Over the last few weeks I noticed an uncanny correlation in much of the literature that crossed my path between seemingly unrelated books and paragraphs.
Here's to the paths of discovering who we are, the permission to be that person and the power for us to live fully in the present.
“To thine own self be true." -Shakespeare
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
“A lot of us first aspired to far-ranging travel and exotic adventure early in our teens; these ambitions are, in fact, adolescent in nature, which I find an inspiring idea... Thus, when we allow ourselves to imagine as we once did, we know, with a sudden jarring clarity, that if we don’t go right now, we’re never going to do it. And we’ll be haunted by our unrealized dreams and know that we have sinned against ourselves gravely.”
-Tim Cahill in “Exotic Places Made Me Do It”
“Would it have made a difference to anyone in the world that I had felt a sense of incompleteness about my painting? Who would have cared about my silent cry of fraud? Only Jacob Kahn and perhaps one or two others, might have sensed its incompleteness. And even they could never have known how incomplete it truly was, for by itself it was a good painting. Only I would have known. It would have made me a whore to leave it incomplete. It would have made it easier to leave future work incomplete. It would have made it more and more difficult to draw upon that additional aching surge of effort that is always the difference between integrity and deceit in a created work. I would not be a whore to my own existence. Can you understand that? I would not be the whore to my own existence.
-Chaim Potok in “My Name is Asher Lev”
“Each of us has an authentic, unique self; an ‘I.’ Hillel teaches us (in the above quote) that if we do not reveal the ‘i’ - the part of my self that is unique - then who are we? What value is there to ‘me’, the persona that operates the world? It is just a shell, a conglomeration of societal elements originating in others....
A man once approached one of the great Sages, who in turn asked him,
‘For what did you come here?’
‘To find God.’
‘Then you came for nothing.’
‘God is everywhere.’
‘Then, please tell me sir, why should I have come?’
‘To find yourself.’ ”
- Yaakov Astor
“I believe that when you step into unchartered territory, you are also stepping into total abandonment, potential humiliation, and a space where nothing is guaranteed; there’s no case study or roadmap. I have so much respect for anybody who will step away from what they can do in order to find what they must do. That’s a hallmark characteristic of entrepreneurs and artists. And it’s scary and exciting as all hell.
Can you imagine if everyone followed their calling? Have you seen Stefan Sagmeister’s talk about this? He defines the difference between a job, a career, and a calling. I think there’s an important journey that each person should go on to at least figure out what their calling is, even if they don’t pursue it 9 to 5. Because it would be a tragedy if we all assumed our jobs were our callings, as that is not always the case. Right now, I’m trying to find my calling.
The reason I went to Bali was because a girlfriend told me that everyone there was an artist. I took her literally. I showed up in Ubud, in the back of a car, like a child, with my hands and nose pressed against the window asking aloud, “Is she a sculptor? Is he a painter?” And by the end of my time in Ubud, an amazing thing happened. I began to wonder, “What if we went through life assuming that everyone actually was an artist? That everyone had an offering to give? To share?” Let’s broaden that up a little and ask, “What if everyone has a gift inside of them, a unique gift to give the world?” I love the idea that everyone has a gift to give. And I believe that the whole world is waiting for us to give that gift to them. What if we could empower everyone to operate out of that place, instead of out of job titles or money or security, even? Imagine a world where everyone gives their truest, most authentic gifts... Wouldn’t the world be such a beautiful place if our callings were our careers were our jobs?” - Elle Luna, as interviewed by Ryan Essmaker
We spend the first 13-18 years of our lives trying to understand who we are, then it takes us another 10, maybe even 20 to understand we were most ‘us’ as we’ll ever be, when we were 13. Think about that for a moment.
When I think back to my 13, no, my 15 year old self, a sophomore in high school, I conjure memories of my autobiography I wrote from creative writing class. “Love Til You can Love No More” was the title I gave it and a haphazard cut out heart on the cover. We had to write the paper as if we were on our death bed looking back at our full (or short) life. We could take the paper whatever direction we chose. Ironically, in retrospection I got three things correct about life: I was a working mom (I was an MD in my paper), I struggled with infertility and I encountered people that were close to me that would require I love them no matter the situation, even until my death bed if they did not accept me as I was. How could I know these things then?
We are born into this world, some destined to become record-breaking surfers that live every day on the pulse of the rises and falls of the tide. Others, surgeons, steady hands, strong stomach. Oh those painters and the singers, those brush strokes and notes so effortless. The sharks and winter waves don’t deter those destined to the meditation of tide. Those lost on the table, flat-lined do not hold back the life-saver, because he can save but one, and isn’t that saving one, preserving an entire generation?
And me? What gift was granted to this soul before it was sent back to earth? Inked fingers from a pen that spills words onto pages and pages. A heart that will break, but will never be broken, that shall live in a thousand winters but never be frozen. But mostly words.
There is a passage in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament that strangely spoke to me growing up. Even now, I hear the words in the back of my head at random moments in my life and only now are they beginning to make sense. In Hebrew: “Hinehni. Hinehni!” Samuel cries when he hears something in the night. “Here I am” he speaks to the voice and the voice ends up being God Himself. “Here I am” in all of my questions and still more questions and yet all I can do is show up and wonder still more... Can life really be so grand? Can I really allow myself this much pleasure when I step into the unknown? The unknown, which is so painful in the present.
At this point, the question than of “who am I?” becomes irrelevant when we begin to just walk. In walking, we become. In living, we choose the person we are. Our fate becomes us. We cannot, in the words of Asher Lev, be a whore to ourselves. Can what terrifies us so, absolutely thrill us to the core, provide fulfillment? The answer is yes and yes, so much unknown and yet still....
Here I am.
Interview of Elle Luna: http://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/elle-luna
Hillel’s Quote : http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/48893292.html
The Book: “My Name is Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok
The Book: Tim Cahill in “Exotic Places Made Me Do It” as quoted by (the equally amazing book) “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts
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