When I was a kid I said I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up. I was always coming up with something. I liked my English teacher in 5th grade, so I was going to be an English teacher. I loved looking at the stars, so I was going to be an astronaut. I liked clouds so I was going to be a meteorologist. I liked movies, and pretty people, so I was going to be an actress, or a model. I wanted to be smart, so I was going to be highly educated. I wanted to help people, so I was going to be a missionary.
None of these things ever quite hit the mark. I didn't know it then, but figuring out who I was really mattered to me. It matters to everyone, it's extremely important. But according to the Enneagram (best personality test ever) my Basic Fear is "Of having no identity, no personal significance." And it's true. When I'm not doing well, one of the first things to happen is my inner dialogue starts to go on about feeling "pointless" and "inconsequential".
One time, as a teenager, I remember talking to my dad about what I'd like to "be". I said something like I wanted to be able to inspire people - I wanted to motivate and encourage the world. I imagined it would be something along the lines of public speaking, or about some very specific cause that I hadn't yet found, but was looking for. As flawed as this idea was (in that I am not overly gifted in public speaking) it was the closest to the mark I think I ever got. I wanted to inspire people. It is the thing that has continued to be true in me.
I'm 34 now, and still haven't quite figured it out. On bad days, it still bothers me. I'm married, I have two kids. I worked while my husband went to school, and when we had kids, I stopped working outside the home and started working as a stay at home mom. I have fought, and continue to fight the "my life is pointless" stay at home mom- battle. Yes I know my kids are amazing, precious gifts. I know I'm privileged to be able to stay home with them, and I hurt for my friends who want to stay home with their babes, and can't. But I struggle oh - so - much with the menial tasks of home life, the isolation that comes from not getting out enough, and having too many conversations with a 6 and 2 year old, and not enough with adults. (or at least people pretending, as I am, to be an "adult" ). I even have days where all I do is avoid the conversations with the 6 and 2 year old, and all but physically go off the map completely. Then I am hit with guilt for not engaging my children, for wasting the gift of time with them that I've been given, for not appreciating that my husband is a solid, loyal provider and just wishing he were home RIGHT NOW so I could get away from these needy humans for a couple hours and somehow invest in my true calling and purpose on this earth.
Yes, I get it backwards. Daily. I grieve that I'm getting it backwards, and get it backwards, SIMULTANEOUSLY. Then I cry, apologize, hug and kiss, and try not to yell for 10 minutes while I still feel wretched and wonder what I am doing to these innocent, incredible little guys for whom I am responsible. Then I pray, because "this" kind of mom was never on the list of things I wanted to be when I grew up.
I'm being this honest because I don't believe I'm alone. I think honest people live life like this sometimes. Maybe your drama is different in it's details. But getting it backwards, and hating it - it's all of us. It's our common ground. Our painfully beautiful, sacred common ground.
I'm not going to ever "figure it out" when it comes to exactly what I should be doing every moment with my life because, as I've come to believe, that isn't the point. I'm meant to be looking. I'm meant to be joining others as they look, and proclaiming the assurance markers on the path as I find them. Telling people, "look! beauty is up this way! Just around this corner!" Or going back to the really dark, really ugly places on the path and linking arms with others as they try to decide if it's worth it to keep going. Remembering. Witnessing the ones who ended their journey there. Witnessing the ones who crawl on, bloody, bruised. There is no "figuring it out" there. There is weeping, and praying, and being present to your own life. There is linking arms and holding presence for another's life. There is falling, and failing, and apologizing, and trying again. In this solidarity and love in the muck, there is beauty.
That beauty is the thing my heart gets called back to. It's the essence of the point, though it gets displayed in many different ways. And when I look back at the things I wanted to be when I grew up, I see that the beauty was the theme in it all.
My teacher was kind to me, and she had a passion for teaching, - I didn't want to be a teacher, I wanted to be kind, and passionate. Beauty.
The vast expanse of space and stars and moon tugged on my imagination and sense of wonder. I didn't want to be an astronaut, I wanted to imagine, and discover. Beauty.
Clouds loomed big and billowing, or dark, cracking and thundering, or light and swirling - reflecting every imaginable color and hue - displaying the heavens art on the largest scale imaginable. I didn't want to be a meteorologist, I wanted to inhale and exhale color, to create, to proclaim glory. Beauty.
I recognized that physical beauty effects others in a favorable way - emulating relational love and adoration. I didn't want to be an actress or model, I wanted to be loved and adored for the very essence of who I was. Beauty.
I enjoyed thinking and exchanging ideas and thoughts with others. I enjoyed learning and growing. I didn't want to "be smart" I wanted to thrill with delight at new knowledge and deeper understanding. Beauty.
I believed I had been given the gift of Love beyond measure through Jesus. The answer to the deepest longing of our hearts. I didn't want to be a missionary, I wanted to bring the compassion of God to people in a raw, real, transforming way. I wanted to know it more deeply myself. Beauty.
I'm not going to "figure this out". I am going to hunt the beauty.