I want to travel.
Lately I’ve been feeling restless which isn’t a bad thing. I texted a friend of mine who’s kind of an expert on this topic. “Do you ever feel restless?”
“Oh yeah – all the time. That’s why I’m constantly on the move.”
I get that. And if I could afford it, I’d be constantly on the move too.
Sometimes though I not only feel restless but also directionless. Horrible combination. It’s like the heartbeat of my life has paused; the bit in my mouth guiding me has gone. I imagine the warm glow of a little fire burning in me, pointing this way or that, has begun to dwindle.
Sounds sad, but it’s not. We all go through this from time to time.
I believe it’s how we respond to this restlessness that’s important. Restlessness is there to get your attention. It’s that perfect combination of aggravation and curiosity which causes us to perk up and put our listening caps on. But if we miss the gift in restlessness we could wind up making bad decisions or prolonging our pain.
In all honesty, I’ve been struggling to know my calling for many years. I’ve read books, taken courses, prayed, journaled, poured my heart out and still the answer doesn’t seem quite clear to me.
Perhaps that’s a good thing? Would we really want to see so far ahead into the future? Would we believe what we saw?
Trying to find your purpose in life can feel awkward. It’s almost as if you’re blindly groping for a stoney path in the wilderness. You can perceive and feel your way around, you can pray and call out, but you can only go as far as the next little patch of earth your hands will grasp.
I don’t know why, but I desire the next step and the final product to come to me a complete package. I think we all long for clarity. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all want direction about where we’re going in life and what we should do.
What am I supposed to do? What’s the next right
step? What will I be when I grow up?
I’m 31. Aren’t I grown up?
Wouldn’t it be nice to see the full picture?
But that’s not really an option, is it? Knowing that doesn’t stop me from wanting to see it all laid out in front of me. There are moments when I feel God’s direction so clearly. And then there are other times when I forget how much I already have and I lose my sense of direction. This is my blindness. In his book, The Art of Work, Jeff Goins quotes Parker Palmer, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” Maybe I’m missing what’s already in front of me? What is my life telling me?
After I texted my friend about feeling restless, I asked my husband to help me figure this out. I needed a sounding board. He suggested I take an inventory of all the things I believe I’m good at, that I’m naturally inclined to, and the things that if I put hard work into would result in success.
So first I need to inventory what my life has been telling me all along and then I need to inventory my strengths and passions. Hopefully, at that point I would have a picture of my calling. But then what? Do I want too many guarantees? Am I looking for a pre-nup on my calling in life? I want a “sure thing”. But in my hesitation am I delaying the outcome I desperately desire?
What’s on the shelf?
Although it’s wise advice I will be taking and advice I’ve been given time and again, I still feel a little confused. Perhaps it’s this modern era we’re living in?
Can I be really honest with you? This is embarrassing for me to admit. But this is the way I see it:
The internet has created a virtual reality and with it virtual lives, jobs, and opportunities.
We’re still in the wild west, gold rush era of the internet with it being so young. There are many new industries and sectors to become versed in. And lately, there seems to be a rise in the online course, webinar, self-help industry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disgruntled in the least. Only I’m cautious of what this means for us…for me. I’m a seeker. I’m looking. I’m searching. And for a while I thought I had found that one thing I was born to do. After graduating from art school, I briefly opened an Etsy store that was successful for what it was. I then dabbled in styling and photography, closet clean outs and organization. For one reason or another, which I can’t quite remember, I decided to switch gears. Maybe it was my fear of success or my love of wanting to help people with my knowledge of health and wellness, but I abandoned the arts and pursued Health Coaching.
Success was far more challenging then I had been led to believe.
Because of my time working in Whole Body at Whole Foods, I dedicated myself to becoming a certified Holistic Health Coach. I thought people would be clamoring to work with me. It seemed obvious to me. But it wasn’t so obvious to those whom I wanted to serve. I believed that if I kept at it long enough and never allowed myself to stop refining then I would be successful.
And when I say successful, what mean is that I could make a sustainable income. But as it turns out, this was far more challenging then I had been led to believe. Not that there was false advertising on the part of the school, no not at all. I didn’t internalize how much blood, sweat, and tears it would take for me to create a sustainable practice. Talk about daunting. I no longer had and apron and a name tag and an entire brand backing me up to reinforce my expertise. It was so much more difficult than I had imagined because I had to rely on my own motivation, marketing, branding, and determination.
