I received an email from a reader who found my blog inspirational and shared her story about the pull of coming alive. I in turn feel very inspired and want to share publicly
and answer some questions she poses, because if she is wondering, others are too. (I replied personally as well.)
This is the path of self-actualization. It’s the same thing as coming alive.
Dear MaryAnn,About a year and a half ago, I felt like I was coming alive at last. I had been laid off from corporate America, had my mornings free to be physically active, and my afternoons free to write and volunteer. I spent a summer/fall in Chile to volunteer at a non-profit, where the highlight of my time was to befriend children at a school and teach them a lesson about the “red alimentaria”… the food web… in Spanish! I then taught kids outdoor environmental education, and then spent the summer doing labwork in Alaska (I trained as a biochemist). But after being away from my “field” for so long, fear kicked in, and I started worrying about income source, a “career”, and so on… and as you probably already know, feeding the wolf of fear leads one down paths that don’t contribute to feeling alive!So, thank you for your inspirational blog, which reminded me that YES, I am OK to NOT want to stay in a new job (albeit it pays $65K/year) if selling life science research projects does not make me come alive! And NO, I’m not “wrong” to feel this way. And YES, I AM grateful for all that I have, but at the same time, I don’t need to continue doing something that I think is draining me of life versus filling me with life.My question that I hope you can provide some insight into is, what helped you determine what type of new work and income source you could pursue that is both life-inspiring and supports your needs? I noticed the image of the trailer… when I taught kids for 5 months in Redding, CA, I learned that a trailer costs $8000, which would pay for itself in a year vs the $750/mo I am now spending in rent in the SF Bay Area. Did you find a solution to reducing living expenses so that you were free to pursue work and activities that truly fulfilled you?
Thank you again for your inspiring words, and may you continue to live courageously! : )-BPS Btw, I’m 33 soon to be 34 in June, no debt, some savings, and a bit on the conservative side…. though that is all relative b/c none of my friends have taken career breaks to travel and live/work non-career jobs like I did this past almost 2 yrs. But at the same time, I have not picked up and relocated to a new city jobless the way some folks whom I’ve met in my travels have. Thanks again! I’m thinking about training to be an environmental science teacher…. or a Breema practitioner (I actually only just learned about Breema but it sounds great!).
Well, I feel flattered and honored to hear from such an amazing person who received some inspiration from my blog. I have no doubt that B is on the path of really coming alive!
The path of self-actualization isn’t for everyone. Most people find it easier and much more comfortable to take that “path of least resistance” and stick with the corporate job, the 8-5, the insurance and benefits, the known.
There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what is right for you right now. It’s just that throughout history, some people have listened within to an urge to seek more life out of their life — to see the world, to pioneer something, to take a risk, to call their time their own, to be of service, to express themselves, to be their own boss, to listen to their body, to get to know themselves at a deeper level.
B’s first question asks what helped me determine the type of new work and income source I could pursue that is life-inspiring and can support my needs.
My answer is that I’m still figuring that out, but my new criteria for work is no longer just a paycheck, benefits, the potential for advancement. I want to do the kind of work that is so aligned with who I am and what I love doing that I would do it even if I didn’t get paid (and actually getting paid and making a decent living is icing on the cake).
I want to spend my time doing what I want to do, not what someone else wants me to do. I want to follow my interests, fascinations, and passions. Or else why did God give them to me???
That seems to pretty much translate into becoming self-employed and to practicing some kind of profession. It’s starting to take shape and will combine several of my interests and allow me to pursue others. What I can tell you now is that it involves me working with others on improving their well-being, and getting results.
I should also mention that having my hand analyzed by Richard Unger of the International Institute of Hand Analysis helped me open my mind years ago to the possibility of living my life differently. Darn, I forgot to tell B that.
B, hope you’re reading this. He’s based in San Francisco. Go see him.
Also, I paid attention to my dreams and discussed them with friends.
Notice what you love doing. Notice what you are attracted to. Notice what fascinates you. What do you do now that makes you happy? What are you passionate about? Love, attraction, fascination, happiness, passion — these are about emotion, energy, direction, feeling alive, satisfaction, fulfillment.
That’s where to start. And then if you like, start thinking about how you can combine what you love in a unique way.
B’s second question is whether I found a solution to reduced living expenses so I could be free to pursue work and activities that truly fulfill me.
Yes, I did find a solution based on my situation. I sold my home of 10 years in February. I loved it, but it was too much for me to keep up with, and the mortgage obligation had become an albatross. I wanted to free up some capital to pursue a big improvement in work and lifestyle even though I didn’t know what shape it would take.
Maybe it was the fantasy of hitting the open road and exploring this beautiful country that first got me interested in trailers. I discovered Spartan trailers and discovered a rare Carousel for sale. I hoped it would still be for sale when I closed on my house. It was, and I bought it. It felt like the Universe really wanted me to have it!
It is big enough to live in year-round, like a one-bedroom apartment that you can move, and trailer park leases run month-to-month. I began freeing myself of stuff, and without planning to, I quit my “permanent” job when my gut told me it was the only course to take. I took a contract job doing the same kind of work for 3 months, and I can do that again if I need to.
I found a nice trailer park and will soon have it moved here. Then I’ll update it and move in. My monthly housing and utility costs will be one-third of what they were. That makes a difference — I can pursue the training I want, and I can do some work from my new home.
I know that I am very, very lucky to be able to do this. At the same time, I bought my house in 2000 with an eye to charm, location, and appreciation, so in a way, I created this option before I knew my life would take this turn.
Not everyone has a house to sell. I think reducing one’s living expenses is about being creative and knowing yourself, which are other aspects of coming alive. Usually housing is one’s biggest expense. You can rent a room in a house, share a house or apartment with roommates, couch surf, house-sit, buy a trailer, take work that includes room and board. You always have more resources than you think you do. If you feel stuck, seek a resourceful friend or a coach. Like you did, B, by emailing me!
Work is the area of life that can create the most happiness. See my recent post about right livelihood. We spend more waking time working than anything else, and work can have a sense of purpose and meaning to it.
Imagine what work/lifestyle is ideal for you. Dream big. Put no conditions on it. Then look at how you can get there incrementally. It’s a direction, not a destination. At each fork in the road, ask yourself, “Which is the happier choice? Which will take me closer to living the life I’m meant to live?”
Good luck, B, and all you self-actualizers out there. I’d love to hear from you.
I’m ending this post with a quote from the Dalai Lama that helps put everything in perspective:
The Dalai Lama when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered, “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”