Would you like to know what messages I got as a kid that had me crumple into a pile of anxious sweat?
“The world is your oyster!” and “You can do anything you set your mind to!”
Wait, what? I can do anything? But I’m terrible at math, and I become narcoleptic in conversations about politics and finances.
The world I grew up in didn’t resemble an oyster, there were no pearls rolling onto my lap. The world as I saw it was like a freeway with very narrow on-ramps—go to school, become a lawyer, get in your lane, and stay there. I was enjoying my wide, gravel country road with the wind in my hair. No oysters here.
I fumbled through school, scraping by on my charm and wit. There were a lot of “good effort” remarks on my report card. Dutifully I went to university, the one that accepted my mediocre grades. I thought that’s what I had to do.
In order to survive university, I chose the most open-ended programs I could—art history, philosophy, and women’s studies. Was there a plan? Yes, it was to have beer in my own fridge. Was there a focus? Just looking for the on-ramp.
Two years into higher education, I decided to stop looking for an exit that didn’t seem to exist and instead drove west. Much to my delight, this began an even higher education phase of my life, one that continues to this day.
My view of the “career freeway” has completely dissolved. I have discovered a new alchemy to work-success instead. It’s the combination of authenticity and contribution. There is no degree that will ever get you this magic combination. The moment I understood that my studies, my education, and my work were all about being more of who I already was is when my whole world opened up.
The pearl is the wisdom in my heart. The overwhelm of “being anything I put my mind to” faded once I lifted my chin and looked out, not for what, but for whom. The people I serve need the unique combination of skills, experiences, abilities, quirks, and quarks that I possess. My purpose comes alive in their presence.
Self-awareness is holy work. This has been proven by the great game changers in history. People who knew who they were and that their contribution to the world mattered didn’t judge themselves; they quieted the saboteur and got to work.
Doubt wants you to know you’re tired, you don’t have time, you don’t have money, you’re alone, you’re not good enough. The only epoxy to that crack is authentic action. Put your intention to serve others behind your unique being in the world. Look through the lens of service, from your heart, and a purposeful life of your own creation is possible.