Tag Archives: follow your bliss

(Don’t?) Follow Your Bliss?

 

It’s an age-old question: to follow your bliss or not? Surely the only thing standing in between us and ultimate HAPPINESS! is finding the courage required to chase down the dream, to live the life we’ve always imagined ourselves living, and to be content knowing that we are parrt of the 0.0000001 percent of society who pulled the real-life Hollywood ending out of a hat.

Then I had this arrive in my inbox from a reader minutes before reciving the post I’ve linked to below:

“The hype ‘follow your bliss’ seems to have permeated everything in our life. The advice, ‘pursue your passion,’ is enticing, as it is what most of us want to hear, because it is simply in line with our ego’s sentiments. But I think it is irresponsible to dispense advice like this. It easily exhausts our energy and consumes us in the end and, above all, it is likely to lead us to a stage where we feel we are not good enough when our goal/dream/passion is not realized. As a result, we get depressed. However, we need to accept the truth/reality that not all desires/dreams of human beings can be and should be fulfilled.”

I had a conversation recently with a friend. Let’s her call Narnia. Narnia Love. Anyway, Narnia moved to Mexico a bunch of years ago and now she was thinking of  leaving. In a roundabout way she asked me, When is the right time to pull the chute on your dream and leave your adopted home?

Abbr. ver. of the lead-up to this: She had three degrees, spoke three languages, and worked for one of the Seven Sisters law firms as a high-powered attorney. She made bank and it showed. Her clothes oozed style, mucho dinero, and tags that may have come directly from the Champs-Élysées. A few years into her pole position in the rat race, she got sick – real sick – went on extended leave, got down, fell apart, lost her man, etc. And so on. It was raining. Then, suddenly, it was pouring. Something about Murphy and his dumbass “Law.”

However, she’s a fighter that one. Narnia got her second wind during the 7th inning stretch and realized she might be down, but she was far from out. So she did the smart thing. She quit the six-figure job, cashed in her billions of won worth of North Korean gold mine stocks, bought a jeep, purchased a house in Mexico, and drove down to start her new life…as a vegan chef. In a country of carnivores. In a region that gets rocked by hurricanes every year. In a city that is now the drug cartels’ beach of choice to shoot people in the streets.

Now, five years on, she’s selling the house, packing her bags, and moving back to the Great White North. Why?

I’m going to let a friend of hers, Alexa Torontow, answer that question through her blog post titled “Why I Sold My Yoga Studio, Left Paradise and Moved Home.

In case you don’t have the time to read through Ms. Torontow’s poignant, heartfelt, and eye-opening piece, here are four life lessons she shares.

  • 1. We’ll never know what fits until we try it on.
  • 2. Having a passion be your full-time gig isn’t always the right choice.
  • 3. Being your own boss is not all it’s cracked up to be.
  • 4. Our time, energy and amount of cares we can give is limited.

However, what sums up this post of Ms. Torontow’s best, I think, is the following:

“Our time is limited. Our energy is limited. Our attention is very limited. I think getting crystal clear on our values and what we care about and what we are willing to spend our precious time and energy on in this life is one of the most important keys to living a soul-satisfying life. Forget talks about blindly following our bliss. I think a better focus is asking ourselves questions such as what are you willing to sacrifice your time for? What do you care about so deeply that it gets you out of bed and makes you want to do something about it? What do you want to learn more about and get involved with? We can’t do it all, so where do we want to make an impact? What kind of legacy do we want to live and leave behind?”

For me, I followed my bliss 10 long years ago when I upped and left a comfortable life, a burgeoning career, financial security – the whole kit and caboodle. I bought a round-the-world plane ticket and spent two years fulfilling my wildest travel dreams, from the beaches of Vietnam and Fiji to the vineyards of California and Australia to the museums of Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and New York. I went on jeep safaris, walking safaris, and saw the Big Five up close and personal. Man alive! I even shelled out the big bucks to hang out with the silverbacks of Central Africa in the last place on this planet they call home.

The trip bankrupted me. Unfiguratively speaking. (I had to make up a new word because I’m tired of hearing how “literally literal” we’ve become.) But not for one day do I regret it, and I think that Ms. Torontow will, once she’s had time to readjust to “civilian life” again, not regret her choice to follow her bliss. At the time she made that life-altering decision, it was the right one. More than that, it was the only one to be made. Fate and destiny and the stars aligning, and all.

