This is a follow-up to my previous post.Click below to read: Why Dogs?: http://luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-dogs.html
I received a lot of amazing feedback regarding my recent post: Why Dogs? One of those responses was a simple text message from a friend... one that really got me thinking.
The text read:
At one time, everyone knew what their life purpose was meant to be... but we were taught to forget it, in the name of money and security. You held onto yours. Great post.
Those words reminded me of something I wrote and shared on my blog last year:
"When you're a kid, anything is possible. You think big, you dream bigger, and you know--without a doubt-- that you can do anything. Over time, the world beats us down. The big thoughts are exchanged for conformity. The bigger dreams are traded for stability. The 'can-dos' are replaced with 'can't-dos.' We call that 'growing up.' But really... we didn't grow up at all. We gave up." ~ me
That text message, coupled with my own words, really made me think about the importance of dreams and purpose... and why so many people let go of these things. I couldn't help but question the lessons we're taught... about wealth, security, and success...and the lives we go on to lead as a result.
Mostly, I thought about the regrets, felt by so many, because of those teachings. And I just kept asking: Why???
Why the hell do we allow this to happen??
Why does our society value money and status over dreams and purpose?
And why do we continue to defend this behavior... and re-teach these lessons... when they lead to so much regret for so many people?
I've always been a pretty big fan of the word: "Why?" But when it comes to questions like these... I'm rarely satisfied with the responses I receive.
Here are some examples:
"Because that's what you're supposed to do..."
"Because that's how it has to be..."
"Because that's how we've always done it..."
"Because they said I should..."
"Because that's how life works..."
Wait... that's why??
Maybe it's the complete lack of logic in these responses, or the total non-explanation of those answers, or the seeming complacency with it all. Maybe that's what bothers me so much...
Maybe it's the surrender-without-a-fight mentality... the it-is-what-it-is indifference... or the because-I-said-so attitude.
Maybe it's the lack of conviction... the absence of vision... or the denial of alternatives.
Or maybe it's the tiny whisper of defeat I often hear, behind the voice that provides those answers. A subtle mix of anger and sadness that says: "I don't know why I gave up... but I did it anyway..."
It's heartbreaking to see so many people going through life with such deep regrets about their decisions to give-up on their dreams... often feeling as if they missed their entire reason for being here. Especially because... it just doesn't have to be that way.
Now... before I go on, let me say this: I have a pretty firm grasp on reality. I'm absolutely aware of just how difficult life can be. I also realize that "growing up" is an obvious, unavoidable part of life, which places many constraints on our childhood views and aspirations. I'd never deny that we're each faced with a ridiculous number of responsibilities to uphold, bills to be paid, and struggles to overcome. I get it... and I'm not neglecting any of that.
Therefore, this post isn't my crazy attempt to paint a ridiculously-skewed, ass-backwards, rainbow-skittles-backdrop, behind the otherwise-grim actuality of our lives. I'm not trying to invent some kind of bippity-boppity, humpty-dumpty, whistle-while-you-work, fake-ass-fairy-tale-of-a-world... in which we can all survive on simple wishes and gumdrops.
Instead, I'm simply sharing my view of an issue that impacts each of us in some way... affecting our lives, our dreams, and ultimately, our purpose for existence.
However, in doing so, I'm NOT advising anyone to suddenly abandon all responsibility and rationale. I'm not encouraging random, reckless decisions to quit your job, sell your house, or become a wandering gypsy. Okay, moving along...
Here's the deal: I receive a ton of amazing messages and letters from all of you (In fact, I receive so many, that I'm waaay behind on getting back to everyone. But I promise I'm working on it. Okay, back to the purpose of this whole thing...).
In many of those messages, I read words like these:
"I just wish I could do what you're doing..."
"I just wish I'd started at your age..."
"If only I'd followed my heart like you did..."
"If only I could go back and change it..."
These messages are extremely touching --and beyond heartbreaking-- all at once. I'm always affected by the deep emotions within those words: desire, hope, and passion... mixed with sadness, regret, and despair.
As I read those messages, I can't help but think: It just doesn't have to be this way. It shouldn't be this way.
