A few weeks ago I wrote about how you could excavate buried dreams and start to bring them to the forefront. So maybe you try something, like pulling out a sketch pad and drawing. You’re excited, revved up, ready to go. Then you discover that the brilliant idea in your head has come out looking like a first grader’s eager but technically challenged effort. You may ask yourself then, “What was I thinking?”
It’s easy to get discouraged if you’re feeling obsolete. Believe me, I know. I spend my days writing, revising, and studying my craft, and for what? I know I am working against the odds. Even building a blog audience, as I attempt to do here several days a week, seems fraught with discouragement as the audience remains small. A lot of people give up and leave their novels in a drawer.
So why do it? Why pursue a dream that may not, probably won’t, come true?
The first answer, for me, is that my life is a happier one when I pursue my dreams. I used to work in a corporate environment. I worked hard each day composing and revising contracts for the natural gas industry. I worked with great people that I sometimes miss, but more often than not I hated getting up and going to work each day. I hated the politics, the chauvinism, the attempts of others to hijack my day and rearrange my priorities to the detriment of the work.
On my lunch hours, I wrote. Yes, people started to think I was antisocial, but that’s another story. When I wrote, I could let go of the morning and face the afternoon. Writing, even on a day when writing didn’t come easily (which is often), brought me joy.
Second, we teach our children to find their bliss. We have spent countless hours helping my husband’s children find their educational and career paths, always advising them to find something they can enjoy doing. If we’re not teaching them by example, what will they really learn? They tend to do as we do, not as we say. Besides, why should they have all the fun?
Finally, is it possible that we need to redefine what success means to us? We are conditioned in this society that more is better…bigger houses, newer cars, more stuff. What’s our job title? How much are we making? Sadly, we have even begun to judge peoples’ worth by their income levels, as evidenced by the current snobbery toward low wage earners.
Yet all these “things” don’t bring genuine quality of life. Yes, having enough money to make ends meet and enjoy life a little is a good thing. I’ve been broke and I’ve had money, and having money is definitely better…but it doesn’t make us better people. And, some people who make a lot of money genuinely love their jobs. Some make a difference in the world with their work, or use the money they earn to support causes they believe in.
What makes us a success, though, is not how much we earn but whether we are engaged in life and feeling a prevailing sense of joy about who we are. When we are true to the best of ourselves, honing and developing our talents, we are successful. Money may or may not come from that. But true happiness will.
Now that we’ve defined why we do what we love, the question is, how do we keep ourselves going when we feel discouraged? How do we draw that next sketch, revise the story that has gone awry, or keep going when we’re just too darn tired? Or, what happens when health or other life circumstances derail our dreams altogether? How do we find strength when a dream is taken from us altogether?
That’s for next week, folks. Stay tuned for Part II.