One of the best choices I ever made was to follow my heart and do something that makes me happy. I know, I know, that sounds a little after-school-special-ish, perhaps, but it’s one of the truest statements I can make.
For me, making this choice was not exactly easy. In fact, it took me a long time to let go of my preconceived notions of what I thought my life should be and instead just allow it to be what I actually wanted it to be.
See, my problem was that I kept trying to take the practical route; the one everyone else thought I should take. And, believe me, I had every intention of going that way–it certainly all looked good on paper! I was going to be a teacher; a respectable job where I could make a difference, and, heck, have the summers off too! Unfortunately, I eventually realized that was all wrong for me, and then it was back to square one. But not to fear, I almost immediately came up with a great Plan B: I was going to be a surgical Physician’s Assistant–another very respectable job where I could help people and make a decent living for myself. I was actually on-track for this one for a long time, and have completed so many of the prerequisite classes, it’s ridiculous. But I worked in a hospital for 6 years, and while I loved many aspects of my job and seriously applaud all who choose a career in the medical field, I finally realized that, this too, was someone else’s dream, not mine.
So I sat down and took a good introspective look at myself and tried to figure out just what the heck was wrong with me. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. Why didn’t I?
And then I discovered writing, and I realized that this was what truly made me happy: mind, body AND soul. Now, I just had to explain to everyone in my life that, hey, guess what, I’m going to be a writer. As my good friend Sierra and I have discussed, no one becomes a writer to make money, and often it is a difficult, lonely, frustrating road that leads to A LOT of rejection. And yet, I wanted to do nothing more than travel that road for the rest of my days.
Now, of course, I did have to do other more practical things along the way to make money so that I could afford those pesky (okay, important) things like eating and having a roof over my head. And I also had to learn to brace myself against the disbelieving (judgmental) looks I got anytime I informed inquiring people that I had switched my major from the medical field to English and creative writing. But I have stuck with the writing, in spite of all of the good reasons not to, and it has truly been the best thing I could have done for myself.
The thing is, while working at the hospital, I met countless elderly patients who were ready and willing to give me valuable life advice; the most memorable of which came from a frail, yet spunky, old woman at one of the long term care facilities. Her exact words: “Honey, life is full of shit you have to do and bills that need to be paid. Everyone needs you to do this and that, and the list goes on. That’s fine, but, while you’re busy doing all that, just don’t forget to be happy.”
Therein lies the key, I believe. Do all of those things that need to be done, but make sure you take time for yourself, whatever that means for you. Whether that means choosing a different career path than the one your parents had planned for you, lining up some actual gigs for your band, going back to school like you always wanted, or even just taking up pottery again. Whatever you decide to do, whatever path life takes you down, just don’t get so busy or buried in obligation along the way that you forget to be happy.