Yesterday, like many of us, I was hunting around a gift store trying to find that perfect little something for the man in my life. Although nothing jumped out at me and announced, "Happy Valentine's Day", I spotted something else. A sign. It was in fact, a silver ring. It was engraved with the words, It is never too late to be who you always were.
And so, the cogs began turning.
Why is it that some of us are compelled to commit to a singular path, with unrelenting tunnel vision, while others simply dither? Pulitzer Prize winning author, Cormac McCarthy, is said to have once sold his shoes because he was so resigned to the fact that he was and always would be a writer that he flatly refused to take any other job, even when stricken by poverty. He just kept on writing until there was food on the table. Amongst the dedicated, is an unwavering belief that their mission has been assigned specifically and no matter what, it will carry them through. Not a trace of doubt lingers.
We are who we are. Yet, we spend most of our high school years trying to decide what to do with the rest of our lives. Pondering what to "be" when we grow up. That tiny voice inside may beg to differ; "Am I not someone already?", but the question is out there to be answered and the seeking begins.
So, we pick a role and we play it. Sociologists refer to us as "actors" and I am not sure that the irony is intended. We make our selection by assessing external stimuli. Weighing up our interests, our grades, our personality, parental and peer inputs with a formulaic rationale, in order to align ourselves with an idea of the future. We begin to create (or re-create?) ourselves within a framework, so that soon we can be recognised by a set of standardised variables. A lawyer must be wealthy, diligent, perhaps a little pompous. A nurse is caring, flexible, good at multi-tasking. Tick, tick and tick.
These are identities are for sale... but who's buying? By the time you have bought in, you may have sold out. It's life by design. We become what we do, rather than being who we are.
If Mozart had a career counselor, would he have been a bio-chemist? Would Van Gogh's vision of 'a starry, starry night' seen him apply for NASA training? I would like to think not. Vocation stems from the heart of all of us. Not the head. It's built into our core.
Somewhere, deep inside us, there is a seed. It's there when we're born and it's the seed of who we are and who we will be - of our truest nature, our essence. From the time we are young it starts to grow. It feeds off all of the things that give us butterflies and bright, wide eyes. It flourishes throughout our beings, sprawls and fulfills our person. We grow into ourselves. And then, one day, somebody asks us what we will "be", and thinking that what we are is not enough, we take a guess, and pursue it doggedly.
In deciding what to be when I grew up all I did was make the the growing up harder. The formula of me didn't fit in the real world. You couldn't bottle it and you couldn't sell it. So I adjusted the formula, packaged and took it to market and in doing so, suppressed an important part of myself to enable that decision to take shape. Many years from now, I hope to look back and say that I have come full circle. That the distance I once wandered towards a distorted version of myself was not so far, not so exhaustive that I couldn't walk all of the way back.
It is never too late to be who you always were. Seriously.