Actually, I never wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to go into space, but more than that, I wanted to be magical so I could go anywhere I wanted; outer space was only one possible realm of adventure.
What did you think you’d be when you grow up? And, are you?
Grown up, I mean.
Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing at this point in your life? Are you living the dream? Why not?
I know, I know…bills, practicality, poor choices, fear, desire to conform to societal norms, etc.
Lately I’ve been pondering the notion of Right Livelihood, a.k.a. “what the heck I’m supposed to do with my life.” Right livelihood is a term that gets bandied about a lot these days, at least in my kooky circle of friends. It sounds all new-age-y and stuff but it’s actually quite venerable in its origins. I do think, however, that most people have no earthly idea what it really means. From a Buddhist perspective it goes like this:
Right livelihood can be further defined as pursuits that do not cause harm to other living beings.
The ones to avoid, for example, are:
Business in weapons,
business in human beings,
business in meat,
business in intoxicants,
and business in poison.
Ok, that’s great and all, but how does that relate to my life now? If I make and sell cordials, am I being unethical? If I make and sell incense that is mildly mind-altering, am I a bad person? How about when I used to work in pharmacy? It’s very muddy ground, as far as I can tell.
One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing is the fact that I am currently floating, aimless, in the sea of unemployment.
You see, I graduated from art school last May and I’m kind of wondering what I should do with that, if anything is possible in the first place. I’m an “older” graduate (read: 38, and counting), having spent 20 off-and-on years getting my education. I did a lot of other things along the way too, but those don’t generally equate to a good job. Before I went back to school for the 5th time, I had worked as an answering service operator, a file clerk, a receptionist, a litigation copy clerk, a pharmacy technician, a retail clerk, and a copy editor/proofreader. That’s just counting the paying jobs.
This art school experience was just for me. Not to get a “good” job, not because I thought I would actually become a working artist, but because I’d always dreamed of earning a fine arts degree (dorky kid that I was). I wanted that piece of paper, that testimonial to my perseverance, that proof that I wasn’t just a loser who couldn’t finish anything.
Along the way, I learned a lot more than I bargained for. Some good, some bad – as is the way of things. Ultimately, I came away from the process not only with my testimonial but also transformed, with a whole new perspective and way of seeing myself in the world. The struggles and frustrations, and satisfactions too, that I accrued on my journey have left me with an entirely new struggle: how do I, at the age of 38 and with no more marketable skills than I had before, go back to the same crap I used to do?
From a practical perspective, I totally get the need to obtain gainful employment. My frighteningly large student loans have already begun pressing down on me and I need to have the money to pay them back (even if it does take me the rest of my natural life).
But…what if I could do something that actually mattered to me? There’s certainly no shame in having a so-called ordinary job, but is it an impossible dream to strive for more than that? It’s hard to just go on as if the last 3 1/2 years of my life made no difference. They were momentous, at least to me.
So, right livelihood then. What is that anyway? I don’t know if art is the way to go, or maybe writing (though without a formal education in that, I’m terribly insecure about it), or maybe…something I’ve never considered? I’m open to possibility, I’m willing to change direction; I just need to have an idea of which way to go.
The funny thing is, a couple of nights ago I asked a question of the universe. I said I wanted to find my right livelihood, whatever that might turn out to be. I said I needed to know what I should do because I was having a terrible time figuring it out.
Then, the next morning, an artist friend of mine said, “What if we went to Edinburgh in August to perform in the Fringe Festival?” and I felt like a bell rang in my heart.
It’s a crazy idea, I know.
But, then again, why not? I mean, if I can scrape up the money to actually do it and I get the blessings of my family to go, why not? How crazy is it really? My friend who suggested it has experience with this sort of thing, as do I.
So, why not?
Why wait, why doubt, why give up without trying? It may not earn me any money, but it could lead somewhere, just maybe. Isn’t it worth a shot? A barista job or office job or retail job will always be there, so what the hell, why not seize the moment? AND the Edinburgh International Festival just happens to start on my birthday this year; what a great way to celebrate!
After all, you’re only 39 once.