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Pursuing Your Passion: I've Got Something To Say
Going With The Flow
Have you ever watched a rubber duck in a bathtub, or an inner tube in a pool when no one using it? They never sink. But, they never seem to be going anywhere either. They bounce against the walls, and if someone splashes or makes a wave, it sends them careening in the opposite direction. Well, that has been my professional life for the past several years. I've been doing things that I am very capable of doing. I've have performed reasonably well. I have made good connections, developed new skills, improved on some skills I had. I have gained a lot on my professional journey. There's only one problem. I forgot to bring something with me; my heart. I suspect there are two common reactions to that last line. The first probably goes something like, "I'm not sure about this heart stuff, just do what you have to do". The second reaction is, "Yes! I know exactly what you mean". I invited both groups to stick with me as I continue here.
Think back to when you were in 3rd grade, what did you want to be when you grew up? A doctor? A teacher? A firefighter? I wanted to be an Olympic sprinter. Specifically, I planned to be the second coming of Jesse Owens. I was the fastest kid in my school, undefeated on the playground of Franklin Elementary. My Uncle Chuck used to say, "That boy runs faster than Carl Lewis!" as I torched yet another one of my cousins in a foot race. I believed I could not lose, so I would race anyone, anytime. I would even race while wearing penny loafers (mom didn't like that). I was fully committed to being the next great American Olympic sprinter until one day in 6th grade. I can't remember for sure if it was my teacher or a guest speaker, but someone at the school talked to us about how we could be anything we wanted to be. It started off great. The sky was the limit and my hope began to swell, but this talk is where my dream took a huge blow. When the idea of being professional athletes was brought up, the speaker did the "responsible" thing and explained to us how great the odds were and suggested that those of us who hoped to be professional athletes should also have a back up plan. That afternoon, I went home and told my mom that I wanted to be a lawyer. I explained to her that the earning potential was higher for a lawyer than that of a teacher, and though I could earn more as a doctor, the sight of blood made me dizzy. Add to that the fact that I was pretty well practiced at arguing, yes, the life of an attorney was for me. So, the drift began.
Finding My Thing
Mr. Russell, my 8th grade English teacher encouraged me to enter a poetry contest. I liked English. I got pretty good grades, but I had never really taken poetry seriously. The contest had a theme: Dare to Discover. I sat up staring at a blank piece of paper until 1am the night before the poem was due. Finally, as I was about to fall asleep, the words came to me. I put my pen to the paper and it all just poured out. I can still quote most of that poem, but these particular lines come to mind often.
I'm daring to discover why I live
Am I to be a leader among men?
Or maybe a teacher of children?
It wasn't an amazing literary feat. I relied heavily on rhyming, the only poetic tool in my arsenal at the time. Even as I submitted it, I was unsure if I should go through with it. But, to my surprise, I won. I won first prize! From that point on, I was in love with writing. As a shy kid, I used my new found talent to break the ice with girls. I even wrote a few notes on behalf of my friends. I started keeping a journal and I wrote in it nearly every day. Writing set me free. I was hooked on the praise I would get from others, but I also enjoyed the therapeutic affect of reading my own journal entries. It opened a door in my in my soul that allowed me to safely explore my own thoughts and emotions.
Just when I was starting to think I had found my calling, I was reminded by several people about how hard it is to make money writing. No single detractor comes to mind when I think of this. But, their words still haunt me.
The Odds are stacked against you.
Not everyone can be a New York Times best seller.
You have to be famous for someone to want to read what you have to say.
Writing is a great hobby for you.
How will you support your family by writing?
Those words and more like them pushed me away from my passion and back into the drift. Over the years, I've found jobs that I am good at. I enjoy working with people, and so much of my career has been focused on that. I've worked in customer service, sales, account management. I've done reasonably well in all of those positions. I've even managed to earn a decent salary. Money is great, but it's not enough for me. I need to feel alive. There has been this nagging ache in the back of my mind. Really the ache is about 12 inches lower and in my chest. Lately, that ache has begun to kick and scream for attention like a toddler with a sugar high. I have to share my words. For so long I have allowed practical needs dictate how I use my energy. I have been blind to all of the possibilities for me to share my words, my story, my point of view.
Dipping a Toe or Cannon Ball?
I have reached a point of no return. I was having a conversation with my oldest son (a third grader) the other day, and I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. Without hesitation he rattled off three things: Teacher, Author, Movie director. We talked more about why he wants to do those things and there was one theme. Inspiration. He didn't use the word, but it was evident. He wants to be a teacher because his mom is a teacher. He's had amazing connections with the teachers in his life, particularly his 1st grade teacher. He wants to be an author because he loves books. For his entire life he has been read to and read stories himself that have stirred him and taken him to other worlds. He wants to direct movies for the same reason, they move him and allow him to swept away to adventurous new worlds. He said, "I think it would be cool to make stuff up and actually see it happen." I love that! I told him, "buddy, when you get older and choose what to do in college, or for a job, do what you love. Trust me, if you love it, you'll make all the money you need, because you'll be great at it."
There is always a part of me that is examining my inner thoughts, and as I'm giving my 9 year old this nugget of wisdom, that part of me says, "Hey, great advice...but do you really believe that?" It was a cold splash of water. Even as I write this, I've only been dipping my toe in the water of my passion. I am a man now, and not the boy who fell in love with writing. I have bills, children, a house, a car, and a family to take care of. I need money. I need to bring home the bacon. The voices of the past howl at me telling me the water is too cold. It's safer to stay on the edge of pool. I can earn money on the edge and maybe if I'm brave, I can dangle both feet in the water occasionally. I've been doing this for years. I get fired up to pursue something I love, only to be turned away by doubt and fear. Back to the drift.
In reality, I have no idea what's next. I just know that I cannot keep doing the same thing. Proverbs 18:16 says, "A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men". I believe now is the time for me and my gift to cannon ball into this pool. This blog is only one piece of that vision. I've often worried, what if no one reads this? Or worse, what if people read what I write and they don't like it. Well, one thing is for sure some people won't like it. And no one can read it if I don't write it. I cannot hold back any longer, so here I am. Imperfections and all, I am following my passion. I hope you hear what I have to say.
What is your gift or passion? What is it that makes you feel like you are doing what you're born to do? Maybe now time for you to plug your ears to the doubters and the naysayers and go for it too. Take this journey with me. I welcome your comments, especially from those who have taken the risk to follow their passion.
© 2016 Jason White