What is it that your heart desires? I think about this question often. I check in with myself to see what are my goals and am I on track to reach those goals with how I’m living my life?
I am convinced that saying what we want for ourselves out loud is one of the hardest things to do because then we have to decide whether to follow up on those desires. We have to act to lead ourselves toward the life we want. To follow up on our own dreams can mean to risk disappointing the people we care about. But if we don’t follow up, we risk disappointing ourselves. To act can also mean to risk failure. We might not make it. Nobody likes to experience failure. The alternative is to do nothing, say nothing, and live the life that comes not necessarily easily, but the life that already stretches out before us. The life we have curated for ourselves, either deliberately or by default. It’s easier to continue moving forward on the set path than it is to admit the life we really want, and risk failure. But in the same breath, if we continue on the set path then aren’t we also risking growth? Self-fulfillment? A meaningful life?
After a late night spent watching an episode of The Last of Us, Dan and I jog Atlas on the nearby cinder trail. On these runs and dog walks, we talk about our family life and our children, but more often we find ourselves discussing our professional lives, conflicts, aspirations, and fears. On this particular morning, I was talking about job prospects with him. I’m a teacher and a writer, but how to hold space for both of these work identities? Which opportunity is the right one to pursue? Which way is the right way to be, I am perhaps really asking. “I know what I want,” I suddenly say to Dan. And I pronounce the words out loud. He nods his head; he already knows.
That afternoon, I’m running late taking my kid to a friend’s kid’s birthday party. We burst through the gymnasium doors hand-in-hand, her and I, my hair soaking wet and dripping onto my florescent pink sweatshirt. I squeezed in a quick shower after the run and was predictably running a few minutes behind. My daughter runs off to play with the other six-year-olds. I squeeze my friend tight, mother to the birthday girl, and she introduces me to another parent, a mom of four kids whose daughter attends ballet class with mine. The mom and I fall into easy conversation, and she tells me she’s an employment counsellor. She helps people find jobs. “I’m talking to someone about a job this week,” I tell her, and we talk about building careers after motherhood and stay at home parenting, and the sacrifices and the getting to what it is you really want. “I basically had to shut out my family life for two years to do my Masters,” I admit. Building a career does not come without sacrifice, and I’m striving for balance. I tell her how I know, from talking to hiring managers and listening to TED talks, that men often apply for jobs for which they are underqualified, and women often won’t apply at all unless they have every qualification listed. “But why not just go for it?” I offer.
“My uncle once told me,” she says, “that you should apply for jobs where you only have 50% of the qualifications listed. That way, you leave yourself room for growth.” Wow, yes. Room for growth. I find this to be true of myself. I’m rarely interested in jobs I already know how to do easily; I seek a challenge. Leave room for growth.
That day, I come across a reel posted by novelist Gwen Tuinman who says, “Creative living is any life that you live where your decisions are based more strongly on your curiosity than your fear.” As she arranges stripped-down, windswept sticks and feathers in an interesting pattern to be photographed, Gwen suggests that when we make decisions “based on curiosity rather than fear, you will be engaging with creativity; your life itself will become a work of art.” I do want to live my life guided by my curiosity, that which I do not yet know how to do, rather than by my fear. The fear of getting it wrong, of losing what I have, of not being enough. The fear of failure. And it’s a decision and commitment I have to make over and over; curiosity over fear.
What is it that my heart desires? A creative life.