When I have breakthroughs, lights shining down from heaven sort of breakthroughs, sitting down at the computer and writing about it helps me to processes it. Generally speaking the better I processes something the more likely it is I will take action that results in meaningful change. How often is it that you have a realization you know, just know is the one that will change your life forever? Then after you come down from that epiphany induced high you are left thinking; “okay so now what the hell do I do.” As great as it is to have breakthroughs, you actually have to do something, they key here is “DO”, if it is actually going to make a real difference.
So my recent breakthrough goes a like this.
“This is a story all about how my life got flip turned upside down.
And I’d like to take a minute so sit right there
and tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air”
I’m just fucking with you. But that song popped into my head as finished typing the last paragraph.
I’ve bought hook line and sinker into the idea of following your passion. Find that one thing that makes you tick, that fire inside that just won’t go out and do that. Life is hard enough might as well do something that makes you feel alive, is what they all say. The problem for me is my fire can change year to year, month to month, minute to minute. I’m not one of the chosen ones who have always known what it is they were put here on this earth to do. For some they don’t even care. Asking the question is of no interest.
Lately I’ve been wondering whether I was put here on this earth to become totally OCD about my purpose all the while never actually finding it. Surprisingly enough that does not pay well as a career choice. The struggle for me is I really fucking care. I know I was put here on this earth to do something (besides obsess). Sitting on the beach drinking pina coladas does not interest me. Engaging in live is of more interest to me than being a passive observer. The problem is I have no fucking idea what I was put here to do. Actually, that is not entirely true.
I’ve felt certain at one point or another in my life, I was put here on this earth to………
Be in a rock band
Be an ER doctor(I loved watching ER when I was in high school)
Be a lawyer
Work at the White House(I loved the West Wing)
Be on SNL
Be a chef
Be a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker
You get the idea. Each time one of these passions took a hold of me I was certain this is it, I’d found my life’s calling. I would enroll in the best god dam candlestick making college I could find. I think Harvard is now offering a degree program in candlestick making.
How do you follow your inner fire, when it keeps going out and when it does comes back it comes back as something different?
You just choose. Make a choice. And commit 100%, until you don’t.
This is the way a very very young but wise friend of mine explained to me. It really made all the difference in the world. I’m 37 and have yet to find my quote un-quote passion or true calling, but I think I may have found it without actually finding it at all. Let me explain.
If someone were to of asked me, “Todd do you want a chocolate ice cream cone or a vanilla ice cream cone”, I would have thought about it and decided on one for any number of reasons. The problem was when I decided which flavor I wanted, that essentially eliminated any possibility of being able to enjoy the other one someday. It was like as my mouth went to take that first lick of the velvety chocolate soft serve; my friend would take the vanilla cone and throw that fucker on the ground, letting his dog lick it up.
What I do then is,
A. Immediately stop making the movement of sending my mouth to the ice cream cone, mind you yet I’ve not take the first bite.
B. Give my friend that you’re an asshole look and slap him silly.
C. Kick his dog as to stop him from licking anymore and I try and salvage what is left of this now doggy germ filled scoop of delicious ice cream.
When I decided on the chocolate, essentially, the vanilla disappeared and that freaked me out. What I needed to have done was to of chosen the chocolate not decided on it. If you are like me your first reaction was, it’s the same fucking thing. Choose, decide, tomato, toe-mot-toe. Quick etymology lesson for all you word nerds.
Decide, comes from the Latin word decidere. Literally it meant to cut off. De – means “off” and cidere means “to cut”. That sounds pretty final to me. No wonder I chased after that vanilla cone like she just threw my baby into traffic. Here are some definitions from Merriam Webster’s.
to make a final choice or judgment about
to bring to a definitive end
Choose was a little tricky, but one of its roots is from the Old English word, coesan. Some meanings of coesan are, to test, taste, try, seek out. All less final sounding then the definitions associated with decide. From Merrian Webster
to select freely and after consideration
to have a preference for
There is a lot more flexibility in the word choose vs. decides. The door of possibilities is still wide open instead of nailed shut.
