(This is an edited and trimmed version of a piece I recently wrote at the request of a friend for a project she's working on. Her prompt was "Post-graduation life" ...just as massive and open-ended as that...)
Finding your passion, in terms of your ‘life calling’ is not always the simple result of being a passionate person. I used to think that if I had passion, strong beliefs and devoted ambition, I’d just passively realize a dream that was acutely fitted for my skills and interests and chase after it.
Sometimes though, no matter how much ambition you have, clarity and vision don’t reveal themselves simply. I've spent the greater part of the past 3 years fighting this strange tension which could be summarized as: “I will work so hard! But work for what?? I want to move forward! But in what direction?? I want to make great change in the world! But in which field??”
My subconscious response to this tension was to try to do it all; if I couldn’t narrow down my interests enough to start moving in one direction, maybe I could just move in all directions, pursue everything, lead the most eclectic and diversified life possible so as not to miss out on anything. I saw this as the best use of my twenties: to take advantage of this phase of questioning, challenging, and experimenting, with the hope of one day stumbling upon something I’d like to dedicate myself to more wholly.
To some degree, I still believe that. This should be a season of life free to be unconfined and undetermined. But as I’ve learned, there is also a level of restraint that does a body good. I built up a life as a business representative, soccer player, soccer coach, youth group leader, bartender, balloon artist, writer, social butterfly.. etc. With a schedule so full, I couldn’t help but find purpose somewhere soon, right?
Did you know that one dictionary definition of busyness is: "Lively but meaningless activity"? I embodied this definition to an unhealthy degree for quite some time. In the chaos of my hastened life, I adopted the habit of skipping through my routine engagements mindlessly. I abandoned the basic investments that kept my spirit constant when everything else was changing. My art, my health, and my relationships all took the hit; the things I supposedly cared most about were suffering because of my myriad demands. I was gradually shifting from eclectic, to empty. Somehow in the midst of trying to be everything, I ended up nothing like who I wanted to be.
This apex of exhaustion awakened me to a new challenge of balance and intention. I decided that my quality of life and impact on the world would never be measured by the length of my resume but by the substance of my experiences and my resulting character; and as obvious as that may seem, I took it to heart as enlightenment.
So not long ago, I started stripping my life down to what I knew I could do 100%. There are only so many hours in the day, so many days in the week, and so many things you can invest in. After a period of complete overload, I had to step away from the things that didn't fit with who I wanted to be, and re-comitt myself to the things that would sustain a life I could take pride in. I'm still training myself to practice the simple disciplines that keep my body and mind healthy, my creativity nourished, and my priorities in line.
Although post-grad life has felt more inconsistent and aimless than any other season I’ve been through, it’s also compelled me to take ownership of a new resiliency and strength I never before needed. After many cycles of pain and redemption, I’ve developed a great reverence for the fruit that struggle bears.
As for today, I am still learning how to wear myself, and I still put up a great fight when I look in the mirror most days. I still get frustrated that periods of immense growth often come along with lessons of loss, uncertainty, loneliness, and failure. I still have too many questions about where I am headed, but I’m starting to feel like I am entitled to more than my insecurities, and that I am indeed capable of some extraordinary things when I roll up my sleeves and put in the hard work. I’ve also come to appreciate a whole new angle of friendship. Countless times over the last few years I have sat with a friend, either saying or hearing “I know what you’re going through, I’ve been there too” or “I’m feeling the exact same thing! Will we make it through??” That state of exasperated togetherness, comrades in utmost despair, is a union of immeasurable value. No matter how maddening or trying relationships may be, I am nothing without companionship and this has never been made so clear as in the last 3 years.
I’ve realized we live the impossible garden- where it’s always planting season and always the harvest. We are constantly laying the groundwork for some piece of the future, and always reaping the fruits, or spoils, of some previous season. I can only hope that what I am planting right now is the start of a prolific period defined by a commitment to incessant creating and learning. In 10 years I hope to be able to look back and say, “Those uncomfortable years were used well- I let it all in, ignored nothing, questioned everything, acted on my beliefs, and invested in relationships.. those years validated the truth of being a part of the human community. I accepted the struggles, capitalized on the blessings, and never settled for mediocre contentment. I used my time.”