A little soul searching . . .

By Ron

I worry about people’s souls. Not in the religious sense, but in the this-is-the-essence-of-me sense.

I worry that people sell their souls for false security, that they bury the essence of who they are in order to fit into a world they don’t belong in. In other words, they grow up.

My wife and I often joke that we don’t know what we want to be when we grow up. I think we have it backwards. I think we shouldn’t have grown up in the first place.

Throughout our lives, society pressures us to fall into certain patterns: sports and other activities throughout the school years, followed by college, career, marriage, kids, grandkids, retirement. Preferably in that order. Certain jobs are appropriate for certain people.  If you’re smart (and wealthy, usually), you should be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or college professor. If you’re not so smart, off you go to make an hourly wage: factory worker, secretary, custodian and fast-food worker. Of course, then there are the jobs society thinks are better for one gender than the other. How often do you see a male secretary or a female auto mechanic?

Following these patterns is considered the grown-up, responsible thing to do. It seems to work for a lot of people – maybe even most – but definitely not for some.  For some it finds us at middle age wondering what the heck we’re doing with our lives. We find ourselves in jobs that are sucking our souls. At the time, taking these jobs seemed the responsible, adult thing to do. It paid the bills, right?

That’s what society wants for us, but what do WE want? We become so obsessed with doing the right thing, we totally ignore what’s right for us. We’re taught to repress what makes us happy in favor of what makes us responsible. Why can’t we be taught how to find and nurture our essential selves instead of discovering what skills we possess that society might find useful? In the end, why should we care what society thinks of our chosen vocations as long as we aren’t a burden and what we do doesn’t harm anyone?

So, what would have happened if we didn’t grow up? What if we followed a path that was soul enriching, but not necessarily well paying? Naturally, we have to support ourselves, but so many people I know take and keep horrible jobs because we’re told throughout our lives that it’s the right thing to do. What if we were taught that the right thing is to pay attention to our inner voices and to follow our passions? To do something that touches and enriches our souls?

I think we’re taught not to listen to the inner voice, but the outer ones that teach us what society considers responsible behavior. Shouldn’t it be more responsible to figure out who we are first?

Some career gurus say, “follow your passion and the money will follow.” I’m not sure that’s always true, but for many people I know, we’ve submerged our passions so deeply we don’t even know what they are anymore. An unfulfilling job can suck our energy to the point where we are no longer capable of having fun, because we don’t remember what fun is!

I’ve been struggling with this for a couple years now. I have a lot of interests but nothing I consider a true passion. Maybe you’ll have better luck. Take some time and try to remember what used to get you all fired up, what really tickled your fancy back in the days before you decided to grow up. Seriously, I can’t remember. But like I said, maybe you’ll have better luck.

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