Thanks to that last meeting with my Spiritual Director, I have spent the remainder of the month thinking about what it means to try new things, especially through the lens of searching for a more authentic calling. I decided to finally accept his invitation and wrapped up 72 hours of disconnection from the world and near-isolation from other people. It was not easy at first, but it illumined a few things for me that I believe might be helpful to anyone else looking to bring more intentionality to their lives.
The first two days were incredibly difficult. I woke up on Wednesday with a less-than-tidy apartment. The floors needed cleaning, laundry spilled out of the hamper, and the stack of papers and mail on my desk refused to organize itself into the filling cabinet. Furthermore, I have a long list of things I want to get to when I “have some free time.” I had to ignore that like a bad mosquito bite. Nonetheless, I did it. Instead, I tried to put in front of me thing that I wanted to do, like go to the lakefront or the gym. I often found myself paralyzed, not sure which one to choose first. This tells me that I either have room to grow in making decisions or should perhaps find something where decisions are not thrust on me at all. Though perhaps I am just unaccustomed to doing things for the fun of it and can try to find more ways to invite that into my life.
My brain took two whole days to settle down. While I wrote down my thoughts and reflections all three days, the first two are incredibly random. A lot of what I reflected on pertained to what I do not want to do next. I had a difficult time honing thoughts or ideas about what I might want to do instead. I also had a difficult time letting myself off the hook for all of the tasks/chores I felt I should have been doing.
That, apparently, is characteristic of me: feeling I have an obligation or responsibility to address an issue. By the third day, my thoughts seemed more substantive in terms of ideas to continue pondering. I felt more attuned to exploring what I might want to do going forward, and many of those ideas have a sense of responsibility. But to what end would I apply that instinct?
I was encouraged to spend time reflecting on things I am grateful for. This was easy to do. Along with obvious things including family and friends, the long list and corresponding scribbles all related to the ease and comfort of my life. I kept returning to the idea that billions of people - around the world or right here in Chicago - would trade places with me in an instant. I never wonder where my next meal will come from or where I will sleep at night. If I wanted, I could wake up tomorrow and go almost anywhere in the world. I even have the luxury of doing this exercise for three days with hardly any negative ramifications (other than my pile of laundry still glaring at me).
I apparently want to do something about that. I want to help people. But how, exactly?
One could argue the position I recently quite was, quite literally, helping people. It was an I.T. help desk! But I am looking for a bigger challenge. Some of the ideas I jotted down can be done here at home, but I wrote them from the point of view of challenges in the broader world. I do not exactly know how one solves the legal challenges migrants face, how to expand education access as a means to escaping poverty, how to put the challenges of the world’s poor and suffering in front of a materially wealthy society that might be able to do something about it, etc. But these were some of the broader ideas I found myself returning to.
It was not all serious reflection. One of the fun things I made plenty of time for was practicing a new hobby: guitar. I have always wanted to know how to play a guitar and as part of this new adventure, I am committing to exploring things that I have always been at the back of my mind. I signed up for classes at a local music school a few weeks ago and have been at it for almost a week. I am currently awful at it, even for a newbie, but it is simply fun. I realize I did not have to quit my job to take up a new hobby and that I probably should have done this a very long time ago. After one particular hour-long practice session, I sat with the question of why I waited so long. I concluded that I do not like being new at something, which is a difficult reality to accept when I am literally trying to find a more fulfilling vocation that, unless it is in I.T., will see me starting at zero.
Plenty to think about. And I may run this experiment again. Since it took two days to calm the monkey mind, perhaps I need five days -- two to calm down and three to be quieter and reflect. It is worth considering. In the meantime, I am curious to hear from those of you following this adventure of mine. What is something you have always wanted to explore or try but never did because of fear, other commitments, etc.? Did you ever resolve that, or are they still on your life’s To Do list? I ask out of curiosity and because I am looking for ideas and lessons from the knowledgeable.