The recent death of a friend has left me mulling over a freeing realization that I have been compelled to share. I can only liken it to an epiphany, for want of a better word. The individual in question was one of the most jovial persons I have ever met in my lifetime. I know they always say that about the dead but he really was a larger than life personality. As I listened to conversations and scrolled through my Facebook timeline where persons told stories and recounted their memories of him one thing was resoundingly clear. Nobody spoke about the vehicle he drove, the phone he used, how many brand name outfits he owned or what his salary was. As I listened and read what shone through beyond anything else was his character and the fact that this was a young man who had passions that he pursued. He was a dancer, a lover of life, an amiable human being. He loved to dance and he loved to laugh. Those, among other traits, were the things most recounted.
At the end of our lives what counts is not what we had but who we were and how we contributed to the fabric of this world. I have struggled for the better part of my adult life with feelings of not-enough-ness, self-pity, and self-deprecation; measuring myself against my peers and finding myself to be lacking. I know the script by heart. I know intimately the words of Desiderata: “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” I know too that we each have our own path, that we are all individuals trying to muddle our way through this journey. But somehow, even with all this knowledge, I have still managed to measure and compare and judge, the verdict always being that I am not enough.
At age six I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be “an author, a poet, a teacher, and a designer (at the time it was fashion designer then in high school it changed to architect)”. Over the years the dreams and desires haven’t changed much. I still dream poems, speak aloud multi-character dialogues in the shower while bathing (thank heavens I live alone as actions like that will have you committed to an asylum) and see designs in my mind’s eye that are as real to me as the air I breathe. I still want the same things I wanted then more so now than ever before. But like so many of us, I have been the greatest obstacle to the realization of my dreams. I question, I doubt, I procrastinate; I compare my ambitions to those of others and modify them when they do not fit the mold. I have allowed the society I live in to step in and shape my purpose, forgetting completely, that my purpose is ordained by a force that does not exist in the natural; it CANNOT and WILL NOT be tailored to suit anyone but me. It is as Stubborn and Perennial and Strange and Determined and Odd and Perfect and Beautiful and Real and as Unique as any other element of ME.
Yet, finding the purpose was not the hard part. Honouring and trusting it are the daily challenge. I have often times become side-tracked with concerns of what being on purpose is supposed to look like. And so I assumed being an author meant I had to get published the traditional way, being a teacher meant I had to lecture at a university and being a designer meant I had to have a line (whether it be clothing or accessories) that was a household name. That is not to say there is anything wrong with any of those ideas. The problem, I found, occurred when I became pre-occupied with these versions of the purpose and neglected the actual process of being on purpose – the creating and sharing of these ideas.
I would like to say at the time that I am penning this post that I have shaken off those demons and am fully over it, but no such luck. It has been and continues to be a work in progress. What I can tell you though is that today I am more on purpose than I have ever been in my 30 plus years on this planet.
Through this blog I have found a way to be true to my purpose and it has inspired change in so many other areas of my life. Every chance I get I write, design, sew, create, teach and honour my purpose and avoid wasting time worrying that it doesn’t look like my misguided conceptions. I have found new ways to validate my existence, a way that feels right and true FOR ME. We each have our own path and I am trying daily to focus on my own, leaving others to theirs.
Throughout the process, I am learning to be gentle with myself, avoiding the habit of discounting every dream, passion and vision I have ever had. I deliberately work to ward off laziness, fear and doubt, as I seek to honour the purpose for which I am alive. I know there are going to be days when I get distracted; I will look at what someone else has – whether their job or material possessions – or the lifestyle they lead and I will for an instant feel some remorse and regret for not having taken their route. But may I be reminded that there is no sense or logic in using someone else’s map to get to my destination. May I be reminded that in honouring my purpose, that is how I come to be most truly alive!