Episode 16: (Ir)responsibility: (a verb)

I haven’t written here in forever. It’s been strange, because for a certain period of time this blog was an incredible motivator for me. It was the only space I was able to get feedback, and essentially it became my personal cheerleader, reminding me that writing is indeed a viable career. (Yes, I crave validation as much as the next person). Not saying I still don’t have my dark, fearful, unmotivated days… but it’s been beautiful to see how creativity, as with any skill, thrives when you practice it. I haven’t been writing here because I’ve been writing elsewhere, which is basically the best reason I could ever find. It didn’t happen intentionally, yet it happened. I’ve really been learning the value of having a singular focus, but that’s probably another story for another time. So as the book has taken up more of my thoughts, time, and creative energy I started to realize how far I have come with this whole idea of dreaming.

My birthday came and went, which was a very potent reminder of just how much has changed inside of me in one year. Reverse one year and you’d encounter a much different version of me. One who had a big vision, but absolutely no faith in that vision coming true. I think that’s the difference between being a “head in the clouds” kind of dreamer … you know the ones who never really DO anything about all their big ideas? And being someone who is actively walking into their vision. It’s actually believing that what you’ve dreamt is achievable. You’ll never take steps towards your dream until you believe it’s even possible! It may not look exactly like you dream it will, but that’s called starting small (as all good things do).

I’ve been reading a book about adventure lately, and it’s reminded me that sometimes we all need a little inspiration in order to live an adventurous life. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean you all need to hop flights to Thailand tomorrow. I actually think that ideal of “adventure” is more a result of the image-based culture we live in, rather than an accurate representation of living wildly. Trust me, there are plenty of people who travel to exotic destinations without ever leaving their comfort zones. Travel doesn’t equate to adventure; living out your passion in your everyday life on the other hand, does.

“So what makes you cry? What makes you pound your fist on the table? And let me add one more question to the mix: what makes you smile? If you want to discover your God-ordained passions you need to identify what makes you sad, mad, or glad.”

-Mark Batterson

It’s funny because I love this quote now, but I remember a time I wouldn’t have related to it at all. My personality is very mellow, I mean it takes a lot to get me really worked up. And me really worked up probably looks like someone else’s mellow. You feel me? My sister and I are pretty similar. I remember we used to compare ourselves to friends we had; girls who would shed tears at the mere mention of social injustice in the world, guys who would get emotional talking about their dream of moving to a new country or starting their own company. Katie and I would look at each other and wonder aloud whether or not we were passionate about anything? Because if that’s what passion looks like, I certainly don’t have it.

Now here I am, a couple of years later. I’m not lying when I say I’m living out some of my dreams right now. To the best of my ability, I am pursuing my passions daily. But do I routinely pound my fist on the table? Nope. Do I wake up every morning with tears streaming down my cheeks? No, I don’t live in a Hallmark movie. I will say that along my journey of getting to this place I did have moments like that. They were brief little snippets of emotion and passion; kind of like clues towards my true destiny on the path I was walking. The thing to grasp is that at the time, I didn’t realize these brief moments of emotion, nerves, and excitement were actually hints at a deeper passion growing inside me. And you may not either. The first one I remember happened two years ago; I was just sitting in my kitchen, bawling, because my heart was breaking for the youth I met and loved on Maui. I had no real idea why I was crying, but I couldn’t stop. I can also remember a time a year or so ago, being unable to sleep because I felt like I needed to quit my secure, safe job in order to pursue writing. I remember feeling confused, overwhelmed, and generally speaking…. Like I was a mess. It didn’t feel like ‘passion’, or ‘dreaming’, or ‘destiny’ at the time. It didn’t feel glamorous at all. It actually felt like I was going crazy.

“God ordained passions often break our hearts. And they can seem like an overwhelming burden to bear. But pursuing our passions is the key to living a fruitful and fulfilling life. It is the thing that wakes us up early in the morning and keeps us up late at night. It is the thing that turns a career into a calling.”

-Mark Batterson

I love the last line of that quote: career into calling. The thing I’ve realized is that our society knows how to respond to and applaud good careers. We know how to measure them, we know how to attain them, and we certainly know who has them and who doesn’t. Calling, on the other hand, is a bit more blurry. Calling sets you apart. Calling may make sense only to you at certain times in your life. Calling can directly relate to your career, or it can be totally different.

A lot of us haven’t yet put our fingers on our true callings. *Plural, because I also believe there can definitely be more than one in your life.

But I don’t want to be too dramatic, and I feel like calling is a big scary, oftentimes “religious” word. I don’t think it should be. My idea of someone walking out their calling in life is somebody who is thriving in life. Not that every moment is perfect, but they have a deep sense of peace in what they are putting their hands to. They know that all the time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears are worth it because THIS is what they are supposed to do. There are few things more inspiring than watching someone live life that way. That’s also why I mentioned how travel and adventure are not synonymous. I am daily inspired by people working their normal jobs as doctors, social workers, or counsellors. It’s not what they’re doing, it’s the way in which they do it.

Since I mentioned before my own journey into living an adventurous life, I’ll share some of the advice that was shared with me. That time when I was kept up at night, dreading quitting the security my job afforded me? I called people I trusted. And you know what each one of them said?

“Amy, I never saw you thriving in that job.”

The funny part is I had almost convinced myself I was thriving! I had a new car! I had money! I had a stable plan for the future! The universe should’ve given me a big gold star. But God puts people in our lives for a reason, oftentimes to call us on our bullshit. A good friend and incredible father figure in my life, laughed at me when I called him in an utter panic about the future. What if quitting would be the biggest mistake I made in my 20’s? Would everyone see me as irresponsible and dumb? What if I flopped? I could hear him smiling on the other end of the phone call and he said this, “If you pursue what’s in your heart I don’t see you ever going backwards in life. Creativity takes courage, and you’re so brave.”

I needed to hear that. Because I think there’s a myth out there that living adventurously means living recklessly and irresponsibly. Especially for millennials; we take a lot of heat because our generation has become known for our lack of work ethic, flightiness, etc. So I think other people need to hear it too: pursuing your God-given passion is the most responsible thing you can do with your life. In fact, it’s the very thing your life was intended for!

Mark Batterson writes about a concept called irresponsible responsibility, where, “God-ordained passions tend to get buried beneath day-to-day responsibilities. Less important responsibilities displace more important ones. And our responsibilities become spiritual excuses that keep us from the adventure God has destined for us.”

That doesn’t mean not paying your bills or buying groceries or cleaning your apartment. It means taking time every day to listen to a voice that cuts through the chatter. We live in the most distraction-filled era of all time. If you want to go through life on autopilot, its probably the easiest thing you can do. Sometimes I catch myself doing it. Running through motions rather than thinking through my responses, my decision making, and my plans. But that isn’t any way to spend this brief, beautiful blip of time we have on earth. I don’t think on our deathbeds any of us will mourn that we didn’t get a chance to binge-watch another Netflix special. Or regret how few times we zoned out scrolling Instagram. I think if we have regrets, they’re going to run a lot deeper. They’re going to be tied up in mourning what we wasted of our time, our unique gifting’s, and our personalities.

Pause.

Breathe.

Ask yourself this: does it make you glad? 

“The voice we should listen to most as we choose a vocation is the voice that we think we should listen to least, and this is the voice of our own gladness.”

-Frederick Buechner

God wants us to delight in what we do, I think it’s about time we all started doing the same.