The sign you should be doing something else in life can hit you in different ways. Mine was an over-priced calculus textbook that smelled like rubber and cellulose. Or what you’d imagine cellulose to smell like. It hit the back of the throat, like an olfactory reminder of how much I wanted to escape the classroom.
By the third year into my math degree I had recurring anxiety over that smell. That smell represented what would be the rest of my life, like some warped, existential perfume.
This is it, I thought. I’m doomed to a desk-bound life of spreadsheets and algorithms.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved math. Or more accurately, I loved being good at math. But the closer I got to my degree, the closer I felt I was walking to my death sentence.
Maybe I’d be one of those cool mathematicians, I told myself. Maybe I’d be a physicist, and just like my uncle, I’d invent something only a handful of geeks knew about. It can still be fun. No one says I have to do it all my life. I can do it long enough to make a living, save some money, and then use that money to do what I really want.
These pep talks were frequent visitors, but they couldn’t stop me from submitting my withdrawal. One of my professors wrote me back, urging me to reconsider. She said I was one of the most gifted students she’d seen in 20 years of teaching and I was throwing away a natural ability.
Was I totally insane? I was leaving the only thing I was ever good at. I was abandoning every bit of good advice my mother gave me.
My mother slaved her way out of poverty as a domestic helper and often recounted tales of scarcity. “Get an education that leads to a stable job. Don’t start a family until you’re secure. Never get a credit card and save what you earn” were the fundamentals I was raised on. Career choice and education were a matter of survival and practically.
But once I discovered the alternative realities of Frank Herbert, the cultural rebellion of the 1950s with Jack Kerouac, the complexity of character with Virginia Woolf, and lost photographs by revolutionary artists like P.H. Polk, it was impossible to be the same person and hold the same level of practicality imposed on me. All I can say is that, these worlds of literature, art and history, unless accessed and experienced, remain intangible and misunderstood. By their very nature, they exist in the imagination and in the temptation of the heart. How do you explain love, if you’ve never fallen in love?
I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to learn about people and what shapes our fragile consciousness. I wanted to understand the world, and through that understanding, give the world what these books and concepts gave to me: a deep, knowing connection of what it means to be a human being.
I was hungry for adventure and discovery; to be on the road, unearthing stories and finding the disguised wisdom only human experience can speak to. But these things, I felt, were only for those who earned them or had the luxury to do them. I was undeserving in my desire to pursue them.
I knew my desire was irrational. It wasn’t even supported with the hopefulness of a plan. “You only want to do that because you’re young” I was told. “When you get older, you’ll regret it.”
Was it just a youthful ideology? Was I going to become a disenchanted, over-worked writer and rambling about how I could have been a talented mathematician.
Guilt, obligation, and self-beating became part of my perspective on life: Who am I to dream these things? If I don’t make it, it’s not just my life I’m screwing up, but my parents. How am I going to look after them?
I still hadn’t learned one of the biggest lessons I would learn as a writer:
Fear has no place in the creative process.
Sure it exists, but until you beat it back and rise above it, you will never be truly free to produce the magic that only you can create.
It’s been 10 years since I made the decision to be a writer. And I’ve faulted all the way.
I started as writer at a tiny museum, blending my love for content and history. Losing faith in myself, I fell back on math and become an analyst. In those years, I moved up quickly. I busied myself, but underneath it all, was the memory of that cellulose perfume. I was back in the classroom.
It’s easy to lose yourself in money and accomplishments. But as long as you are denying yourself of what you really love, they’re just temporary satisfactions.
The pressure was building. The longing was building. During an icebreaker, a colleague asked about my favourite memory. Instantly I said: when I wrote a novella on alternative communities traveling around the States and when I interviewed civil rights leaders for a preservation assignment. Nothing compared to those moments so I spent years in a state of romanticising my past and disconnected with my future.
When I reached a lull in my career distractions, I snapped. The idea of spending another year glued to my computer monitor while the world and their stories moved on without me was more than I could take. I left my boyfriend and my job, desperate to be on the move and reclaim myself.
I asked my mum’s permission if I could use my savings to relocate. I saved enough to pay her remaining mortgage. It was what I had been working for. She wanted me to be happy, and perhaps after seeing how I had the ability to be financially independent, gave me her consent.
