I feel like I need a terms of service button with that title so I can’t be held liable if one of you ruins your life because it.
Whatevs, I like to play life fast and loose – I’m just gonna wing it.
It’s true. If you’re stuck, I want you to do something stupid.
The desires of our heart. Voices in our head. Nudges. The whisper that says, “You can do this. You’re made for it. Do it!” It can all sound really, really stupid.
Well, it only sounds really stupid when we think we have something to lose.
Here’s something that also sounds really stupid:
Sometimes I wish I was the survivor of a near death experience.
Ok, I don’t want a near death experience like one of those “I Survived” episodes that were running on the Biography channel that still give me nightmares and why I linger around the knife drawer when the maintenance guy comes over to change my air filter.
No, no. Nothing like that.
I’d like my near death experience to be something like going sky diving and then the guy you’re attached to starts fiddling around with the strap he’s supposed to pull and for a split second you’re like, “I’M GONNA DIE” but then he pulls the strap and your chute goes up and you’re totally fine.
I want just enough raw awareness of the fragility of life that the fear of failure on the path to my calling is so benign, so ridiculous that I just freaking do what my heart tells me to do.
I think the reason it takes Herculean courage for so many of us to become who we’re truly supposed to be is because the starting line usually requires we do something really stupid.
Career change. College courses at 40. Financial investments. Speaking up during business meetings. Or simply the long investment of time to create something that may never leave the studio you set up in the basement.
It’s stupid because we have something to lose. Financial security. Our time. Our pride. Our social engagements. Friends.
But, when we feel like there’s nothing to lose? Well then, all things are possible.
A couple years ago, I did something really stupid.
I had been living in California working as a Residence Community Coordinator. Before that, I abandoned a career in advertising because it was dreadfully soulless. I was miserable. I wanted to wake up and do something meaningful and it occurred to me that nurturing the academic and emotional development of college students would be incredibly rewarding.
In an odd way, I knew this step was a part of the fabric of my destiny. I worked closely with students in many facets of their life, but what was most meaningful for me was that I was the first on call to student’s in crisis, including suicide attempts, reports of sexual assault and overdoses.
Many of the young women that lived in my complex I ran would stop by my office. At first it was just to say hi, but soon I realized they desperately wanted to talk. Deep down, many of them were swimming in an unspoken emptiness.
I became fascinated with the behaviors of young women and how it seemed to pattern the rhythm of their self-esteem. I received my Master’s Degree and wrote my thesis on hookup culture and the effects on women. After that, I spent some time public speaking about what I had learned through my research. My husband was accepted to an academic program in a different state, so we moved.
What was at one point my path towards my destiny, seemed to be shifting while simultaneously becoming dependant on someone else’s destiny (my husband’s). The most logical step, I thought, was to get my doctorate in family counseling.
It would have been a very meaningful endeavor. I’m sure I would have felt a lot of satisfaction helping people improve their lives, just as I loved working with, caring for and making a difference in the lives of college students.
But it never felt right.
The voice was soft, but it was persistent. I could pursue that path and it would be nice. I would make a great income and really impact people’s lives.
But it never felt right.
Our souls are here for a reason and if we’re missing our calling, we sense it deep down. Like that feeling you get if you got on the wrong bus, but don’t know it yet. The stops don’t seem right. The direction seems off. But we’re moving, so we settle into our seat and just let life happen.
We can look away, fall asleep, change the channel, pop a pill or have a hyperactive social life. We can stay on the wrong bus for our entire lives.
But when we’re quiet, when we’re still, we feel it and want to do something about it. Maybe that’s why we feel unexpected sadness. Maybe that’s why we feel a sense of urgency with no place to go. Maybe that’s why our body is present, but our mind is lost.
Something isn’t right.
The first thing I did was acknowledge the voice. I said, “I hear you, but I don’t know what to do.”
So I started to write down things about myself. I knew ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer, so I wrote that down.
I had been told by many people I should be a comedian, but I never had any real desire to do it. Maybe a humor writer? That feels good. I wrote that down.
What kind of humor writer? How could I express myself? Maybe I could start a blog? I wrote that down.
But I wanted to bring something good to people’s lives – I wanted there to be meaning. Laughter brings joy, right? I wrote that down.
Ok, now things are getting exciting.
Then, as I started to get all jazzy, there was a sudden, loud knock in my brain. It was my ego. I let it in and it very flatly told me that my list was REAL stupid.
“I’m sorry, why did we get a Master’s degree again? Why did we labor and toil over an award winning thesis? To write a funny blog? Do you know what’s at risk here? All you can lose?! Get serious and go apply to doctorate program before I get all pissy.” Then it slammed the door and left. Just like that.
Egos don’t like to be afraid. They like to be safe. Protected. On top. Winning.
As I toiled and spun between my heart and my ego, my husband and I got pregnant. Shortly after discovering we were pregnant, we lost the baby.
In despair, I found, I had nothing to lose.
It was no longer about what I could tangibly achieve for money and status. There was a clarity and determination to find purpose in my suffering.
So I did something really stupid. I started a funny blog. I became a humor writer. I felt alive. In rhythm. It felt right. My life working with college students and the painful hours dedicated to my thesis weren’t for nothing. Those experiences speak to everything I do today, just not in that logical, safe way we think we need to justify our choices.
I don’t have a book yet. I’m not famous or being interviewed by Oprah. We don’t have a lot of money and I’m not sure how I’m going to make it all come together.
But I built something I love. I put my life into it, I sacrificed my sanity for it. There have been times where I’ve literally fought for it. I’m one word a way from a wicked case of carpal tunnel, but you know what? I built something I’m proud of and I work hard everyday so it can grow and evolve into it’s full potential.
Except, now there’s this thing.
Suddenly – I have something to lose again.
My ego comes knocking. “But you’ve worked so hard, what if you lose this? What if it’s for nothing? You have no idea what you’re doing. Without new contracts, you can’t pay your writers and assistant. You can’t do this on your own. Then what? Just go back to freelancing. At least then you’ll have money freed up to actually have a life.”
Being harnessed to some dude in the sky fumbling with a strap would make these questions seem REAL petty right about now. AMIRITE?
Follow fear. It’s pointing you in the direction of your calling. Just be prepared, it will require you do something stupid over and over and over again.
I don’t think our calling ever beacons us at the expense of someone else. It doesn’t require we leave our loving husband and kids to start a winery in Italy solo or squander your children’s college funds to buy new fabrics with absolutely no plan – just a Pinterest board. That’s not stupid, that’s wrong.
Stupid in this context simply means – in the words of Andrew Jackson – never taking counsel from your fears.
Everyday I have to submit to the voice and say, “I hear you.” I have to admit, “But I don’t know what to do.”
It wouldn’t tell us to do something we weren’t capable of doing.
Figure. It. Out.
Getting on the wrong bus isn’t a failure. Never getting off of it is.
Go be stupid.