Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said “In the coming world, they will not ask me: “Why were you not Moses?” They will ask me: “Why were you not Zusya?” (Martin Buber, Tales of Hasidism, page 252)
One of the things I’ve always tried to remind myself is the importance of being me. To stick to my own life journey, to not compare my timeline to anyone else’s. To write what I am called to write, to follow the studies that I am drawn to, and to be willing to explore those twists and turns that life seems to hand me. I need to live my life aiming to be the best me that I can, not to try to live up to the standards and expectations of another.
I explored a lot around the concept of “calling” when I was in seminary, trying to understand what it was I was called to do. I wrote papers on the matter, I held many conversations, and I kept going back to those images I talked about earlier, of weaving and wandering on twisting forested paths. And I am continuing to trust that the path I am on, no matter the twists and turns, is the right one. And that I can navigate it and stay true to it if I continue to be me.
Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about — quite apart from what I would like it to be about — or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions… If we can learn to read our own responses to our own experience — a text we are writing unconsciously every day we spend on earth — we will receive the guidance we need to live more authentic lives.” (Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, 4 & 6)
One of my favorite books during the seminary-searching (and in the time that has come since) is Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer. He writes about looking at your life, with all the twists and turns, and letting it speak, to help inform you as you continue on the path.
This year has been full of twists and turns and unexpected decisions. Really, so was last year… and the year before. It is one of the reasons that I struggle with the question in job interviews of, “Where do you see yourself in five years.”
But, if I listen to my life, if I look at being authentic to me, the question becomes easier to answer. It is not necessarily in job “x” or working on “y.” But rather, it is a certain quality to what I do. I see myself being creative, and interacting with people on one level or another. I am an educator, but what that might look like in a given moment is not clear. I “minister” to people, but again, what that looks like and what that means is not clearly defined.
Allowing myself to be true to myself has been an interesting experience. I’ve been intentional in some of my decisions of late, and the end result has been that I feel like I am finally on the right path. I am living authentic to myself. This has meant leaving behind some things that I was doing that no longer were the right things for me to do. It has meant taking the time to really reflect on what is important to me (and what is not), what is worth putting my time and energy towards, and what is not. It means that the path I’m on is not always clear, or easy to see, and that sometimes I have nothing more to go on than something in my gut that tells me I’m making the right decision. It means learning to listen, truly and deeply.
Have you ever tried that? To sit with yourself, with your thoughts and dreams, your goals and crazy plans, and really listened to how you felt about them? To make the clear decision about what you are willing to do, what choices you are willing to make, in order to pursue those dreams and goals? Putting aside the comparisons to other peoples journeys, others goals and dreams, and just being true to your own process?