Sometimes you’ve got to hold on to that kite string and let it take you where the wind blows. You know, for good or for bad, in sickness and in health. I think that the sole hashtag which can sum up experiences like that is #noregrets. Live hard, play hard. Love fiercely, treat others with dignity. And along the way, don’t forget to think about what we call No. 1. Just as surely as “there” is no better than “here,” there are no mistakes in life. There are only lessons. And, of course, memories.

I’ll close out this post with some final sentiments, the same way Alexa Torontow did in her own piece.

So, here’s to quitting a job and moving to paradise.

Here’s to leaving paradise and returning home.

Here’s to taking chances and leaning into uncertainty.

Here’s to honouring our values, knowing when to say yes and when it’s time to say no.

Here’s to this fascinating, unexpected and wild ride. And to all the people we get to experience it with.

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Quote of the Day

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“The inhabitant or soul of the universe…is never seen; its voice alone is heard. All we know is that it has a gentle voice, like a woman, a voice so fine and gentle that even children cannot become afraid. And what it says is: Sila ersinarsinivdluge, ‘Be not afraid of the universe.'”

Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live by (1972)

In my humble opinion, Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was one of the most important and influential writers of the 20th century. While there are many scholars who specialize in one religion or mythology, Campbell was really the first person to unify them and realized they shared something in common: they were all variations of one great story, the monomyth (a term he borrowed from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake – a story you should not read without a full vial of Advil beside you).

Joseph Campbell was serious about his reading and his research. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who, from 1929-34, as the Great Depression began ravaging the world, moved to the middle of buttf*** nowhere and spent nine hours a day reading. Imagine how many books you could get through in five years reading at that pace. Epic.

In 1939, Campbell would draw on all of his studies and his vast knowledge of the world when he published The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the book that would not only serve as his coming out party, but what is widely regarded today as his magnum opus. To put it in perspective, this book would not only have immediate and significant academic influence, but it would go on to form the impetus behind now-legendary cultural markers such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones and The Matrix. Luke Skywalker, in fact, was a direct archetype of the very hero Campbell wrote about in that book, and George Lucas has repeatedly credited Campbell’s “hero” for creating a movie character now known the world over.

Something else many people will know of but not know where it came from is perhaps Campbell’s most famous quote, “follow your bliss,” a phrase that has become my friend Maria A.’s life mantra. Campbell came up with this after reading the Upanishads (Hinduism’s Sanskrit texts), and as he’d later explain:

I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word “Sat” means being. “Chit” means consciousness. “Ananda” means bliss or rapture. I thought, “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.” I think it worked.

Joseph Campbell was prolific in his lifetime, but if you want his genius condensed into one sweet package, go and get The Power of Myth. It’s a book published the year after his death, an audio book series and a television PBS series with Bill Moyers. Watch it, listen to it, read it. You will walk away a better person for having done so. Guaranteed.

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To Follow Your Dream or Not?

For all those people who’ve grappled with the question of whether to quit their full-time job (i.e. a steady paycheque) and pursue their dream career (i.e. unsteady income), you might want to read an article in today’s Wall Street Journal. There’s a piece about David Ebershoff, the former Random House editor and executive who quit his posh job two weeks ago to become a full-time writer.

To recap: Mr. Ebershoff quit his position as Random House vice president and executive editor. During his time there, he edited literary giants such as Norman Mailer. He was more recently the American editor for David Mitchell. He also has the distinction of editing several (as in more than two!) Pulitzer Prize-winning books, one of which I really enjoyed about North Korea by Adam Johnson called The Orphan Master’s Son.

So why would someone leave this kind of fame, fortune and respect behind him? Obviously it’s not the stellar royalties authors make these days on physical books. Like Andy Weir, David Ebershoff balanced work (he’s also been teaching writing courses at Columbia and NYU) with his love of writing over the years. At some point, one had to give way to the other. Nobody can balance a full-time job with a writing career and expect to stay sane (or at least moderately engaged socially with other human beings).

I applaud David and his strength/bravery/foolishness/romantic nature to follow his passion. Or, as my friend Maria A. likes to say, Follow your bliss! I’ve gotten to know David a little over the last year or so and he strikes me as a bright, intelligent person who has too many literary-related gifts for one person. I also made this fateful decision in 2004 when I gave up a cush lecturing job at a respectable university to pursue writing as a full-time gig. I know how scary it can be and can only hope that David’s journey is as soul-affirming and eye-opening as my own has proven so far.

Even with his hectic schedule over the last few years, David managed to publish two novels (The 19th Wife and Pasadena) and a collection of short stories (The Rose City). His latest novel, The Danish Girl, has recently been made into a major motion picture. Click here to watch the trailer.

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