"The fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live."
What a tragic statement. What could possibly be more tragic is how readily I can identify with it. It is so easy to wait for the right time, to start fresh "tomorrow," to feel the need to "research" something first, and while we wait for the right time, time continues its steady march forward.
We all want meaning. We all want passion and presence and feeling and fulfillment. This yearning has birthed the bucket list generation, where we list out all of the accomplishments and goals and plans that, once completed, will indicate that we are now happy and passionate and present and fulfilled. I propose that life doesn't really work like that. It is more than just a string of accomplishments and goals checked off of a list.
I have also found that trivializing the things that I am passionate about by relegating them to just another item on my to-do list has the detritus, but perhaps predictable effect of eliminating my passion for them. I want to get to the top of Pyramid Peak, Mt. San Gorgonio or Mt. San Jacinto for the joy involved in the acts of doing so; for the companionship with friends, for the hardship that sharpens my mind and body, for the feeling of accomplishment that reaching the summit provides, and not merely to consider it over/done/finished/completed.
None of us have the time, energy or wherewithal to hop-scotch from one amazing event to the next without any time between them. If I go on an amazing backpacking trip in early January, and then run a marathon in February, there is still a vast majority of down-time in between those memorable events. If I just live for those note-worthy experiences, then I am merely coasting a lot more than I am actively living.
Which begs the obvious question; how do I actively live if not directly involved in something exciting, demanding and challenging? More and more, I feel that we have to work to find the excitement, the meaning and the challenge in everything that we do. People who know me personally would probably be surprised to know that I sometimes get requests for life advice, career advice, or information on how to live the kind of life I talk about here. While I have strong doubts about how much help I can actually give, mostly due to the fact that I don't know what the hell I am talking about, I do have opinions on the professional and existential dilemma that so many people my age are going through.
College counselors and career advisers urge us to find what we are passionate about and make our career based on that. If you are so lucky as to know what your greatest passion is, then you owe it to yourself and all of us folks who are jealous of you to follow that passion as far as it will take you. Most of us don't have a burning passion for any one obvious thing. My brother's girlfriend has known since she was young that she would be a doctor, and she is becoming one. She has worked unbelievably hard for many years to follow that passion and she will be rewarded at the end of that day for her persistence. I am incredibly impressed with her work ethic and vision, and I am also incredibly jealous that she would be granted this insight into what her "calling" is so young in life. Most of us do not fall into this boat, and we are therefore left with two choices. The first and easiest option is to resent our work, this imperfect and meaningless yoke that takes our time, demands our sweat and tears, and prevents us from following our heart. As you can imagine, this path does not end in happiness. The second option is to find the meaning and passion that we can in this imperfect vocation.
I have no great passion for the apparel and fashion world. In fact, I am about as far from being cut of this cloth as it is possible to be, but I am successful in my work. While I do not personally care for fashionable clothes, designer names or the trendiest colors and patterns, I take great pride in being known as an ethical and competent professional in the industry. I am proud that I can help a designer take the "picture in their head" and make it a physical reality in the form of a perfectly-developed prototype or a successful production season. Because of this pride, I can find the meaning, passion and challenge in an industry that on the surface does not stir my soul.
Looking back on every job I ever had, there were lessons to be learned, meaning and metaphor to be found every day, and a chance to find some sense of the passion and presence that we are all looking for. I strive on a daily basis to adopt this mindset to every act and thought that I engage in, and if I have found any success in creating the kind of life that I value, I owe it to this commitment.
Currently Listening To: "Kiss The Sky," by Sean Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra
Currently Sipping On: Cold Can of Pabst Blue Ribbon