The following two thoughts cross my mind nearly everyday. When I forget why I’ve chosen to build an unconventional career, they remind me.
- The first is of my friend, Seth Vidal, who was killed on July 8th, 2013 at the age of 36 when he was struck by a car while biking.
- The second is of Mister Rogers, who said, “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life so you have to make choices. And hopefully those choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.“
My time, a huge portion of which I spend working, is limited. Seth’s death and Mister Rogers’s wisdom remind me to never forget that and to choose accordingly. Apologies for being morbid about it, but if I’m going to write about the choices I’m making in my career, I cannot uncouple that from the reality that many of them are made with my mortality in mind. When National Arts Strategies’ Dallas Shelby asks me where I want to end up, I already know the answer is that I’m going to end up dead (o_O) and so the question really is, what do I want to be doing along the way? And the answer to that is that I want to be doing things that make me feel alive.
But what does it feel like to be alive? It’s like asking a fish what it’s like to be in water — we don’t consciously know any other state. But, at the same time, we know it when we feel it.
I feel alive when I’m being 100% myself and that’s what’s needed in a particular time and space. I feel alive when I see others act courageously in an environment I’ve made safe. I feel alive when I lose awareness of my own inner voice and am fully present to a person, team, or audience.
Being alive isn’t just the good emotions, it’s also filled with struggle and stress. I feel alive when I am present to the fear I feel before a presentation, when I stay open to emotions that occur when I’ve failed, when I allow my confusion to be known. That work is just as right.
My career path is one experiment after another in living. I know where the path ends, but I don’t know when or how or what I’ll do along the way. I accept the uncertainty of its trajectory, trust my instincts even when they don’t feel logical, and move towards the feeling of finding and losing myself, again and again. I look at my life’s work as work that will never end. That is until, of course, it does.