Unfolding Your Own Myth, or, Born Worthy
In retrospect, I see how this early exposure to professional work left a sour taste in my mouth. I was employed by a for-profit education corporation that tasked me with keeping students in school even if they really needed to be, say, going to rehab (many of them did). The school also encouraged students to take out large loans that they would never be able to repay with the low wage jobs they would be qualified for upon completion. Despite working with some excellent people, the environment was predominantly unhealthy. It took less than a year for me to jump ship for massage school and a helping career that didn't involve shoes or a cubicle.
In the 10 years since, I've done an eclectic smattering of work that's given me access to a variety of interesting places and people. What I've amassed is a collection of experiences that doesn't constitute any sort of obvious cohesive career, but what a fun, strange trip it's been. That said, if my life were a house, the room for professional work would be sprouting wild overgrowth through floorboards. Cobwebs clinging. Feral cats napping in the sun let in by cracks in the ceiling. My personal raging against the machine lead me to neglect this aspect of my life until it occurred to me that there was no need to settle; I could build a room to suit my style and needs.
A major hindrance I face in this development is my own critical comparative voice. I look admiringly at people I respect excelling in their careers and deride myself for not getting my shit together sooner. My inner ally steps in to gently remind me that there is no Should. There is not a reality that exists in which I made different choices. I have arrived here on the wings of every past Yes or No, and as I'm deeply grateful for my life, I can only view its unfolding with amazement. I choose to trust the innate genius of this unfolding, the creativity of which I never could've devised on my own.
Human beings thrive inside stable boundaries and structures, and so our species patterned a Way to Be to guide our movement through life. Like plants, though, every human life has a different rhythm with which it cycles to bloom. We lose this truth in comparing our reality to what we've been conditioned to believe is normal and in how others are achieving markers of success. As varied as we naturally are, there could never be a single path to satisfy the yearnings of every human heart. The subscription to a one-size-fits-all approach leads some to compromises they often cannot bear later.
Purpose and meaningful work are important to overall happiness, but we each get to choose the meaning and the method. Not everyone is here to doctor or lawyer. Not everyone will college, career, marriage, baby. Our world is served best by a diversity of ideas, skills, paths and passions. It may feel scary or isolating to move outside the default, but you're in good company if you do. Where would we be without dreamers, artists and inventors? Dissatisfaction with the status quo is a birthplace of innovation.
It's a tender, vulnerable thing to speak your truth with no idea how it'll be received. My life has been shaped and saved by those who were bold enough to make themselves visible by offering their unique gifts to the world. It humbles me to consider the risk they took to make their contribution and inspires me to do the same; after all, there may be people out there who are relying on me to be so bold.
This nasty snarl voice is the greatest inhibitor of my contribution making. There is some comfort knowing that this is a thought plague among creators of all kinds, but it still stings each time it blazes in screaming. There is an unevolved part of the old animal brain that fears being caught outside the herd. Of course it's illogical; we won't be picked off by a lion if we go our own way, but we're still hardwired for sameness is safe and the unknown is death.
Not only does self-doubt and comparison diminish our joy, it also siphons our energy and focus away from our purpose. While we're preoccupied with someone else's path, we neglect our own. I've spent a lot of time in a depression/anxiety spiral of feeling unworthy to be genuinely fulfilled in my work and hating myself for the way this stymies my progress towards creating a life that I'll love. Many early attempts to do this have failed because a part of me feels not only undeserving but also afraid to get what I desire. The twisted logic is that I'm a fraud who hasn't "earned" happiness and if I get it, everyone will know and will be mad at me. Yeesh. Someone's got a raging case of impostor syndrome.
All this said, it’s a tempting habit to believe that happiness lies on the other side of the next success. “When...when...when…” we say. Time and a regular meditation practice have taught me that if you can't meet yourself with love and compassion as you are today, happiness will always be out of reach. There’s no personal or professional milestone that will make you worthy of love. You were born worthy to receive all the desires of your sacred heart.
The mysterious unfolding of life has also shown me that timing truly is everything. What's possible for me now would not have been possible six months ago. I can employ this understanding to help me be patient and gentle with myself, while also knowing that sometimes we have to get to work before we feel ready. New adventures present too many unexpected variables to plan for every outcome. The future version of myself begs me to take the leap anyway, for it is her that has to live with what I choose today.
We can only begin here and now with what we have in front of us. It's difficult to get going if we're mired in self-criticism or frustration, so the natural starting place is forgiveness. Forgive yourself for every failure and stall and misstep, for the innumerable ways you might've let yourself down. You're not here to perfect anything. It will only stoke fear and anxiety if you try, and distract you from your purpose.
Do what you can today towards a life Future You will love.
Be as easy as you can about it.
It's your life, sure, but you can always try again.
You were born to fulfill your deepest desires.
You were born worthy of happiness.
It's what the world needs most from you.
Let's get to work.