these cause precisely because we have focused solely on the social, physical, occupational and financial aspects of our lives.
To be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t have planned a big celebration for my 35th, pandemic restrictions or not.
Because, measuring myself against the benchmarks outlined above, I’d get a solid C+ for effort — by generous estimates.
Sometimes I’ve even wondered what there is to celebrate.
I’ve held jobs, most of which I enjoyed, but I’ve spent most of my twenties and early thirties following the, oftentimes, challenging and erratic path of the multi-passionate entrepreneur.
Added to this, is my wandering spirit.
Not only did I take risks exploring vastly different career fields, or trying my hand at different business ideas, I also rambled from one physical location to another.
I took and take risks — that until now — may have driven some bonkers and worried the poor hearts of those who wanted to see me “settled,” safe and stable.
I’ve lived on three continents, moved my life back and forth between the East and West US coasts, started a business sitting in a tiny rented room in Vietnam, made enough money at one point to pay in full for my third graduate degree and also had less than $50.00 to start with after relocating to a new city while I was backpacking full-time.
And I’ve enjoyed the twists and turns, the ups and downs immensely!
What mattered most to me was constant self-discovery, self-mastery, and enough movement, uncertainty, and novelty to keep me innovating, faithful and humble.
I realize now, that being ahead of the game often comes with feeling left behind.
We all need to be gentler on ourselves for risking, reaching, and sometimes losing, for it’s in that process that we build the muscles of spiritual resilience needed to not only survive but thrive in times of great uncertainty.
Recently, a dear, dear, friend asked me two POWERFUL QUESTIONS:
- What, especially during this time, makes you feel most alive/brings you joy?
- What does the path less traveled look like for you?
This was not the first time I’d been asked or considered these two questions. As a woman who’s been on a lifelong quest to understand the motivations and machinations behind human behavior, these questions have been a crucial part of my process.
However, what my friend noted, once I answered, was just how consistent my responses have always been.
Creating, writing, storytelling, advising, teaching and traveling literally and through literature have been stubborn and sticky passions of mine.
And the path less traveled for me is EXACTLY that.
And if I silence, though temporarily, that side of me that judges my success on my ability to amass wealth, property and accolades, I would tell you that I’ve NEVER truly desired any of those things. My soul never did.
Even as I became aware of the value of things in my teens, the prospect of owning ANYTHING made me anxious. Like it would be the ball and chain that would keep me tied to one place and circumstance.
The path less traveled for me was deferring law school to study poetry, leaving a secure, but stagnant, job on the East Coast just for a one-year fellowship opportunity on the West Coast, buying a one-way ticket to Vietnam with only a vague plan to slowly work and wander my way back West.
THIS is what makes MY heart leap, BUT it may not be what does for YOU!
What I’d like you to take this time to complete is this phrase: I FEEL MOST JOYFUL WHEN…
I FEEL MOST JOYFUL WHEN…
I FEEL MOST JOYFUL WHEN…
I FEEL MOST JOYFUL WHEN…
Take your time. Don’t edit yourself. Write the first feelings, thoughts, and memories that come to mind.
Now, this offering is, by no means, a promotion of any one way of making a living, BUT an invitation to remember to LIVE — to be ALIVE — while doing it.
MANY of the things we do to make a living have been swiftly taken away, eroded, and lost through no fault of our own.
Careers, 401Ks, stock investments, insurance and communities have all been rendered useless by an organism that we cannot see.
When our financial and social ties are taken away ALL we’re left with are ourselves.
Are we happy with WHO and WHERE we are, WHAT we’ve achieved, and HOW many lives we’ve influenced?
Are there ideas, urges, desires, which we’ve neglected and ignored?
This is the time to REVIEW our Self and our Life as an extension of the expression of our souls.
Plant that garden.
Plan that trip.
Read that book.
Take that class.
Enjoy that new workout.
Start that group or business.
Revisit that childhood dream.
Take this time to begin LIVING WITH INTENTION — whatever that looks like for you.
Keep checking in with yourself by asking:
- Is what I’m doing bringing me joy?
- AND/OR Am I able to be joyful while doing this?
Let’s face it; depending on where we are on our journey, we may have very little room for pivoting and changing directions.
In those instances, the action or task doesn’t matter as much as our attitude towards it.
By remaining in an open and expectant space while making the best of where we are, we leave ourselves free to allow the ideas and inspiration that we need to flow effortlessly to us.
Maya Angelou once said,
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
…and I believe that to be a better, truer, more spiritual standard to measure our success by.
If that looks like backpacking on $20.00 a day or playing the stock market for $200,000.00, by all means, DO IT … but do it JOYFULLY.