To Be or Not To Be
Several years ago I went back to school to study theology and philosophy. Mid-way through my education, I decided to change my major to studio arts. Now, a year later, I'm questioning that decision. I've been on break for two weeks, and I only picked up a paintbrush one day. Yet for some unknown reason, I've started writing a blog. Here I am, fifty years-old, still trying to figure out what I want to be. Did you get that contradiction?
Here I am trying to figure out what I want to be.
This has been going on for years. I graduated high school in 1980 and was accepted into Montclair State College. My major was undecided, but I was leaning strongly towards art. I commuted to college and worked part-time at a supermarket making more than eight dollars per hour. It was good pay back then, and I didn't feel like sitting in school for four years when I could be working full time and earning money. So I left college and decided to go to business school for a year to study "airline and travel." Yes, there was actually an entire course for that. I was hired as a telephone sales agent for World Airways immediately after graduation, and I absolutely hated it. I sat at a computer in a dismal office at the not-so-scenic Newark International Airport for about ten hours a day. It was repetitive work and BORING! Certainly not the glamorous world I envisioned.
My marriage and move to Florida (see the Green Grass of Home post) rescued me from that monotony. I wouldn't even consider seeking work in the airline industry again in Florida. So I decided to put my administrative skills to the test. I quickly got a job at a large newspaper in the classified advertising department. My job title had something to do with "pagination," which was a fancy title for inputting a bunch of stuff in the computer. Boring. And my supervisor was a nutcase. So I transferred to the personnel department as some sort of an administrative assistant. Fancy title for "sitting in an office doing nothing." Boring. So I transferred to the affiliated magazine as an administrative assistant to the editor and publisher. That was fun for a few months until the guy I worked for transferred to the Washington Post. The next guy was not as dynamic. Back to boredom.
Alas, in 1988 I gave birth to my first daughter. Motherhood kept me challenged and gratified for almost ten years. But when my youngest daughter started kindergarten, my quest started again. What was I going to be? There was absolutely nothing in the classifieds that appealed to me, so what the hell, I started my own business. That my friends is a book, so I will not even go there. All I will tell you is that the business kept me preoccupied (I didn't say satisfied) for about twelve years. It bankrupted in the midst of the economic crisis in 2008 which was a blessing because I was becoming more and more unhappy in that role.
That leads us to the present day and to the contradiction: "Here I am trying to figure out what I want to be." My spiritual director has reminded me more than once that I am a human being, not a human doing. I am not what I do. I simply "am." And I am worthy of life and love simply because I am. I am not who I am because of what I do or do not do. My husband too keeps reminding me to enjoy the journey and stop worrying about the destination. The journey has been awesome, but I've spent so much time thinking about the destination (what I'm going to be) that I am not fully enjoying the adventure, and I really don't appreciate who I am at any given point throughout the journey.
I have to admit that the most gratified I have ever been is when I become so absorbed in something outside of myself that I forget all about myself. It all goes back to the cup post (see I Need a Drink post). I can't fill myself. There is nothing I can do that will fill that inner longing. I can only be. And while I am being, the best way to experience gratification is through dying to myself and my desires. It's the greatest paradox, but in it lies everything we seek. In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus says: "if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."
Shakespeare was right. "To be or not to be" really is the question. Not "to do or not to do." To be open to what life has to offer me daily. To be joyful and grateful and hopeful. To be and feel worthy and lovable and loving. To be alive and present. To be caring and compassionate. To be holy and good. To be or not to be? I think I'll choose "to be" since I already "am."
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