Who would be your perfect spouse? Your Mr. or Mrs. Right?
I bet most of us have come up with answers to these questions, whether informally in our head or on a checklist we keep at the bottom of a desk drawer.
When I was a teenager this question of ‘Who is your Mr. Right?’ was forever turned on it’s head by an older, happily married gentleman. He said words that I’ve never forgotten.
In Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, the young revolutionary Laigle abandons his legal career and declares, “I renounce the triumphs of the bar.” A few months ago, so did I. After seven years of practicing law, I resigned from my boutique firm, spurred by the usual sorts of misgivings about the white-collar world: the emotional emptiness of the work, the dubious clamour for money, and the never-ending stress.
And for what pursuit did I cast aside my stable, well-paid legal career? Being a children’s book author and illustrator.
In the study of philosophy, it is imperative to define terms at the outset. I always think of a passion or calling as being that thing that we must do in life, that thing without which we will be miserable most of the time.
That is a very big expectation, indeed.
I cannot count the number of days, weeks, and even years I have spent researching what my true passion may be. Name the assessment and I’m sure I’ve taken it. Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator? Yup, many times. ISTJ anyone?
I think I left the house just a dozen times during my 5 consecutive years as an anxious recluse. This withdrawal from the world occurred during my twenties soon after I had finished college when I found myself at the mercy of multiple anxiety disorders.
Anxiety had been something I’d suffered from since childhood but the loss of the stable framework that education had provided left me suddenly adrift and directionless. Intense fear filled my mind every hour of every day, and soon I was plummeting into a downward spiral of acute anxiety and depression.
My parent’s home offered a retreat from reality which seemed like a blessing at first but which later turned into a self-imposed prison of isolation and excuses, which was very hard to escape.
What is our obsession with badges? Girl Scouts. Letterman’s jackets. Credentials. Resumes.
I can admit, I’ve been one of those people. My life has been lived as a collection of what I’ve done and achieved…The proverbial trophy room. I grew up in a small town, raised goats and showed them at fairs. My parent’s home displays a shrine of sorts boasting all the ribbons and trophies I won over the years. Back then, it was my pride. Whenever I return to visit, I often reminisce at the colorful, shiny representation of my childhood.
For me, it meant something. It meant that I was worth something, that somehow the “win” meant I was good and that gave me value. A blue ribbon or bronzed plaque was validation. But now…What do I remember? I remember friends I made and bonding time I spent with my dad. It was how I learned responsibility, competitive spirit, follow-through, and putting my best face forward. I only realize this now in reflection.
Are you impatient for change? I’m not surprised. We live in a society that first tells us we are not enough and then teaches us that change is easy, quick and available right now.
We’re bombarded by quick-fixes, and we reach for them: medicine that’ll get us back on our feet again; the shiny car that’ll solve all our problems; the must-read book that will reveal a new us and the higher paying job that’ll turn the world from black to gold. Society tells us it knows how to fix us. And we want to believe it – it’s easier to absolve responsibility for ourselves and our lives, than have to deal with the fact that we hurt, we long and that’s messy and might take time and trouble to sort out.