All the while, the industry I was in progressed rapidly and pretty soon I felt that if I wasn’t selling online courses and writing e-books, and doing video blogs then I wouldn’t be able to keep up. The difficult truth is that I was achieving a modicum of success at a job I was somewhat suited to, but that wasn’t really the longing of my heart. It was close, but it was no cigar.
You find this out when it’s all on you or it’s nothing. It’s more than loving a line of work. It’s more than being good at a particular line of work too. I believe it’s being so true to who you are that the work you do just fits. This is difficult to explain.
My inventory of sorts.
Yes, I’m a health nut. Yes, I love to cook and eat. Yes, I have tons and tons of life saving knowledge. And yes, I’m great with people. I’m certified in my trade and have everything I need to make it work. So why isn’t it working?
Let’s be honest, I’m introverted, flighty, aloof, and opinionated. I like to do things on my own terms, and I’m very unconventional. I don’t easily follow instructions and it sometimes takes me forever to follow through. I am an artist, which is not to say that artists are always eccentric, aloof, and flighty as I am.
Although I’m an empath, I do struggle with the relationship of coach and client. I don’t like having strings of money connected to my work in that particular way. I’m not comfortable having money connected to outcomes that I am setting myself up to deliver. Especially when it comes to health and intangible results. In all honesty, I would rather give my time of connecting away and reserve my income to tasks that are more menial and lucrative in the long run. I do actually have a moral problem with charging so much for coaching services. It makes more sense to me, for example, to write a book and sell it for a $1.00 to a million people. But coaching is somewhat inverted. $2,000 for an 8 week or 6 month course. $10,000 for 6 months of one-on-one coaching. What does that mean? I struggle to understand this when a quarter of all Americans have $100 or less in their bank account.
There are people out there who are high level coaches and they charge that much and far more for one client. And there are people who are happy to pay. I get it! I really do. You have to have some skin in the game. And not everyone will be held accountable by the same figure. So it’s perfectly understandable that some coaches would need to charge $50,000 or $100,000 for their services. And it’s understandable why some would need to pay that in order to motivate themselves to do the work.
But I’m not sure that it’s a good fit for me. Perhaps it has nothing to do with coaching. Because equally I cannot accept the retail price of $1,000 for a pair of shoes or $12,000 for a haute couture jacket. I cannot, in all honesty, continue to move in that direction because it doesn’t align with my values at this point. Nor does it align with my strengths. Maybe I have a wrong view of coaching as well as a wrong view of money. But I simply cannot square it at this point in time. It’s all relative and illusory.
My heart is too wild. Too free. Too radical to think in those terms. Again, I’m not saying that in theory or practice this type of set up is wrong. Not at all. I’m simply not there yet. And maybe I never will be. Online courses stress me out. Health coaching stresses me out. Not because I don’t want to learn in the comfort of my own home or because I’m not thrilled my clients heal their bodies. But because something else is missing.
You know what brings me real joy and freedom and ease? Helping people. Talking with them for hours about the biggest questions of life. Where do we come from? Is there a God? If so, how do we know him? What am I born for? How do I overcome my deepest hurts? I love listening and connecting. I love building relationships and asking challenging, bold questions. I love art. Any medium. I love evaluating works of art and collecting works of art. Writing, painting, photography, performance, music, film, drawing, sewing, floral arrangements, food, spoken word, architecture, pottery, jewelry making, design, science…all of it. I love it all and I want to breathe it in and soak it up and share it with everyone. I love the art of life. The idea of travel. I love living on little and not having all that I want and not having the option to have all that I want.
I love the idea that in having a little I get to see the beauty of life; the mystery of how God sustains me when ends do not have the slightest chance of meeting. This is when I get to see how much I really do have. Though I may not have much in comparison to even some of my former clients, I have literally everything I need. I’m never in need. God is always providing for me.
Money versus calling.
Seeking after money is a dangerous pursuit. Unfortunately, many of us these days are completely consumed with this pursuit.
It can confuse motives and it can become an obsession. And I don’t mean overtly either. The worst kind is the covert obsession. The kind of wanting that stays hidden away and masquerades as hard work and ambition, but which is really striving and selfish ambition. Naturally, I’m guilty of this – full disclosure.
Money isn’t bad or good though. It doesn’t have a great deal of intrinsic value. It has value that we assign to it. We are the heart of money. We are the good and bad of money. It all begins and ends in the human heart. The bottom line is that money itself isn’t bad nor is the acquisition of money good or bad. What is done for money, what is done with money that is what’s good or bad, right or wrong, evil or benevolent. Why am I talking so much about money? Well for one, I seem to be an amateur philosopher. I can’t help but explore these ideas because they fascinate me and clearly I have some hang ups.