I used every cent to build a new life. I spent a year and a half traveling and “figuring things out.”
The irony was I didn’t have anything to figure out. I only had to stop running away from my dreams and commit to myself.
Because it took me so long, I hurt a lot of people along the way.
All because I couldn’t commit to myself. Life is doubly ironic like that. The more we try to do things for other people at the expense of ourselves, the less we have to give.
My most profound lesson to date is that what’s best for ourselves is best for others. If there was a formula for it would be exponential happiness [Happiness times itself, times itself, times itself = we’re all bloody happy].
Now, as I sit in my ripped jean shorts and tank top, the only scent wafting is that of my abundance essential oil, dirty laundry and used journals. The smell of doing exactly what I want to be doing.
All that said, here are three steps to doing what you want in life
1) Admit to yourself what you want, and what you love to do. We spend too much time convincing ourselves we’re not passionate enough or don’t know what we want. But that’s not true. We all know. It’s just easier to pretend we don’t.
2) Stop making excuses. The only reason we get stuck spending irreversible time on things we don’t care about is fear. We fear we won’t make it, we fear we’ll fail, we fear we’re incapable. The truth is, we’ll all be dead soon. The clock is ticking. So why in god’s name are we wasting time doing things we don’t enjoy? Quit disempowering yourself. Ignore the chant conspiring in your head “oh it’s easy for you to say, I can’t, I don’t have, etc, etc.” You can do it. It’s just that fear and our egos are good at convincing us otherwise.
3) The only difference between those who have and those who don’t, so to speak, is that those who Have had a trigger of self-awareness and realised fear isn’t a good enough reason to pass time in mediocrity. We all have things we love. There is no reason why in today’s age of endless possibilities and interconnectedness that anyone should be unfulfilled. You have to know there is enough in this world for you to do exactly what you love. Whatever you love, there will be a million other people who love it too. And that’s all it takes. So take a step.
Don’t know what that step is or too scared? See a coach. I used to think coaches were only for people who were lost and needed people to tell them what to do. Yah, I know, super self-righteous. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Coaches, good coaches, arm you with the most powerful thing of all: awareness. Once you have awareness, you can get the clarity needed to overcome your biggest barrier: yourself.
Ps. This is serious.
If you’re unhappy, stop looking externally and look within. It’s easy to look at our circumstances and say “I’m not happy because xyz.”
The truth is, your choices have lead you to where you are and you have a choice in how you choose to continue. There’s a lot of power in that choice. Everyone can find happiness and fulfilment. It’s our birth given right. I don’t care if you’re imbalanced, chronically depressed, dysfunction or an addict. If you exist, you have the ability to improve your life. The sad thing is, when we’re in that state, it’s the only thing we can see so we assume that’s just the way it is. Nothing can be further from the truth. If you are alive, you are alive with an energy to both destroy and create.
Negative narratives, from our conditioning and perpetuated over time, fuels our insecurities. And although we’re becoming intellectually aware of the possibilities, with all our growing complex quantum theories, our hearts haven’t caught up yet.
We don’t see these possibilities as our own. We see them as someone else’s opportunities. Always them, never us.
But today’s opportunity is about doing what we love be in life and using that love to inspire others and inspire the world to move beyond the fear that limits us.
It all comes back to us, inside, as a spiritual animal. Everything, at its core, comes down to the issue of the Spirit. That intangible thing, that voice, that identity, driven by emotions and consciousness: the spirit.
It’s a thing many try to explain, but we can only ever intuitively understand. It’s where our energy stems from, and shapes how we love and live life. The spirit. If you are dissatisfied or unhappy, consult your spirit. It originated from you and only you can really answer the question.
You can always talk to me. As one of my friends said while introducing me to a new friend over beer: “meet Amanda, she’s a dream-maker.” I laughed so hard but also realised the slither of truth. I’ve been to the dark side and come out the other side. I know what its like not to have clarity, or balls, or direction or the strategy to do it. Trust me, I know. I also know that if you’re serious about making something happen for yourself I can help you with that too. We can ride the wave of craziness and possibility to get you where you want to be in life. Holla at me.