Enough with the history lesson and now onto have I found my purpose but not really. When I choose chocolate, or choose to be a writer, doctor, whatever it is, over vanilla, being a doctor, I actually need to make it all the way to the cone and take a bite. Remember actually “do” something vs. just thinking about. That is where I was stuck before.
Thinking. Thinking about eating the chocolate but never actual eating it, then thinking about the vanilla, but again not eating. Back and forth, back and forth. Lots of thinking but no real doing.
The key, the gold in all this is you need to be all in. Stick your face in the chocolate and just eat it and eat it, like the plane is hurdling toward the ground and won’t stop, unless you finish this delectable chocolate treat. You are the Kobayashi of competitive soft serve eating. An unwavering commitment to eating that chocolate ice cream cone until you’re not.
I also learned something else very important, at least for me. I have OCD/Anxiety. I worry about the future. Anxiety by its definition is worrying about a future event that may or may not happen.
You don’t need to have it all figured out when you choose. Remember when you choose it is not final.As long as you are fully committed to eating the chocolate while you are eating the chocolate the Universe will guide you. Things will show up you never expected. You may find yourself eating chocolate for 20 years and that is okay. It might be only 20 minutes. Just show up to the party, do the next right thing. Focus only on the step you are taking in that moment. Don’t worry about step 39 when you are on step 2.
As you put one foot in front of the other and you are totally present to what you are doing, odds are you won’t fuck up. You will end up right where you are supposed to be. You may fuck up but if you do you will be in a position to stop, re-evaluate and move forward in more effective way. Your passion, that fire you have been looking for will show up as long as you do.
I know it is cliché but I’ve failed enough to know you learn way more from your failures then you do from your successes.
For me I never made it all the way to taking the first bite of whatever flavor I choose. Half way there I’d stop, freak out, shit my pants, worry oh god I just made the worst decision of my life. Chocolate, I don’t want chocolate, what kind of asshole chooses chocolate. You better stop what you’re doing and see if the vanilla is still there. Then as I got closer to the vanilla I’d be like, WTF, vanilla, that is soooooo boring, like ewwww! Vanilla. Just pull the stick out of my ass already and go with a flavor that rocks like chocolate. Vanilla is for losers.
You see the existential dilemma that occurred for me time and time again.
Now when I make a choice, I’m committed to that choice until I’m not. I know that when the time is right, when the fire goes out I’ll choose the next thing that lights me up. Knowing all along I’m on the path I should be one. You will find that work that makes you feel alive. It may not look like you envisioned it from the get go, but remain true to the processes, because when you do the results will be amazing.
This is what I meant earlier when I said I’ve found my purpose, but not really. Today my purpose is to be 100% all, totally present, only looking 1 foot in front of me as I pursue the career path as a writer. Sharing my stories and struggles as an equally exasperating and endearing individual who suffers from OCD, mixed with anxieties and a whole list of neuroses that make me, me. The me that is a pretty powerful and amazing. So for now I’ve found my purpose, but tomorrow when I wake up I’m going to choose vanilla and see where that leads me. It is not either or.
This reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, when Sonny says, “It is all okay in the end and if it is not okay, then it is not the end.”
I must be patient. I must be committed. I must be okay with not knowing what the future will look like. That I won’t have it all figured. Just have trust and faith that God, the Universe, call it what you like has a plan and what should show up will. Ultimately if you commitment and embrace the uncertainty that comes with only looking one step ahead, good things will come. I, you, your grandma, whoever will find that fire and it won’t go out. This I believe.
“I begged and pleaded with her day after day
But she packed my suit case and sent me on my way
She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket.
I put my Walkman on and said, ‘I might as well kick it’.”
With this attitude or mindset of not worrying about the future, just doing the next right step you get to enjoy the journey, which I believe is ultimately better then the destination. Just be like the fresh prince, stop fighting what is, your moving to your Aunt’s in Bel Air, so you might as well just kick it.
Because if you enjoy the ride you won’t want it to end. Do you really want it to end? But when the day comes and you sit on your throne you can look back and be grateful for how much fun it was getting there.
“I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8
And I yelled to the cabbie ‘Yo holmes smell ya later’
I looked at my kingdom
I was finally there
To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air”