In truth, the very things that these people so desperately wish to do or change... can absolutely be done or changed... but they just don't realize it yet. Or maybe, they just haven't tried.
Instead... at this point in their lives, they almost feel trapped by their existence... burdened by responsibility and circumstance... stuck, anchored, and paralyzed by their own decisions.
I think we've all felt that way at one time or another. We're human... and being human kinda sucks-ass sometimes. But, really, that whole "being-a-person" thing is actually our greatest strength. It means that we hold the power. That means YOU hold the power.
If you aren't happy with some aspect of your life, I'd just like to encourage you to change that. Especially if the unhappiness stems from feelings of an unfulfilled purpose... which can lead to some of the biggest regrets ever felt in this lifetime.
Of course... we've all heard the phrase: "If you don't like something, just change it." But obviously, this push-for-action is much easier said than done... and seems slightly-mission-impossible. So, I'm certainly not saying, "Just change it. Fast. And now."
In reality, it's just not that easy. Attempting to redirect your life is no kindergarten-cake-walk. But... it can be done. It is possible. Maybe it can't happen today, or tomorrow, or even this year. And maybe it even seems silly to you, at this point in your life, to start changing a bunch of crap... just to follow some distant dream or passion.
If you think that I was simply handed some kind of enchanted existence, full of fairies and pixie dust... well, you're dead wrong. I've never even met a fairy in real life, and trust me-- pixies are stingy as hell with that damn dust.
Instead, my purpose became my path, because I had a well-defined dream, I believed in that dream, and I busted my ass to make it come true. Was it easy? Hell no. Was it worth it? F*** yes.
I worked at jobs that I hated... just to save the money I needed... to do what I love. It wasn't an easy, fun, or fast process. But it certainly wasn't impossible.
Today, I'm able to make a difference with my life, doing what I love. That being said... I'm very honest about my reality... about the struggles I've faced --and continue to face-- as a result of that decision.
My particular dream didn't lead me to a life of endless stability, security, or ease. In fact, I actually gave all of that up... to follow my dream... to fulfill my purpose.
Sure... it sounds a little crazy... since that's pretty much the complete-and-total opposite of what most people do... or are told to do. Obviously, it's a much more popular choice to simply discard dreams for security, right?
That works for some people, and there's nothing wrong with it. But, if you're like me... you need both. You've got to make a living... just like every other person... but you refuse to deny who you are in the process.
Call me crazy... but I truly believe that every person who needs both... can have both. More than that, you deserve to have both. You're worth it.
However, it's far from easy. It requires a ton of hard work, determination, and desire. You have to want it. You have to believe that it's possible... and worth it. And, at some point, you have to go for it.
It's a journey... a process that's every bit as unique as you are. I can't tell you what will work for you. I can't advise you on how to start. I can only speak from my experience, and share what worked for me...
First, I had to reconsider what it means to "make a living." That is... what it means to me. And for me, how I made that living mattered more than how much I made.
Next, I had to reevaluate everything else. I had to accept the things I couldn't change, and focus on what I could. I had to honor my responsibilities, while reaching for the possibilities. I had to listen to the concerns in my mind... without ignoring the dreams in my heart.
I had to redefine what it means to be wealthy, successful, and stable. I had to rearrange my priorities, to reflect those new definitions. I had to separate "needs" from "wants" ... and sacrifice "wants" for "needs." I had to adjust my perception of those sacrifices ... to view them as contributions.
Then, I had to develop a plan-of-action. In doing so, I had to balance optimism, pessimism, and realism. I had to recognize the difference between the three. I had to acknowledge the risk of failure... while preparing for success.
Most of all, I had to believe... in a way that made me seem bat-shit crazy to everyone around me. I had to believe in my dreams. I had to believe in my purpose. I had to believe in myself.
The hardest part? At some point, I actually had to do it. I had to take that leap of faith. I had to go for it. I had to try.
I won't lie to you... when I finally jumped, it was scary as hell. I didn't know the outcome. I questioned myself often. I wondered if I'd even make it.
At the end of my life... when I look back on my time here... I'll be able to smile and say:
I lived, and it mattered.
What could possibly be more worth it than that?