28 September, 2010

Alive

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ― Howard Thurman


Too many people are walking around half-asleep. They move through life trying to find something to "satisfy" or "fulfill" or "define" them. That ideal job, the "one" person, the next purchase - but none of it satisfies. 

We buy into a lot of lies that tell us what to do to be happy. My cousin and I were talking the other day about how motherhood (for instance) is set out there as the ultimate achievement in people's lives. You get married, have a kid and then you have done something! Freakonomics did a piece about how research has shown that those who have kids are less happy than those who don't. "Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so.”  While parenting doesn’t do much for “moment-to-moment” happiness, parents do find the job rewarding (via). New York Magazine ran the original article.

I am not trying to bash parenthood, though it's not something I have ever envisioned for myself necessarily. So what's my point? I don't think parenthood makes you happy, I don't think marriage does either. I think you can have a wildly amazing job from the outside and be miserable, or have a seemingly less than "ideal" career and be content and happy. 

It's passion and pursuing that beyond all else. It's letting your life be guided by what you enjoy and what fills you up verses what people tell you should make you happy. 

When I read Thurman's quote I was reminded of Katie Finneran's acceptance speech at the Tony's this year. You can watch it here, Katie starts talking about a minute in. In it (it is well worth the watch!), Finneran encourages the kids sitting at home to pursue what they are excited about, regardless of the people who tell them not to, because if it is what they are passionate about things will come together, and they will be fulfilled.  

I wonder how many of us are looking for something external to satisfy, identify with, make us happy because we don't have a proper view of who God is and our identity back to that. And I think we are sold this idea of what being "happy" and "content" are that is unrealistic and unsustainable. We are not going to be movie happy all the time - it can't and won't happen. And happiness isn't what we should strive for - but contentment and peace. We cannot manufacture contentment - it comes from within.

What makes you come alive? For me, it's women in crisis, people's stories, and revealing the beauty anywhere. That can take on many forms - advocacy, or aftercare, or government work - but what gets me is helping women in crisis - and sometimes that will be working with them, and other times it will be fighting ignorance and false media information. It might be gathering their stories and sharing them so others realize what these women really overcome. 

I don't think people were always made to do one thing, like you were made to teach, or you were made to run an NGO, or you were made to be a painter. So you can be passionate about something and it will take different forms in terms of vocation. But figure out what makes you tick and then move towards it and it might end up being a job or it could be something you volunteer at - but doing something about the thing God wired you to be excited about!

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© Amanda Lunday