We serve the world and ourselves best when we do what we love; when we live in synch with our souls. No greater energizer or stress relief exists than to be doing what makes your heart sing. When you’re inspired, you’re inspiRING, and to inspire someone to be themselves and do what they love is an enormous gift; one of the most important gifts that can be given or received.
Some people know what they love, and they’ve known all their lives. I’m one of these lucky individuals: I love words and literature and poetry and learning and writing. I love a lot of other things too, but at the heart are always those things. I used to think it was just writing that I loved, but really it’s all about words, word meanings, combining words, sounds, expression, learning and stories. When I’m engaged with what speaks to my soul, I am never happier, more focused or inspired. The thing is, I didn’t really get it that it was okay to do what you love just because you love it until I was way past 30. In a lot of ways, I’m still learning it.
Growing up, like a lot of other people, I learned that you did things because others expected you too, because they made sense, they served others, they made money, and because it was your responsibility. I didn’t learn, until later, that that was all BS, and that doing something out of obligation when it’s against the grain of your soul doesn’t really ever serve anyone. But, before I learned that, I did a lot of stuff for other people. The truth is, I didn’t even know HOW to tune into myself to know what it was I really wanted. I knew it on a certain level, sure—for instance, I double majored in English and Speech Pathology because I hated a lot of the stuff with my speech path classes, and English kept me alive. I remember knowing that, and saying it to someone who asked me why I would double major with a speech degree, as getting an SLP MS was so difficult already. I told them that I had to; if I didn’t take English classes, I couldn’t get through the stuff I didn’t like. Wow, why did that make sense then? I thought I HAD to do the “responsible”, sure-bet career–plus, I’d started something, I couldn’t possible QUIT. But those English classes kept my soul alive and kept me sane. At least I knew to do that much! Why it didn’t occur to me that I should be focusing on English, the thing I loved, instead of focusing on the thing I didn’t even really like is beyond me. The idea that I had to do something “reasonable,” something “respectable,” and something that would make money was so inculcated into my poor brain that I couldnt hear myself think. Literally.
So I finished both degrees, and went on and completed Masters degrees in both as well. Same reasoning. I could study English, because I loved it, but only if I also did the other thing, because it helped others, and it made sense and blah blah blah. English also had to be just a humble hobby. I was never able to take my deep love of literature, poetry and writing seriously, basically because my parents couldn’t, I guess, not to blame them, they were just doing their best, telling me to do what they thought would keep me safe.
But it’s my deepest regret.
Snippets from various professors I had over the years rerun in my head tonight as I walk the college campus with my dogs, on a whim. Something within me knew I needed to come back here, a mere couple of miles from where I live now, to remember these words I will be forever grateful to my professors for saying: “You can do anything you want to at all with writing; the world is yours, anything you want to!” “Why are you double majoring—your talent is obviously in English—why aren’t you focusing on writing?” “This should be published. We will get this published. You should be publishing.” These comments never leave me, though I always shook my head sadly and mumbled something like, “I’ve got to pay the bills”. I’ve never let my love go though, never given it up, and I’m thankful for that—like I said, I double majored, I read constantly, I write; but still, my “main” job is speech pathology—something I’ve moved from dread of, to dislike, to tolerance. I’ve been able to whittle my job down to the parts I like most and that fit who I am–I perform assessments for potentially Autistic children on a team, and I do have a passion for working with people with Asperger’s. I find it fascinating, and find many of the students I work with endearing and wonderful, and they are often life teachers for me. There are a lot of words and language in this career, but not usually the kind I’d call beautiful, like Nabokov, or Bellow, or Roth (there is a thin, glimmery, mirage-like line with language, and Chomsky, by my assessment, IS that line). Any language is better than no language, but I know which side I prefer to be on, and it doesn’t have anything to do with developmental norms. But I get to problem-solve, which I like. I like to be given a good knot, untie it, and hand it back, which is what I do. But every so often I can’t help but wonder: what if? What if I had understood earlier, from the very beginning, that life is about being yourself and living your passions and gifts? What if I’d known this when I was in the heat of my studies in literature and philosophy and poetry and writing, when I had time on my side and the world in front of me from which to choose what I’d spend my days on?
Well? What if? Generally I don’t see the use in asking what if questions about the past, but sometimes they’re instructive for the present and for choosing a path for the future. Sometimes they’re necessary to make sure we don’t carry on decisions that we made with incomplete information, with immature hearts and minds; decisions that drew us down paths that now, in new phases of our lives, we may need to turn off of. So I sat, this evening, with my two little dogs, on the bench in front of Douglas Hall, the English building, and, feeling a crush of emotion, cried. I took a couple of pictures, and texted my boyfriend, “this is where I spent six years in heaven studying literature and poetry and writing, it’s so beautiful here, I really loved being here. Kind of emotional for me to be here!” Yeah. I think I cried just because the rush of memories and emotion that flooded in on me was so real and so strong, and also because of the gratefulness for all of the years, the classes, the professors, the books, the assignments. I knew I was doing what I loved then, and I know it now. I asked myself, “what is here for me now? what do I need to get?” I know it is not to come back to school–there are no more English degrees for me here. But I knew: I need to continue to read—more literature, less how-to, less non-fiction. I need to talk about literature with people who know and love it, I need to get back in touch with a professor I have lunch with about twice a year—a kindred spirit. And what else? What about the what if of changing my path? I ask myself this question a lot, and if felt like time to ask it again.
Now that I realize I can do whatever I want to, that I NEED to do what I want to–how does that translate into NOW? I AM doing many of the things I love. Would I change what I do for work? I’ve thought many times about teaching literature at community college, but really, teaching was never my passion. I could do it, I might enjoy it. But what I really want to do is more of what I’ve always loved doing—reading, writing, and learning. And now, I can take it seriously. I hear the answers loudly and clearly, they reverberate through the halls of my old classes, fall out of the mouths of my old professors, blink out at me from my packed bookshelves: I need to write, and not just more of the type of writing I do now, which is mainly instructive, informative, non-fiction. I miss fiction. I miss classic literature, good writing, excellent poetry. I miss writing fiction, I miss sending out manuscripts, poetry, short stories for publication—I miss rejection slips!!! And so this is what I will do.
And once again, I’m reassured. I know where I am. And I’m so grateful for synchronicity, for magic, for my persistent subconscious that never gives up on me. I’m so thankful for whatever the forces are that work together and cause me to have thoughts like, “I want to go walk around Sac State today with my dogs,” and then, even thought it was arguably too late to go, starting to get dark, and then when I got there, no parking spaces were available—whatever it was in me that looked past all of that, that couldn’t wait to walk the concrete paths I’d walked a million times before, to watch the familiar trees and shapes of the buildings go black with the sun’s retreat, see the grass, the signs, the students, the library. Something in me knew that I would remember. I did, and I listened. I’ve finally learned to tune into myself, and follow that urging, and I’m so thankful I can do that now, because I needed, tonight, and for the rest of my life, to be reminded of what I love.