Two or three years ago, I found myself in the position where my life didn’t seem to work for me anymore: the job I’d always dreamt of having felt infulfilling, and the frustration of it had begun to trickle through all aspects of my life. Every night I came home tired and in the mood to rant. I resented the lower salary that comes with working in the arts sector, and as I turned down holidays abroad with friends or buying a nice pair of shoes, I couldn’t remember why I ever thought to work in the arts in the first place. I stopped going to concerts, seeing exhibitions or watching arty films – the very things that had been so important to me for so long, and had lead me to work for a prestigious arts organisation. As I lost passion for what I did my life felt increasingly routine; I felt empty, and I felt trapped.
I can’t remember how I first heard of Marianne Cantwell’s Free Range Humans course, but I enrolled in 2011. The course was great, but it left me feeling more inadequate by the end of it because it seemed that I was the only participant without the first clue of what my dream life was (in hinsight, I probably wasn’t). After finishing the course, I resolved to spend the whole year “defrosting”, ie trying to find what it was I really wanted to do so I could start building this wonderful life so many people seemed to be enjoying.
I tried all sorts of courses – photography, sewing, mediation, painting, creative writing – whatever appealed, in search of what it was I loved. Some of those led me to a continued practice that still feed my soul and imagination today (like photography) or helped me grow as a person (meditation should be compulsory at school); others served to satisfy my curiosity and take me to the next level of the quest. Collectivelly, these courses took me right out of my comfort zone, helped me expand, and get closer to knowing what it is that truly makes my heart beat.
During that year I also followed many blogs and coaches about how to make a living doing what you love – there are dozens out there – and what struck me is that although their advice is absolutely sound, it is always a bit unsatisfying. Most of them promise to help you find your dream life even if you don’t know what your dream is, but this is largely misleading. For people like me who were lost, you may get a handful of exercises to somehow point you in the right direction (who do you admire? what can you not live without?), or to keep a journal to keep track of progress; but these seem to be a bit empty when it comes to connecting the dots and finding something that truly gets you fired.
I appreciate we are the only experts on ourselves, and no one can ever tell you what your dreams are, but I think what they forget to tell you is a/ how difficult it is to find out more about yourself and b/ it’s going to take years. And as you keep changing, it’s going to be a moving target. I wish I’d known that from the start, so that I wouldn’t feel so bad that I still don’t have a big project lined up.
Still, I have more and more clues than I did before. I also feel I know myself, as a person, much better than I did. I know I need to fill my time with arts and creativity in order to be happy; I also want to take on more serious creative writing. As I contemplate future projects, a little voice also tells me I could write about knowing yourself, to try and fill that void that left me, and probably others, wanting. I’m not sure what shap it will take exactly, but I like the idea.