For most of my life I’ve been on a quest. A quest to find my calling. Since you read Scoutie Girl, you must be on a similar quest. Joseph Campbell calls this quest following your bliss. Oh, how I wanted to follow my bliss when I first heard him speak of it. However, for me, there’s always the tension between making money to survive and dedicating myself to my art. It seems like I’ve lived on one side of a fence looking through a hole to the other side, where creative people are successfully pursuing their careers, and I’ve longed to climb the fence and come down on the opposite side. Life on my side of the fence was boring, full of drudgery, it sucked the life from me. After years of contemplation about how to get to the other side, I finally realized that the only way I could live the life I wanted was to jump into the unknown and trust the process.
Following your bliss is an inner journey. When I quit my teaching job to become a writer, I had to give up some long-held notions. First, I had to give up the notion that being a successful writer was only possible for a select few. Over the last five and a half years, I’ve heard artist after artist say they found success because they decided not to compromise their dream, no matter how long it took. Second, I had to give up the notion that I had to know the outcome before I made a commitment to the life I wanted. And third, I had to give up the myth of the American Dream.
We all grow up with a forest of beliefs about how the world works. Some of them support our purpose and others don’t. It’s our job to cut down and discard the beliefs that limit who we’re meant to be.
Since I grew up in a working class family, the model I saw was that you worked for someone else. My dad was a machinist and my mom worked as a secretary, for the telephone company in the drafting department, and later aiding the repairmen out in the field. They didn’t have college degrees and they weren’t artists, but they had dreams that their children would live a different kind of life than they did. So on the one hand I was encouraged to find my purpose, and on the other I saw my parents working at jobs they didn’t necessarily like, just to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. It was difficult for me to visualize a lifestyle that was completely foreign to the life I’d been living. On the other hand, I felt the pull to follow my hearts desire. This set up a tension between what I knew in my heart to be my true path and the idea that I’d have to work hard to make money to fund my creative passions.
I can’t complain. I’ve been able to work in several creative careers. First as a pre-school teacher, then as a theatre artist, then as a public school teacher. All those jobs had satisfying components, but none of them were my true passion. For many years my secret desire was to be a writer. Now, finally, I’m doing that. I’m living my version of the American Dream.
Over the years I’ve thinned out my belief forest and come to the conclusion that following your bliss is not a destination, but a never ending journey with lots of adventures along the way to finding and doing the things that make me the most happy.
As I begin this new year, I look forward to the adventures and opportunities 2014 brings with it.