We all want to be something when we grow up, don't we?
When I was little, I didn't always know - but I do remember a certain Officer Friendly entering our classroom in either first or second grade, talking about "House-wise, Street-wise", and I remember being in awe of the uniform, the badge, the gun, and I remember thinking at the time, 'Wouldn't it be cool to be him' when I grew up.
But we all learn things about ourselves along the way, and plans change. Sometimes our lives, and our desires for our lives, don't revolve around dreams - but purpose. Some people don't necessarily go after what they want, but what they they think they were meant to be.
What if I told you... you can do both?
My life has taken a unique path, but I do not think I orchestrated that all on my own. However, there are some things you learn along the way that help you come to those conclusions at different stages in life... what you dream of doing, and what you were meant to do. And I am here to tell you, they do not have to be one and the same.
Society, and especially popularity, and media, will all tell you that there is this and that you can do; these are the steps you take, to become the overnight success you always wanted to be - here's the quickest way to number one!
But is that realistic? Is that practical? Who does that really serve - your faith in yourself, or some company or self-help gurus trying to make a large dime on behalf of your dreams or purpose? When I think about the illogical approach to putting all your hope into these Make it Rich Quick schemes, I often think about an older movie, 'What About Bob?'. In the movie, the main character learns from his psychiatrist that in order to learn to face the stressors of life again (after a mental breakdown), you have to take baby steps.
Can't this analogy reflect a practical way to take on most big tasks in life... such as having that dream career, or finding the career that fulfills your life purpose?
Once again, these lofty pursuits may come to you later in life anyway, because of things you discover about yourself along the way. Why not take baby steps?
That's how we learn how to walk. When I think about my own son when he was learning how to walk, or my little brothers - I remember them either wanting to get to mom and dad(parents directing their child's purpose at the time), or wanting to get to some object or thing they wanted to touch. At first, they'd hold on to a parent's finger, and the parent would walk further away... and the little toddler would toddle out a few short steps - and fall down. They'd either pull themselves back up by grabbing onto the nearby table leg or 'walker', and try again, perhaps walking out a little further. Finally, they'd wobble on unsteady feet, but have the knack of the clumsy toddler moves, and finally reach their destination, whether that was in mom or dad's waiting arms, or to the toy they wanted across the room. The point is, although there were ups and downs, they still made it to their goal. This is a fundamental lesson in life. Why would it not apply to greater life goals for us down the road?
Another great movie quote - from Batman Begins: Bruce Wayne's father rescues young Bruce after he falls down a well. "And why do we fall down, Bruce?" Young Master Wayne replies, "So we can learn to pick ourselves back up."
This concept can apply to every major goal we set for ourselves in life. And just like the toddler trying to make it across the room, sometimes life will throw us obstacles in our path, and we take a different way.
My career paths have been interesting for me, because I feel like every paying job I ever had helped prepare me for that one thing I envisioned in grade school. I started out after college, teaching little kids to appreciate exercise and sports. I learned more about exercise, and used that to make myself bigger, and stronger, and found myself in convenient positions to protect people OR train them. I worked in the fitness industry full-time, and learned about training groups of adults. I was asked to work security at a couple of bars, and supervise the main events of the local YMCA. I had what I saw as career opportunity doors slam shut on me, forcing me to re-route my plans. And before I know it, 9 years later, I'm teaching and training adults on how to protect themselves, while I happen to be wearing a badge and gun. And yet being my own version of Officer Friendly isn't all I do... or aspire to do. But there were several things that got me there, and it didn't happen overnight. It's almost like I am doing exactly what I was designed to do.
But there's more.
I didn't discover until later in life, that several people thought I was good at expressing myself into words on a page. I wrote a few poems here and there for friends or girlfriends in school, but that was about it. But most of my life, I drew pictures. I actually had a few people pay me for pictures as I got older, and I used my creative drawing talents to earn a few group function t-shirts by being the one to design the shirt logos. But I didn't know I could write, until my son came along, and his twin brother did not make it into this world. One poem written in desperate times, turned into several poems. Several poems turned into attempts at writing a novel. Attempts at writing a novel also turned into writing blog posts. Writing blog posts turned into one complete novel - and one complete novel has turned into seven novels and counting!
And yet, I do not make much money writing... not yet :)
But then I ask myself why I write. Do I dream of becoming a big time famous author? Not necessarily - but it sure wouldn't hurt my feelings. But do I want people to enjoy what I write, or pay attention to what I write? Absolutely. And my writing has taken on a whole other purpose on its own. But what got me to this point in wanting to fulfill a goal of becoming an author? Baby steps that go back to drawing pictures, using the creative mind that God gave me.
If I had to tell anyone out there, young or old, frustrated with their position in a career, or that particular door of opportunity that just slammed shut - it'd be this.
Don't give up. Get back up. Keep toddling. You might even fall down a little more along the way. But keep the faith; keep the perseverance. And remind yourself what I have to remind myself sometimes.
The chances of that home run, grand slam, overnight success are pretty slim... so just do what makes sense - and take baby steps to get there. Who knows; you may even learn a little patience along the way.