But I’m also stuck on this because I believe that it’s a huge part of why we struggle so much to find our calling.
Sure you may love to write but it may not bring you money. Would you still do it if there were no guarantees? Maybe the best writer in the world is a pauper on the streets of Bangladesh. Maybe the most brilliant painter lives in a remote village in the Swiss Alps. What if the most helpful woman in the world gives all of her love and wisdom to her family and tribe for free? Her ROI?Respect. Take for example Vincent van Gogh or Vivian Maier.
Both extraordinary artists neither of which were at all acclaimed in their time. Van Gogh you know well. He the red-headed, one-eared theologian who ate the paint he created masterful works of art with. Sure his paintings are among the most highly valued in the world today ($134.6 Million for Portrait of Dr. Gachet). But no more than a handful of people cared a stitch for his craft while he lived. There was no hope for him personally and no guarantee of imminent “success”.
And what about outsider artist Vivian Maier? Photographer in the shadows, she is now considered one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, sex aside. You see while Vivian was watching the world through mirrors and lenses, photography was very much a man’s game. The fact that her work is so abstract, documentarian, and esoteric makes it all the more rare.
Until 2007 when her work was accidentally and miraculously discovered in a thrift auction, she was completely and utterly unknown. Certainly one of the most prolific artists of all time, Vivian shot over 100,000 frames during a span of 50 years. Shockingly however, a large majority of these negatives remained unprocessed and unseen by her or anyone else’s eyes until their random discovery. For most of her life she worked as a nanny. The bottom line is this, we almost lost her to history. We almost lost an immense gold mine of imagery. And we would have been none the wiser. But now we know and the fact that she spent most of her life nameless to the world is remarkable to me. It baffles me and it shakes up my ideas about what success aught to look like.
Vivian Maier is one of the most important artists of our time and it’s by the skin of our teeth that we behold her work. She is now dead and gone and most likely never really understood the beauty and excellence of her catalogue. How confounding is that? Is Vivian a success? Did she receive due recognition and glory, fame and fortune? Posthumously, perhaps? But what does that matter to her life? Her legacy is the children she nannied who cared for her in old age. No one could have guessed the real legacy she would leave behind. Is she an outlier? Who knows?
But these two artist totally rip to shreds our modern notions of success, calling, and purpose. Sure both of these people lived with mental illness (a topic I’d very much like to explore in later posts) which prevented them from ever really fitting in. However they’re not really alone. Many of the most brilliant artists, inventors, and scientists simply never transcended their station.
The real question that gnaws at me now is what would have happened to the likes of Vivian and Vincent if they had lived in a time with the internet at their finger tips? Who knows, maybe they would have be catapulted to heights beyond their dreams? Or maybe the internet would have diluted their practice? I believe that because she was so unknown to everyone around her, this gave her the permission she needed to create with reckless abandon and obsessive compulsion.
How do we deal with the tension that the ripe expanse that the internet provides?
In the West we simply must have money to survive. There’s no doubt about it and there’s nothing wrong with that. We need currency of some kind to supply our basics. Conventional wisdom tells us it’s up to us to decide how little or how much we accrue; that essentially it’s all based on what we’re comfortable with.
But what happens to our souls when we confuse money with success and calling?
Are we all meant to teach an online course and make a hundred thousand dollars in a month? We are living in the age of the entrepreneur. We are living in the rebirth of our time. We are living in the age of empowerment where you can be anything, do anything, create anything, and have it all. There are very few limits to what a person is capable of achieving nowadays. The internet has given us unlimited potential if we leverage it. But what do earthy people do? What do the artists, craftspeople, and blue collar workers do with this? What do the outsiders do? We still need them and they still deserve our utmost respect. Our daily lives rest on their shoulders. What if you laid aside your conceptions about success, money, and calling for a moment? I’m asking myself this question too.
What would my life be like if I could engage in the things I loved to do without the slightest notion of receiving any monetary compensation or any worldly recognition? Maybe as a western woman I cannot fathom this?
But until I can, I will struggle diligently to accept my gifts and talents, my weaknesses and flaws as I create a life that is true to who I am and who God made me to be, one day at a time. Lord knows it won’t be easy because it hasn’t been so far and I see no signs of that changing for myself or anyone else. But calling off the search is not an option. Perhaps after all the searching is done, I will look back and in my wake see a clear path carved out and realize that it all made sense in the end.