07 July 2013

Straight Talk Sunday: Finding Meaning, Contentment, and Passion

posted by: Lydia Daily Specials | Straight Talk Sunday

Straight Talk: I’ve only been able to post to Sunset 5 times in the last month. And truth be told, I was shocked when I counted five posts…it seemed like I only posted once in the last month. (Shout out to all the other members of the SunsetFam who kept the machine running while I was out.)

I spent the past two weeks on vacation, and before that it was a total grind at work. Today I want to tell you a story. It’s about what I’ve learned about life, passions, and motivation.

(While I’m at it, it just so happens that I’m listening to a song called Punga by Klingande that is mostly instrumental, but there are few words you hear in the song say “I want to tell you a story.” It’s cool if you read into it as ironic, but I think Klingande actually inspired me to tell a story. Klingande and a couple other things I’ve realized over the past few days.)

Just about two, maybe three years ago, I was so in love, I thought I was ready to get married. I wanted to spend my life with the person I was dating and I didn’t think it mattered if I was happy with my job or not. We’d move in together and I was totally fine being a girl who quickly became a housewife. Having a career wasn’t my life calling. I thought I had life figured out, and this was it. I had an apartment where we spent a lot of our time. I learned to cook a couple fancy meals mostly so I could show off that I was capable (cooking has never been something I’ve enjoyed) of being an adult and making good food. I could continue writing on Sunset, and that would be how I would spend most of my time. We fought, just like any normal couple, but we also loved each other with all of our hearts. That was life.

Fast forward two, maybe three years, to where I am today. I’m single. I have a job that I love. I work most hours of the day and almost always do a bit of (…or a lot of) work on the weekends. I live on the other side of the country. I love it all. I couldn’t be in a more opposite place, mentally and physically, than where I was just a couple years ago. And I’m happy. Most of all, I’m much more stable.

While it took time to come to, this was probably the biggest transformation I’ve made over the course of my twenty-six years. What’s at the heart of it all is that I needed to find something (not just someone) that I truly loved.

At the time, I was sure that my relationship was what I needed, and the blog kept me busy enough. I didn’t like my job much, and I didn’t understand that there was going to be another job out there that I would love. Today, I still write for Sunset–it still makes me happy and I love doing it. I also still keep in touch with my ex-boyfriend and his family. He’s an incredibly guy, but we were able to come to the conclusion that we weren’t in the right place in our lives for this. As I was typing the first paragraph describing what my life was, I cringed at my naiveté. Today, the idea of falling back into being a housewife just doesn’t fit into my plans.

I’m reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In right now and am finding that my new self aligns so closely to her outlook on how women should approach life, but I also find that my old self is dangerously close to a clone of what she warns that society pushes women to become. She tells of a graduation speech she gave at an all-women’s college that included with the following lines:

You are the promise for a more equal world. So my hope for everyone here is that after you walk across this stage, after you get your diploma, after you go out tonight and celebrate hard–you will then lean way in to your career. You will find something you love doing and you will do it with gusto. Find the right career for you and go all the way to the top. 

As you walk off this stage today, you start your adult life. Start out by aiming high. Try–and try hard. 

Like everyone here, I have great hopes for the members of this graduating class. I hope you find true meaning, contentment, and passion in your life. I hope you navigate the difficult times and come out with greater strength and resolve. I hope you find whatever balance you seek with your eyes wide open. 

Even if Sandberg had told me these exact words at my graduation, I don’t think I would have understood them as I do today. Because before you find something that you truly love, something that motivates you to get up every day and strive to be better than you were the day before, you wont understand what you’re capable of. The old me found only part of what Sandberg tells us to find. I found true contentment and some passion in my life: I was truly happy with who I was with and what I knew I could do (which happened to be writing a blog). What I hadn’t found was a true meaning. My true meaning in life is not to force myself into being a housewife. It’s to work hard and hopefully to inspire others to find the motivation I’ve found through doing what I love. Some days I can’t stand how busy and stressed my job makes me, but at the end of the day, I love my job.

I was just on vacation in Maine for almost two weeks, and for the second half of it, I had three friends from work come up and visit. We pretty successfully avoided talking about work while we were there, but there was a minute when we were sitting on some rocks on the beach and we talked about something that involved work. I felt my energy level jump. To me, that signals passion for what I do.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be the powerhouse that Sheryl Sandberg is, but the good news for me is that I’ve found the motivation to try. Gone are the days of not knowing what’s out there and what can motivate me. I still want to  find somebody I love and will spend the rest of my life with, but that feeling isn’t synonymous with dropping everything in my career for that pursuit. That’s not the life I’ve worked this hard for. And I’m lucky enough to have found that I live for multiple passions in my life.

I’m thankful for a lot of things that have helped me make it here, but I also really appreciate Sheryl Sandberg summing up the two people I’ve found inside myself perfectly. I’m lucky to have transformed into the person she encourages women to be. I don’t regret any part of my past. I’m glad to have grown into who I find myself to be today, but I think every piece of my past was a necessary stepping stone to get me to where I am. If you’ve made it this far, I encourage you to keep pushing yourself until you find the thing that motivates you to work hard every day. You wont always find it on the first, second, or third try. I certainly didn’t find it right away, but I believe it’s out there for all of us.


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