Back in 2007, I had hit a sort of rut. I quit a job that I really didn’t care about, and I was just trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with myself. I listened to this one song and suddenly, clarity cut straight through the garbage that had muddled my mind.
The artist who wrote and sang this song is several years younger than me, and I was so envious of her. Not because she was lucky, wealthy, pretty or skinny, not because she had a record deal and had her entire country eating out of the palm of her hand. Not because she had toured with John Mayer by the time she was 20, or that her second album made platinum the day it was released. It was because she had clarity and purpose, the kind that shone like diamonds through a deep, dark well. You listen to her songs and you just know she has something to write about because she was living for something greater.
This is the kind of clarity that so many people spend their whole lives looking for. I think part of what makes it so hard to find is the stuff that piles up on a day to day basis, like e-mails and cellphone bills. Part of me has been so resistant to pursuing my purpose because it’s so tied to worldly concerns, worried about making ends meet, constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses. And the honest truth is that, for many people, this is the side that wins. The other side – the one that makes our hearts light up, the thing we were all born to find – too often gets the short end of the stick. Yet this is the side that makes us feel alive.
It’s a constant struggle. For example, I’ve been working on the same song for the past few weeks, and I can’t get past the first line of the chorus. I literally have three words in the song, and two of them are the same word. So I’ve really only written two words. It’s infuriating. Yet I know that this, along with teaching, is what keeps me alive. This is what I was born to do. And my few years and recent experiences have taught me that it’s far better to become a slave to something you love, rather than to something that merely pays the bills. If I am stuck on those same two words for the next year, I will keep chipping away at it until the next two make an appearance. If I am dead tired on a Monday night to listen to a 10-year-old practice a Miley Cyrus song for the 100th time, I will live in the moment, and I’ll love it. I’m saving the best of myself for the things that make my heart light up. Maybe one day I, too, will shine.