I remember at various times in my life--elementary school, teenager, young adult--reading books and thinking, "I could write better than that." The thought came with conviction, hubris and determination. I would write. And I would write better than so many of the books that I picked up without much discretion and consumed in long, undeviating hours of reading. Reading was my passion, my art, my must-do every day.
And then I grew up. I haven't stopped reading but my reading has expanded to include the Internet, school subjects, professional work and church doctrine. There is a lot of reading to be done and I have explored many forms of reading and yet, I come back consistently to reading what I love. It may not always be what my book group is reading, it often was not what I had to read for school or what I must read for work. I do get pleasure out of these various forms of reading and some satisfaction but these types of reading are not like finding a book that exhilarates me, makes time stop and utterly absorbs my attention. When I read something I love, I hear an echo of that earlier conviction when I think "I want to write like that."
I've always known I would be a writer. That I am a writer. That writing is part of my task on this earth. Writing just feels right in my bones. Writing elevates, uplifts, sorts, purifies and focuses me. I am most unhappy when I cannot write. School, especially college, was overwhelming for me in many ways. I loved gaining new knowledge but I did not know how to sort, contain, remember, process and regurgitate efficiently all that was in front of me. I did not know that I must write. I had mammoth mountains of growth to scale: social life, friendships, financial independence, spiritual independence, work responsibilities, church responsibilities, family responsibilities, getting to know myself, understanding and overcoming my own weaknesses, my health, my weight all while shouldering my school responsibilities with study, homework, assignments, tests and exams. I discovered that I was swimming in deep waters of chaos every day and felt very little calm.
Often my only time of peace was in class as the teacher would start lecturing and my interest would be piqued, my mind would open up and expand and I would begin to WRITE. Take notes, make lists, organize, think, detail, expand and enumerate my life and its overwhelming minutia as well as my over-arching goals. Often, I would come out of class with notes for class and lists upon lists of to-do items for work, home, school and church as well. Not to mention sentences or phrases that I had caught in the lecture that I wanted to think about, explore and process. I assumed I was a little crazy with the note-taking (and I was!) but I also could not explain my extreme reluctance to get rid of my notebooks after the semester was over. I was not writing in a formal journal at the time and those pages felt like my journal because mixed in with notes for my history of civilization class or my American history class was my revelation about my desire to be a mother, or my insight regarding my future community service, or my question to ask my roommate. My school notebooks were my journals in those years.
I happened into a career where I do get to read and write--a little. I am adequate at this job but not passionate about it. Because of my unease in this position, I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what I want to DO professionally. Figuring out what makes me happy, what makes me tick, what makes me light up every day. My goal has been to do something I love every day. To be more excited about Monday morning than Friday evening, to awake each morning infused with joy at the work I had to do.
About six months ago, I wrote these words on a piece of paper:
My happiness and my joy comes consistently from these places. As a writer, I knew in my early twenties that I wanted to spend my time writing about people, relationships and meaning. My struggle with obesity has turned me passionate about health, nutrition, energy and food. And my amazing experience as a missionary for my church infused in me a love for spiritual roots and soul teaching that I cannot abandon. I want my life's work to revolve around these areas. These are the loves of my life, the things that I return to over and over again. The thing that has made my goal of doing what I love more difficult is that I seem happiest where these paths intersect than in their individual fulfillment. I want to be a therapist & nutritionist who writes about relationships, food and health. I want to teach and write about the gospel. My dream is not to go to law school, or work on Wall Street or even to write a play or write for television. My goal is to be a counselor, nutritionist, chef, mom, gardener, teacher, who writes about all of those loves. I am not interested in going outside of those realms but I am interested in each of those realms.
I know what I love. And every day I am inching closer to making it my life's work.