In a recent morning meditation from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, I read of his playing basketball during high school and college. He assessed his performance with this stunning sentence: “My gifts were enough to hide my limitations.”
In immediate response, my mind sorted its archives to a job interview I had in the late ’80s; I interviewed for a library cataloger position with the library system’s director. Her impression of my resume was, “You’ve had many positions that most people would consider careers.”
Forever naïve, I welcomed her comment as a compliment, freely admitting how wonderful it was to experience as many careers as possible. Not only did I miss her point but I’m not sure that I fully appreciated my own response until I read Nepo’s sentence.
In other words, my gifts were sufficient to let my heart go elsewhere.
The ability to enjoy more than one career seems to be much more accepted in the 21st century. In fact, it may be a necessity. Regardless, there is an emerging awareness that exploring our gifts to their fullest allows us to let go of the dreams that are mere moments of brightness for the one light that is ours alone.
I have been incredibly fortunate in my work as a journalist/editor, a college writing instructor, an administrator and in between, I worked clerical jobs that taught me the immense importance of detail.
For as long as I can remember, writing was in my heart but I never had the courage to experience it. I believed one secured a job to support one’s writing, which wasn’t working out too well for me. Never did I consider “the succession of life’s trials is precisely the unfolding we need to find our bliss and rightful place in the order of things” (Nepo).
Not surprisingly, I did not get the cataloger position but I was later hired as the branch librarian and went on to become the director of the library system. I loved those library years but I could not make them be my dream nor was I the library system’s dream, ultimately. We both looked elsewhere.
It is not that I have not considered my careers from time to time for I have. I am grateful for all that brought me to this moment, for all the unfolding of my gifts that gave me each dream until another dream emerged. I think it kept me curious.
What I never experienced in any of the dream jobs was the joy I experience every time I write. For me, there is nothing like it, and I am completely serious when I say that I come to the writing to find out what happens next. Whatever happens in the writing, I experience it. No longer clinging to what the writing may or may not be, the words and sentences open into the field of infinite possibilities, where joy resides.
Every career brought me moments of happiness but never joy for I was clinging, which is very like trying to touch the wind.
“The truth is that what we want to dream of doesn’t always last. It tends to serve its purpose… And then fades away, losing its relevance. And we can do enormous damage to ourselves by insisting on carrying that which has died” (Nepo).
Only in pursuing our gifts do we meet our limitations, which, I suspect, is the stuff of dreams.