3. Who are you the Reincarnation of?

Regardless of whether you buy into reincarnation conceptually, this is a fun idea. Think of a person who was no longer living at the time you were born (an ancestor, real or imagined) that you embody. Think about why you’re connected to this person across space and time. They are like your soulmate, only they are more than that – they are your soul. Or rather, you are their soul.

I made a note of this question a while ago and have been letting it percolate ever since. A lot of people remark that I am a lot like my maternal grandmother; however, she was alive when I was born, and so I can’t be walking around with her soul. And those comments are usually centered around our physical appearance, not necessarily our personalities.

So, for fun, I’m going to think of myself as the reincarnation of my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother, or my maternal great-great grandmother. To help me with this imagination exercise, I asked my sister, the family genealogist for her name. It was Annie.

I can assume that Annie lived in England because I know that my mother’s grandmother, Annie’s daughter Elizabeth, immigrated to Canada from England when she was 10 years-old. Whether Annie made the journey or not is unclear, and so I’m not sure if she was born in England or if she died in England, just that she probably lived in England at some point. So, I pretty much know nothing about her.

Here’s where my imagination must take over. How does Annie manifest herself in me?

Given the time that she was alive (mid to late 1800’s, per my estimate) and that she was a woman, I know that her life was by definition difficult. I can be fairly certain that she was married and likely had more than the one child that I know about. She probably worked her guts out day after day, taking care of her husband and children and her house. I wonder if she had any help from older children, siblings, or even hired help. I wonder if she had any free time. Did she read books? Could she read books? Was she passionate? Did she accept her lot in life, yet strive to make it a little better each day, anyway? Did she have a yearning to be creative, and if so, how did this come out? Maybe she was an excellent seamstress, able to fashion beautiful items from rags. Maybe she sang all day as she did her work.

Maybe she was physically strong, chopping wood for the stove and carrying heavy loads with ease. Maybe she was a healer. Maybe she saved a life or two.

It’s funny how making myself sit and think about this person was so enlightening. I am a direct descendent of Annie and yet until today, I’d literally never given her a second thought. It feels like today we were introduced and got to know each other a little better. It’s only right, since I’m walking around with her soul in me.

I’m reminded of how each of us has a very finite amount of time in this realm, and that the vast majority of us are forgotten in just a generation or two. It’s a little sobering and humbling.

Your turn: who are you the reincarnation of?

2. How Will I Know When I’m a Writer (Artist, Musician, etc)?

I can’t remember the source, so unfortunately I can’t give credit here, but I remember in an article about a creative person, the interviewer asked the interviewee when did she know that she was an artist (it might have been Lisa Congdon, a relatively late artistic bloomer). And her answer was when she started calling herself an artist. Simple as that.

Yet, the simple act of calling oneself an artist (or writer or musician, etc) is a humongous step, am I right?

In my mind, the question is how will I know when I’m a writer or an artist? Because when I know this to be true, then I will confidently call myself one. I don’t think it will work in reverse, like a Field of Dreams situation (label myself and I become). I don’t have the chutzpah.

My first inclination is to say that I could call myself a writer once I’ve been published. Or once my blog gets X number of hits per month. I could call myself an artist once I’ve sold a piece.

But is this myopic? Maybe the title comes with prolificacy. Maybe once I’ve filled X number of sketch books or published X number of blog posts, I’ve earned my chops.

Maybe I could take a baby step. I could call myself a part-time writer or an amateur artist, for example.

All I know is that I have to keep creating. Even if I never give myself the designation, as long as I make creativity a part of my life every day, then I will accomplish the same thing.

What’s your answer to this question?

1. What is My Hobby, My Job, My Career, and My Vocation?

In January 2016, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, Big Magic, and many other fabulous works of fiction and non-fiction, posed a question on Facebook: WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? This post blew my mind.

She addresses those of us “seeking purpose and meaning and direction in their lives” by differentiating how we spend our time into the buckets: Hobby, Job, Career, and Vocation. Please, please, please go and read her post, but here’s a very summarized definition of these terms.

  1. A hobby is something you do strictly for enjoyment.
  2. A job is how you look after yourself in the world, financially. Says Elizabeth: “Even after I’d already published three books, I still kept a regular job, because I never wanted to burden my creativity with the responsibility of paying for my life.” Cool, right? She also says “Your job does not need to be how you define yourself; you can create your own definitions of your purpose and your meaning, pulled from deep within your imagination.”
  3. A career is a job that you put your energy, passion, and commitment into.
  4. A vocation is a calling, “a summons that comes directly from the universe, and is communicated through the yearnings of your soul.”

Question:

What are these for me? What is my hobby, my job, my career, and my vocation?

Answer:

I have a few hobbies: reading, knitting, writing, drawing, painting, watching Vlogs on YouTube, and fitness. Chris calls me a “dabbler” because I rotate through these depending on my whims and my schedule – pretty appropriate, I’d say.

When I think about job and career, I get caught up in a feedback loop. I work in finance and I’ve risen the ranks into a senior position in my field, mostly at one company. I’ve put my energy and commitment into this, but it’s most definitely not out of a sense of passion, but out of my damned need to please others. In this regard, it’s a job: there’s no passion, there’s no sense of purpose or meaning for me. But, it some ways it feels a lot like a career. I’ve dedicated a lot of time getting my accounting designation and a lot of overtime hours getting to my current position. I’m good at what I do, I like most of the people I work with, but I don’t love it. It doesn’t feed my soul. In fact, it probably sucks a little bit of the life out if it.

When I think about vocation and read and re-read Elizabeth’s essay, I realize that this is the scariest prospect of all. WHAT IF DON’T HAVE A VOCATION? WHAT IF I WASTE MY ENTIRE LIFE MISSING THE SIGNS OF WHAT MY CALLING REALLY IS? She advocates paying attention to your senses, and considering your talents, tastes, passions, and curiosities. She urges everyone to seek. In my case, I look to my hobbies (which represent my talents, tastes, passions, and curiosities) and wonder if my vocation lies amongst the dabbles. I also think about what I gravitated to as a child: drawing, reading, and writing, for sure, but also teaching – my favorite game was to play teacher. I would create syllabuses for the younger children in my mother’s home daycare – I taught everything from math to science to gymnastics. There are also other things I’m passionate about that are currently hobbies, or that I’m not actively dedicating any productive time to: animal rights advocacy, sustainable transportation, the environment.

Follow-Up:

Elizabeth reminds us that we don’t need a career. If this is true, can I ditch mine? Or, more realistically, can I convert my career into a job? That is, can I pull back the time and energy I currently put into it so that I can focus on a vocation and get the sense of purpose and meaning in my life? For me, this is going to take a lot of courage and assertiveness. Hell, it might even take some planning and accountability.

What the heck is my vocation? Dabbling is good for hobbies, but if I’m trying to find meaning and purpose in my life, I think I need to focus on something. What should that be? My gut tells me that if I dedicate myself to this blog, focus the content to something meaningful, I could reach a lot of people, satisfying the writing and teaching urges that I have. Maybe I’m onto something here. Also, what Elizabeth says about not burdening creativity with the responsibility for paying for life is so profound. I feel like I would really start to hate drawing and painting if I had to force it.

Interaction is Fun!

If there’s anyone out there reading this, and if you’re inclined, I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic and your answers to the questions.