This past weekend I went my niece's high school graduation party. I spent a good chunk of my twenties growing up beside her, so her leap from high school to college felt particularly profound. I have vivid memories of dragging her and her older sister to my college campus, so they could see what it was I did when I left the house. They joined me at dance rehearsals, at plays, at musicals and I remember secretly hoping they were soaking up the energy of artists at work. I hoped they could feel the spirit of people who weren't afraid to express themselves and openly loved every bead of sweat that creating demanded. I wasn't out to make them artists, actors, or dancers. I just wanted them to see what it looked like when people were actively doing something they loved, and the joy that came from doing so.
Oh so many years later, I find myself watching both of them embark into the adult world with excitement and curiosity. One fresh high school graduate and one fresh college graduate dancing around topics like "roommates" and "moving out of the house." It could make me feel old. And it does, slightly. What it really does is make me feel more aware of time, and the precious delicacy surrounding the choices we make.
I am not about to do to them what a lot of adults did to me at that time, because I have learned that all the advice about making money and having nice things means nothing if you aren't listening to your gut and doing what makes you happy. I'm not saying that's easy. Money definitely helps us all. But from all my observations, the most fulfilled people, whose spirits inspire me, are doing what makes them happy. They know they need to do it, and they put every bit of self into doing it.
Knowing what makes you happy is not always a given. Knowing how to put your authentic self into what makes you happy is also not always a given. Learning yourself, learning to listen to yourself, to feel guided by a genuine and grounded sense of trust in your choices takes time, takes mistakes, takes failures, and then takes even more time. Ultimately tho, all those failures and mistakes and time can develop into wisdom. And that wisdom, that trust-in-self leads to a divine awareness of what truly makes one happy. Find what makes you happy, and do it. It may just save your life. It did mine.
No, really. It did.
Ten years ago, I made the choice to follow a dream. I wanted to learn how to play the guitar and write songs. Life had thrown some serious health challenges my way and those challenges gave me a heightened sense of the fragility of life and time. So I picked up a guitar and with the fuel of a dream, I wrote my first song. My head was full of "what if" visions like most creative people. What if I could sing in front of people and play the guitar? What if people actually liked and connected to what I wrote? What if I could record an album? What if I could travel to other cities and share my music? What if I had a band?
Ten years ago, the possibilities were endless. Yet my imagination never considered a "what if" like this:
"What if I become a budding singer-songwriter with kidney failure, and my music draws in an accordion player, who joins my band, who also turns out to be a willing donor, with a kidney that proves to be nothing short of miraculously perfect the moment I receive it?"
Had I never had that dream, had I never picked up that guitar, I would never have met Meredith. I'm not exactly sure what my life would look like. It wouldn't be good, I know that.
Some people make millions doing what makes them happy, others don't make a dime. In the end, the reward isn't about the profit in pocket. It's about the profit in heart. Or in my case, kidney.
My hope for my nieces and all my loved ones is that you find what makes you happy and you do it, in whatever ways you possibly can. The rewards are endless. They surprise you. They change your life. They may even save your life.