The other day, I met up with a friend for coffee. We’re both creative people, and often talk about the pressure to attract money and fame through our art, or at least some decent status, and how much that threatens to invalidate the work that we, and others, do.
“It’s like we all have these expectations that we have to do something totally unique and amazing with ourselves,” she said. “We can’t just be happy with whatever comes. Do you think that confuses people?”
Yes, it does. I remembered that years ago, when I was working as a freelance journalist, I’d interviewed this same friend for a story I was working on about fame: How we chase it, and how so many young artists eventually come to realize that the work they put out there might not lead to commercial success, but that it’s important to pursue all the same.
And that confusion isn’t limited to artists or anyone working in a creative industry. For years now, there’s been increasing pressure, decade after decade, to be someone special, to do something different, to be seen and recognized and praised.
And so often, it seems to link back to our career choices.
My parents were born in 1936 and encountered none of the same pressures that my generation faced, or those that have come up since. Instead, they grew up in a time when many kids didn’t even finish high school. Jobs were plentiful and the ultimate goal was to land yourself a full-time gig that would see you through for years to come.
Not that that’s necessarily the better way to go. I don’t think there is anything wrong with ambition; the idea of carving out your own path, of opening yourself up to bigger, broader horizons can be a good thing for a lot of people.
But the emphasis on becoming a success story, or building a brilliant career, can bring on a lot of confusion and negative self-talk, especially when things don’t happen as fast as we’d like them to.
It can also invalidate amazing, necessary work that’s needed, but isn’t always glorified. Service jobs, construction, nursing, retail… It’s all important. It all makes this world go ‘round, and yet a lot of the really important jobs are looked down upon in comparison to shiny, more elusive vocations.
The confusion that this added pressure brings often ends up in questions like these: “I don’t know if I’m on the right path. What if I’m going the wrong way? What if I’m missing something?”
But while we’re taught to think big, we’re not taught how to be present. We hear, “Follow your passions,” and yet we live in a world that keeps us so busy, distracted, and focused on the future, that many of us never learn how to make time to discover what we love. Finding your passion, let alone following it, isn’t something they teach us in school.
How can we figure out what our path might really be if we’re not shown how to listen to ourselves?
And what happens when we do follow our passions, but they don’t pay? This is another way that we begin to feel invalidated for our choices. And while we are often hardest on ourselves, it’s not easy to avoid outside opinions on the matter, either:
“Do you have a day job?” “Does that pay the bills?” “What do you really want to do one day?”
There are so many career coaches out there who will shovel out the “follow your bliss / do what you love / the money will follow” mantras, but have no way of showing their clients how to translate any of it into a tangible, profitable job or business.
The truth is, the money might never follow what you love.
But that’s because what you love might never be about money. Its purpose might instead be to save your life somehow. Art can do that. Working out can do that. Becoming a partner or a parent can do that. Even reading a great book or listening to a great record can do that.
Your path might be to inspire someone else. You might be here to be an amazing friend. Or to be a friend to animals. Or volunteer. Or travel the world. Or to be of service on a spiritual path.
And yes, sometimes your path can be linked to your job, or you can serve your purpose while at work. Maybe you’re a great manager, and part of your path is to help lead and mentor others. But five years from now, you might decide you’re ready for a change; you can take that purpose and translate it to something else, like becoming a career coach or motivational blogger.
The thing with living your purpose is that it doesn’t have to be so cut and dry, wrapped up with a handshake and a new job description.
There is so much emphasis on connecting money with purpose, but the reality is that that is not what the human experience boils down to. There are so many other reasons for us to be here, and so many other lessons and moments we are meant to live through.
Yesterday, I was writing on a patio downtown and overheard a younger man say, “We live as though we don’t know we’re going to die.”
And I thought yes, that can be part of this chase for…for what? Something more? Something bigger than what we’ve already got?
Sometimes I think the fear in being on the wrong career path is misplaced; we shouldn’t fear working in the wrong job (or working in the right job but not rising up the ranks) so much as fearing that we are putting too much emphasis on our careers and not enough on other aspects of our lives.
We have confused our soul’s purpose with money.
We have assumed business and labour to be intrinsically linked with what we are here to do, forgetting that we are all multi-faceted, and that our lives will take many different roads and open up to many different chapters along the way.
We can’t forget that love, friendship, compassion, creativity, healing, gratitude and so much more can be part of what we are here to experience, express, and share.
And once you start to think of your path and purpose in that sense, doesn’t it start to take some of the pressure off?
Do you want to gain some clarity about your life path? Why not book a tarot reading with me to get clear about what it is you are here to share with others and how you can tap into your soul’s purpose.
Until next time,