In general, what are you most curious about? Think back to when you were 8 or 9 years old, too. What domains, notions, ideas, music, art, people, books, tv shows, fantasy play, hobbies, or special interests fascinated you? What questions are you afraid to ask?
None of this is random, by the way. It is actually an important aspect of your life-purpose and even vocation. If you’ve struggled with finding your place, your niche, the thing that helps your life make sense and give it purpose and meaning, you have to be willing to “go back in time” (in your lifetime), and become very curious about those things again.
When I look back now at my fascination with that bible story from the book’s introduction (The tower of Babel), I can clearly see how my own curiosity around this, and my desire to experience how this even happened, literally attracted, in one way or another, the physical limitations of my own life! The ego may say: “well, that happened because you’re stupid and you deserved it.” My higher-mind/Self knows better…..now.
All of us have stories or anecdotes like this. Some of us head full-steam into them, and some of us ignore or disregard them as silly, or wasteful of their time and energy. Fact is, however, that whether we consciously or unconsciously head in those directions, these curious places are unavoidable– they are part of your soul-work (something to learn through in this lifetime) or a soul contract (something you have agreed/volunteered to do).
To help underscore this point, I want to share a little story from graduate-school and a class that still stands out as one of my favorites, not only because the instructor was exceptional, but because of what I learned about vocational identity and about myself.
The class was called Career Development & Guidance and it was an introduction to the hows and whys of vocational counseling and learning how to administer a number of specific assessments to assist individuals in choosing suitable career paths. After many weeks of teaching us about the standard psychologically-based approaches, our teacher taught a module on Holland’s Personality Types and concluded with a little activity he called “vocational daydreams”. The gist of the lesson was this:
When you were 7, 8 or 9 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Even if you wanted to be something like ‘a cowboy’, there are certain elements to that particular archetype that appeal to you; being outdoors? being a hero? a love of horses or animals? the groovy clothes? These are questions that can’t always be easily picked up on a paper-pencil test (like a personality or psychological test) because many of these desires are from our heart and soul.
Accordingly, the punchline to our lesson on “vocational daydreams” concluded with this pronouncement by our professor; that in all the years of working in the field of vocational identity and career counseling, the most reliable predictor of someone’s ideal environment and vocation was the narrative around childhood dreams. The narrative. The story. Your story.
Some of us have great clarity while we’re growing up– a nurse, a doctor, a mom, a builder, a baker. For individuals who fall into a number of competing aptitudes, are neurodivergent, or experienced moderately challenging life-detours and plot-twists, it’s not always so clear. That is okay. Sometimes, you can’t know until you actually know. Accordingly, all you can do is simply follow your beautiful heart as it leads you along the river of life– study what excites and delights you, hone your own critical-thinking abilities, connect your own dots along the way. Repeat.
So, what did you want to be/do when you were 7, 8, or 9 years old? Can you remember?
Given that regionally, nationally, and globally we’re experiencing a rapid evolution in the work we do and how we do it, this is a perfect time to sit and feel through the types of physical contribution (paid or unpaid) that make you happiest. Your time and energy are extremely valuable. This is true of all human beings. Do not fall for the trap that only “some people” are worthy or valuable, or that this process is for the “privileged”. It is a process for everyone! The greatest contribution any of us can make to the improvement of our own health and well-being, and to our communities, is to align with our inherent gifts and passions. Do not outsource this. No one can do this ‘work’ for you. Only you can.
Chronic stress is a symptom of disharmony. Toxic stress is damaging to our physiology. When people are chronically stressed they can become disoriented, confused, and even angry and violent. They also become ill– the body is the place where we can actually ‘see’ the effects of disharmony with ourselves. We can all tell when something isn’t right for us. It feels bad, uncomfortable, and unsettling. Because we may not fully understand ‘what the heck it is‘, we often incorrectly assign the discomfort to the messenger, versus the actual source. Teacher and writer Parker J. Palmer has a beautiful quote about this shared human error of sorts: “violence is what we do when we no longer know what to do with our own suffering.”
The flavors and symptoms of violence in our society are as unique as each individual– from negative self-talk, unaddressed fears, addictions, denial of pleasure and the ability to receive love, all the way to the wars we wage against women, individuals, communities, and nations all in the name of “x, y, or z”.
Why are you here, on Earth, right now? If you have a general sense, congratulations! Keep going! If you have no clue or feel a calling to reinvent your life, you can– there is help– the helpers are everywhere! The time has come for each of us to ask ourselves what we’re doing ‘here’, now, and to get very curious about our own inner-life, and what truly sustains and enlivens us. It is time for each of us to consider what is real versus manufactured reality. They are not the same thing.
If you were told growing up “not to ask questions”, it could have been because the adult (or institution) did not have an answer, or because they wanted to control your thinking. God/The Ground of All Being has equipped each of us with rational minds for a reason. Dormant minds cannot think clearly or critically. Dormant minds don’t ask “why.”
So many of us, from all walks of life, are now asking “why”. To follow this innate, human curiosity and to unearth what enlivens and brings joy to your individual existence is a God-given gift available to everyone. Open your gift.