I spent a great deal of time in my past trying to be one-dimensional. I remember being asked as a kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It was from this question that I internalized an unconscious message: decide on one thing you’ll do with your life and have tunnel vision for it.
The problem with my younger understanding of this question is that I thought I had to direct my focus on a job title. I felt as though folks wanted to hear me share aspirations to become a person of status: doctor, lawyer, or even professional athlete. Of course, I didn’t develop this understanding entirely on my own. Messaging I received reinforced certain statuses as desirable. In turn, I became fixated on actualizing what I interpreted to be other people’s dreams and tried painstakingly to sell them to myself as my own.
I chased those dreams for years, dismissing interests like writing and music which bring me joy, because there was a slim chance either would bring status or money. I also quieted my dream of becoming a teacher for the same reasons. All of this because I’d convinced myself that I needed to be rich in order to live a significant life.
Something interesting happened when I started questioning myself: what exactly is a significant life? And who makes that decision? The subsequent conversations I had with myself led me to recognize the flaws in my younger thinking. Up until that point, I had based my worth in life almost entirely on other people’s appraisal. I also noted the greater problem with that approach was that the appraisal would always depend on who was “in the room.”
I realized somewhere along the way I lost sight of the fact that this is my life to live. I alone possess the power to decide what gives my life purpose and how I go about aligning my passions with my energy to set and accomplish goals. If I’d made the choice to continue measuring my worth against other people’s judgement, I’d have been torn apart, eaten alive, or eventually died in captivity.
I’ve shifted my mindset from the acquisition of a title to a focus on a way of being, and I feel as though my spirit has begun to thrive. Through self-reflection and exploration, I’ve uncovered that what I truly want to do in life is create–create collections of writing; create music; create community; create future leaders; create opportunities. At the core of the interests I’d dismissed was what attracted me to those things: a sense of creating.
I admit, it sounds dreamy or romantic to have a single motivation that gives purpose to life. But to have a single motivation does not mean one has to be one-dimensional. To be truly in relationship with that motivation means, to me, to be in a constant state of pursuing opportunities to exercise it and intentionally setting time dedicated to it. There is beauty in that self-motivation can be an endless torch that may fuel many different fires.