Today I'm linking up with Joy's life, unmasked, to share the mess and wonder of living this life. Won't you come and share your stories, too?
I want to please other people. I want to do whatever will make them happy. You want 100 photocopies in 3 minutes? Done. You want a strategic plan for the future of an organization at this college? Done. You want me to be there, run this errand, listen to this problem? I would love to. But then I run headlong into this wall. I really want to be a writer. I really want to be a counselor, of some kind. I really want to put writing and counseling together in some strange beautiful combination, and I don't want to lose threads of theology, or of my love of French, or my love of theater... When I ask people what I should do, they tell me that I would be a great PhD student, of history or political science or philosophy. They tell me I could run an organization, a school even. I want to please them, and I don't want to disappoint anyone's dreams. Help?
Afraid to Disappoint
Dear Afraid to Disappoint,
Our piano is out of tune at home. The keys clink strange half-tones, and I swear I can hear it groaning when someone asks it to sing one more rendition of "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming." Have you ever watched someone tune an instrument? They take that strange fork instrument and hit it against something - your knee, or a piece of plastic or wood, the door frame, or something. And then they hold it up to their ear to hear it ringing. The air moves between the two tines of the fork and the note - a middle C, or an A - becomes the foundation for the rest.
I have been thinking in these last few months that certain loves in our lives are like a tuning fork. They give us the foundation for the rest, a measure against which we can understand how other things might fit into our lives.
Sometimes it's terrifyingly clear that they don't sound the same. I do not love everything in the magnitude that I love writing. I do not breathe, and ache and live in biology; I do not yearn for one more hour with a potter's wheel or a linoleum block printing press. And why should we be afraid of this? We will never be able to do everything, anyway. In the small amount of time we are gifted, why shouldn't our hearts be caught up in the work we love most?
I think you ache to write. I think your body physically feels the need to put words on paper. Why else, sweetheart, could you have written? I think you are beginning to tune the piano of your life by the writing tuning fork. So strike it and listen. Does counseling sound like that? Does teaching? Does directing plays or traveling to France? Does politics, or philosophy, or history?
You write to me that you don't want to disappoint others in their ideas of what you should do. I can understand that. You don't want to say no to a career in history or political science or philosophy, partly because you love these professors and mentors. You want to honor their work, affirm the value of their field. That's admirable. But, Afraid to Disappoint, I have to tell you that the only sure disappointment in this life is living less of you. You are the unlikely combination of counseling, writing, French, history, politics, philosophy, and faith. You are the unlikely wedding planner meets chemical engineer. You are the unlike-everything-else musician turned playwright turned nanny turned environmental advocate...
We all have deep loves that roar inside us. I think yours is writing and counseling and teaching and ten things I don't know yet. So your task in this world is to live that. Live more of you.
So strike the tuning fork.