Let me begin with a disclaimer: The difference between the two topics to be discussed can often be very difficult to discern. So much so, that we actually believe we are indeed doing what we want, although the deeper truth is far from that. If you read this and are unconvinced that what I’ve written is true, read it again. And then, read it again. And then, go into your life, look at what you are pursuing and be totally honest. If you still find that you have not fallen victim to pursuit of disingenuous followings, congratulations you are one of the very few.
First, a little background. I was a very smart kid. By very smart, I mean excelling at school where I was being taught in a second language I didn’t know very well, being socially charismatic and easily a part of a crowd, and out performing all of my peers – always. I wasn’t extremely competitive, but I didn’t have to try very hard to do well.
Winning came naturally.
As a result of this shining promise, my parents – although not at all pushy, THANK GOD – always believed I would be a doctor. Primarily because I was obsessed with anatomy at the age of 10 and asked for a medical anatomy book as a gift for winning a writing contest at school. Strange gift for a child, you say? Yeah, exactly. I was that kid.
By the time I came to college I was very clear about the fact that I was NOT going to be a doctor of any kind. I was very much into literature and history, so I pursued those tracks out of an intense interest more than foresight for a future profession. Then, I graduated. Double B.A.s in Creative Writing and Classical History! A dream come true for this artsy fartsy heart!
And then, the questions started.
“So..what are you going to DO with this?” No one need try very hard for me to receive the un-missable message that what I had chosen to study did not have a bright future career wise, outside of a perpetual academic track. I knew it, they knew it – we all knew it. But, to be totally honest, I had never thought that far ahead. I was very much living in the moment and I did not see needing a career as like, a reality.
To make a semi–long story short, post graduating from the University of Florida with said two degrees, I decided to become a massage therapist. Partially because I LOVED the school, (shout out to Florida School of Massage!) and partially because I was following some still small voice inside of me that felt almost magnetically attracted to this field. Let me just say that I had no prior experience with this career AT ALL. I think prior to this I maybe had two massages my whole life.
But something called me, and against all rational thought, I listened. That single decision changed my life dramatically.
Being a therapist as enriched my life in a borderline miraculous manner. I’ve had some of the most soul stirring and heart warming experiences of my entire life on a table working with my clients. That work took me deep into the trenches of my being. It taught me that in order to be real with someone else, to hold space for someone else, I have to be all of that for me – first.
It forged me into an even more sensitive, aware, and bright human being. But, more than that, it showed me that intelligence isn’t everything. More valuable still are compassion, kindness, empathy – all essential traits in order to excel in my field. The opportunities I have been presented with and the people I’ve met as a result of this work have deeply affected my life. I’m a genuinely better person as a result of this decision.
As you can imagine, when I told my family what I wanted to pursue post graduation, they were less than enthusiastic. Not, because there was anything wrong with what I wanted to do, but simply that they experienced it as being less valuable than, being a doctor, for example. So, for every family gathering ever after the conversation went something like, “Yeah, she decided to study massage therapy. BUT, she just has so much potential. I still think she’d make a great doctor.”
Now, at this point you’ve realized that for over 15 years of my life I have been receiving the message that what I really SHOULD be doing with my life, is studying medicine because I have “so much potential”. This has been repeated to me no less than 100 times throughout my life. So, after two years in my LMT career (Licensed Massage Therapy), I was suddenly hit with the “I want to do something more” bug and naturally, I began thinking that I should…you guessed it…go to medical school.
This was a natural conclusion to me given that I had been told my entire life I would be so good at it. In my own mind I rationalized what a wonderful doctor I would be. I would visualize myself tending to patients, having a “respectable” job, making a “respectable” living…and never having to worry about money, again.
Yes, although I loved my work as an LMT, I saw that my financial potential was quite capped and that it would always be limited to how many individuals I could treat a day. I also thought about the long term future and realized that I could not potentially do this my entire life – the physical tax on the body is far too great.
So, I started doing all my research, compiling my papers, looking up programs, getting my transcripts – all the tedious, yet necessary, steps towards applying for higher education.
What ensued was very, very interesting.
At every turn, I was met with opposition. If I needed something, it was sure to be withheld. If I needed to turn something in, I was sure to miss the deadline by one day. If I needed to contact someone, I was sure to find them completely untraceable. And on, and on, and on. The more I reached, the further it fell and the more mentally exhausted and drained I ended up.
Eventually, I would quit, go back to my life as an LMT and be happy there for a short while until the bug hit again. Then, I would ramp up the process all over again only to end up in the same place – no where.
Every time I approached what my next path could be, I was approaching it as the person I thought I should be (without knowing, of course).
I considered Physical Therapy, Naturopathic Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Sports Medicine, Herbology, Acupuncture …there is a very long list. Namely, I considered all the careers I considered “valuable” and to have a better financial future.
Instead of listening to my still small voice and taking note of the things I actually wanted, i.e to be able to travel whenever I wanted, to be able to spend time with my then future kids, to be able to be my own boss, etc. I was working the question backwards: asking myself what careers were “valuable” and could make me money and then trying to plug myself into that career to see if it would work.
I KNOW I’m not the only one who has done this. We imagine a career that is significant and promises financial ‘security’ and then we say, “Yeah, I could do that.”Most of the time, the end result is you miserable a few years down the line and several years of education wasted.
Because you were pursuing something you thought you SHOULD want, not what you ACTUALLY wanted. Simply because you are good at something, have an interest in something, could see yourself doing something – does NOT make it the right career for you.
Your life’s work is so much more than that. Your life work is that still small voice that comes alive when you spend time with animals, sing your favorite song, make a helpful video, counsel someone, paint a landscape, etc. Your life’s work comes from a deep and powerful place in your spirit that sends chills up and down your body when you engage in that particular activity.
And, hate to spoil this for you, but more often that not the actual act that you are PASSIONATE about doing, is not immediately connected to making loads of money. In the moment, you can’t see how just participating in something you LOVE will bring the wealth you desire. It often doesn’t fit a paradigm in our society of what we consider a highly respectable career, so you immediately fear the possibility of pursuing what you love and, instead, TALK YOURSELF OUT OF WHAT YOU ACTUALLY WANT.
We are SO good at doing this. Please, hear me. You have probably convinced yourself 100x over since you started reading this that this doesn’t apply to you and that you’ve never talked yourself out of doing what you love. But, really though…look deeper.
Ask yourself some difficult and honest questions, are you where you truly WANT to be? Do you get EXCITED when you wake up in the morning to pursue what you are doing? Are you going where you are going or doing what you are doing because you want the money?
This is what finding ourselves is ALL about. Understanding what we truly desire and having the courage to pursue it even amidst all of the uncertainty of how it will all work out. It’s going after it anyways, trusting that because you are so invested, it WILL work out. The Universe LOVES to help those in pursuit of their dreams.
So, get real, get honest, start digging.
Sincerely, Shakti. ❤
P.s. Yes, I did find what I was looking for and no, it wasn’t being a doctor. ❤