I’ve been stuck in a rut for weeks, a creative swampland of too many ideas, but not enough energy and and even less faith in myself to get these ideas out of the muck and into their little canoes to row to shore. To try and get my writing mojo back, I’m participating in The Domino Project’s new project: #Trust30. It’s a month-long writing challenge to encourage self-reflection and help you think about your path for the future.
I’ve been ass-deep in self-reflection lately, and I’m hopeful this challenge will help me wade through wade through the swamp of the self and come out on the other side with a clearer idea of where to travel next (or at least a renewed appreciation for algae and alligators.) You can blog, journal or otherwise create something on each of the 30 days. I’ll be writing and sharing some art with y’all. Want to join me? You can sign up here.
Day 3: One Strong Belief by Buster Benson
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?
Here’s what I believe: It is never too late to live the life you want.
As my friends and I grow older, there tends to be a certain fatalism to our conversations about our childhood dreams, both the big, crazy ones…
“I’m too old to be a professional baseball player.”
“It’s too late to start that rock band now!”
“Oh well, I’ll never win that Pulitzer after all.”
And the smaller scale, but even more important ones…
“I’ll never become a mother now.”
“I guess I’ll never find the love of my life.”
“So much for that big, happy family.”
And so we resign ourselves to being settled, rather than being happy. And there is a difference. Oh man, there is a huge difference.
Settling for what we have, rather than what we want, can be worse than soul-crushing. It’s soul-negating. When you chase a big dream, when you really pursue it, run it down, wrestle with it, and then have it beat you into a pulp and walk away laughing, that’s soul-crushing. You’re hurt, injured, devastated- but you’re still there, you’re still alive, you’re still you. You know you fought the good fight. You can heal. You can fight again, or pick a new battle to begin.
When you settle, you never even pick up your weapon. You never even put on your shoes. You ignore that dream, that integral part of yourself, as if it didn’t even exist. And if you ignore it long enough, it will vanish. This hope, this desire, this essential part of yourself- gone. And when that happens, well, are you even YOU anymore?
Don’t be naive, I hear you saying. I can’t become a professional baseball player at my age. I can’t have children after a hysterectomy. I won’t ever win a Grammy singing at open mic nights. How am I supposed to live the life of my dreams when it’s completely impossible?
Take apart that dream. Look at its guts. What’s at the heart of it?
I have an example. Once there was a girl who knew at the age of nine that all she really wanted to do was be a writer. And so she wrote and wrote and wrote, filling notebooks with everything from horror stories to terrible poetry. And some of it won awards but most of it didn’t and still she wrote and wrote and wrote. She was a writer.
She got to college and decided that she needed a grown-up career, something that might actually help her make money while she was trying to write the Great American Novel. So she decided to major in Technical Writing, which she did not enjoy, but hey- it was writing! And she wrote and edited and revised technical manuals and engineering projects, and it was so terribly boring and tedious that she stopped writing altogether. She stopped being a writer.
Here and there over the next 15 years, she would write. A poem here, a short story there, maybe a novella. But she knew she’d never be a writer- she worked in Finance of all things, and the money was good, even if it was terrible and boring.
And then one day, life changed completely. She had to stop working at the terrible and boring but good-paying job. Who was she now? She was nobody that she recognized. An ex-Financial Analyst. An anxious caregiver. A stressed-out mother. Too bad it was too late to be a writer.
Or was it? Maybe it was too late to win a Pushcart Prize or get that MFA from the University of Iowa, but it wasn’t too late to write. And so she wrote. Little things, big things, blog things, contest things, an essay thing in an actual book, even. And she didn’t win any prizes. But it didn’t matter, but hey, she was a writer again. And that’s all she’d ever wanted to be.
Writers write, not to win prizes or accolades or NY Times Bestseller List positions, but because they have to write. They have a need to write, a burning desire for writing, a sheer love of the craft.
Baseball players play, not for the roar of the crowd, or the fame, or the money, but for the love of the game.
Parents cuddle and comfort and nurture not because it’s their job or their duty, but because they love their children.
I believe at the heart of every dream, at the center of every desire, is love. It is never too late to live the life that you want, a life centered around love.
Want to be a writer? Get a journal, start a blog, make a zine. Write. Voila! You are a writer.
Want to be a baseball player? Join a rec league, a company team, or heck, a senior adult wooden bat league just to make things interesting. Can’t play anymore due to physical limitations? Coach or sponsor a team. Still focused on being a pro? Check out the job openings in the office at your local minor league team- nobody said you had to swing a bat to be a professional.
Want to be a parent? Even if you can’t physically carry (or help create) a pregnancy, you can still be a parent. There’s the obvious suggestions- adopt a child or foster a child in your home. You could also be a Big Brother/Sister, a tutor, a youth group leader, or even just a special adult to a friend’s child. Children need love from all sorts of places, not just their parents/guardians in the home. There are innumerable ways to love, protect, and nurture a child.
I’m a writer. And so, I write. I don’t have an agent or a book contract or even a column in the local paper. I have a page in front of me and words in my head and so I write. Every time I write, I am living my dream, creating the life that I always wanted.
No, these aren’t the specific, precise dreams of our youth fulfilled. But they take the truth at the heart of these dreams- the love of something very meaningful to us- and seek to fulfill them. Expressing that love in our lives is always possible. Living our lives with that love at the forefront is always achievable.
It is never too late to live the life you want.