What If You Could Do EXACTLY What You Wanted…?
It seems to be a popular mind exercise in the greater field of self-development and consciousness building to answer questions like ”if you could do exactly what you wanted to do what would you be doing?”
I'll be the first to admit that I've often participated in these little exercises — they are a lot more interesting than "what color Unicorn Poop are you?" — and these days I pretty much always come up with the same answers. Or at least very similar answers.
Maybe it's testament to my own stubbornness that most of the time I (re)discover that I actually am doing exactly what I want to be doing.
I stopped living my life "properly" (according to the mainstream consensus worldview) sometime in my mid-30's when I traded in an $80K a year IT job for less-than-$20K self-employment as a newsletter editor and rare stamp trader.
To the extent that there is ever a question mark hanging over that decision, it relates to the fact that — yes I may in fact be doing exactly what I want to be doing — the problem is that I just haven't ever seemed to make a living at it.
But as I've aged, even that part has become easier as I keep letting go of more and more and more things that require money. That, and coming to terms with the fact that "getting by" in fact does constitute making a living.
It makes me wonder how many people actually pursue the "glitz and bling" because THEY want it, and how many do so purely because "it's what we're supposed to do?"
Anyway, part of what is always made these questions challenging for me, is the underlying assumption that "the contented life" inevitably comes from some form of ”doing.” Although I was typically being irreverently facetious at the time, when asked the ice-breaker question "So, what do you DO?" I have periodically answered with ”as little as possible.”
That stems from the fact that one of my favorite activities is — in fact — pretty much ”doing nothing.”
It's an answer that almost offends those who seem addicted to the proverbial "Protestant Work Ethic."
The value of ”doing nothing” was something I learned from my auntie in Denmark who helped raise me, between ages about 6-7 and 16. I would often go to live with her during those times when my globetrotting parents were traveling , particularly during my pre-teen years.
My parents were never very fond of the idea that their boy could potentially be turning into an ”idler,” but they trusted my aunt and liked the fact that they didn't have to pay somebody to be a house- and babysitter while they were out of town.
As I have said before, the fine art of ”doing nothing” typically isn't actually about doing nothing at all. It's about not doing any of the things that conventional society typically thinks of as being ”productive.”
For example, I love walking around in nature with my camera and spotting things to take pictures of. That's not exactly ”nothing.” I love writing and I'm basically writing something pretty much all the time, and that's also not exactly ”nothing.” I love my rock painting, and I love beachcombing, and I love growing things in the garden, and I love learning about new things. Again, those things don't exactly constitute ”nothing.”
When I look at these choices, I find it interesting how they stand in stark contrast to what my parents tried to teach me. If I was standing somewhere just looking at something or not particularly engaged in what was going on around me, I remember how my dad would often look at me sternly and say ”don't just stand there, make yourself useful!” Similarly, my mom would put me to work peeling potatoes or something else in the kitchen.
Like many of me peers, I went out in the world at age 18, having been taught the paradigm that the value of a person laid in what they could do rather than who they were. It took me some 15 years to figure out that that paradigm didn't suit me very well...
Along the way there have been certain moments that always stand very clear in my mind. One was a University career counselor who observed that he had “never met anyone who seemed so completely devoid of ambition.”
I actually thought it was funny, at the time.
Another was sitting with my friend Richard by a bonfire one evening while we were at a 4-day retreat, and he coined the phrase "Creative Slacker," which I adopted as my own for a while.
Not everyone is destined to become the next Bill Gates; the next Elon Musk; the next Jeff Bezos. Some of us are firmly rooted at the opposite end of the drive-and-ambition spectrum.
This post was partially inspired by spending some of the morning watching previews and mini-documentaries about last night's "Best Picture" Oscar winner, "Nomadland." In some ways, I resonate deeply with a life on my own terms, even if that means it exists mostly on the fringes of existence and only intersects with the mainstream paradigm on the scattered occasions that call for it.
So, I'm just going to continue doing what I want... and I highly recommend it everyone else!
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!
How about YOU? Are you doing precisely what you want? If not, why not? What would it take to change your paradigm? Would you want to? Comments, feedback and other interaction is invited and welcomed! Because — after all — SOCIAL content is about interacting, right? Leave a comment — share your experiences — be part of the conversation!
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Created at 20210426 22:42 PDT