What do you want to do?
This is a serious question.
Not life or death, but one we'd do well to take to heart.
And we rarely answer it — fully.
If we do, it's nearly always referable to or part of some other agenda — e.g. what's the responsible thing to do, what are my moral responsibilities, and what do I need to do in order to maintain (at least) this lifestyle?
What about beginner's mind?
What of it?
Or a blank sheet of paper?
If I look at my own life, when I left home, aged 19, to travel to London to take up a job as a recruitment consultant for Times Recruitment Ltd at 95 York Place, near Baker Street — the details are etched firmly into my mind — I was paid £7,500 per year with the promise of earning £40,000 and a new BMW 316i. I'd been for three interviews. I was one of the younger members of the 20-something team. As is the way, I didn't see the flaws with the business or the job, the likely parlous state of my existence or the toxic culture that saw to it that, in the first week of my boiler-room existence, 90% of the consultants were fired, for no reason I could discern save they'd not placed a single candidate the previous week.
Was this something that I really wanted to do?
In hindsight, it's easy to say "No" but, at the time, it was the dog's bollocks. Then again, all I saw was the money, the high-octane, very macho culture and a way to get away from home. The last point was key.
But the thing is, I wasn't a) racked with self-doubt, b) thinking about all the things that could go wrong, c) worried about my parlous and insecure financial situation and d) I didn't give a shit about my lack of experience — I was cocksure and driven by an insatiable desire to succeed.
Those days are...long gone. Yes, I'm 30 years older. Yes, I've responsibilities. And yes, I'm a bit more considered these days about my work and (of course) what remains of my life. But I'm still the same person, right?
If you look at the import of the question — What do you want to do? — and you silence all the critics (e.g. self-doubt, insecurity, and moral obligations), I know or at least I very much suspect that, given time, you'd be able to diligently craft a new story for your life that involves the one or few things that you really want to do or feel compelled to do and not because you're serving, as I've so often felt, a false god.
For me, this is writ large now, as it's been for at least a decade. I've said to my wife more than once the fact that my mojo (for want of a better word) seems to have died, slain on the altar of 'doing the right thing'. She looks at me, not always, with a sort of blank stare, which I take to mean, and I could be wrong, that she doesn't understand what I'm getting at, given the quality of my/our life. Despite how it might appear, I'm not criticising her but, then again, perhaps I am because for me this is a serious, serious question for both of us, given that, if we were able to answer it, it would dictate how we spend the rest of our days together.
Is any of this making sense?
Don't worry, I don't mind if you've switched off or stopped reading when, perhaps, the question looks painfully banal.
Then again, as I'm trying my best to articulate, if we dropped everything and went to our hearts, how would the question appear?
In my case, having spent the last eight weeks holed up at home, I've had plenty of time to consider this question and nibble at the edges of my real self. What's emerged, as I've previously written about, is a much slower pace of life, less doing and a lot more (but not to bludgeon my soul to death) creativity — writing, poetry and reading.
Of course, standing back from my nascent, new life, I can see that it doesn't, in the financial department, add up to a row of beans. But then again, I've not had to wear that suit of armour. I've been able to do without having to get and that feels so, so different. Could I earn some money from my creative endeavours? I've no idea and I don't even want to go out on a shaky limb to explore what might be available to me; but I remain convinced that with a slightly more commercial focus there might be a few opportunities that could turn up the odd gold coin.
You might understandably ask, what's the point of continually chewing on the 'follow your passion vs. money' dilemma? It's a good question. If you've got an OK-thing, is it really worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Probably not right now but allowing for the abatement of CV19 and a possible vaccine, I can tell you that I'm not about to sail off into the retirement sunset, only to look back on my very short life and say: "If only...". Does that make me selfish? Possibly, but I feel instinctually that the gods are with me — even now — and it would be a betrayal of their trust to turn my back on them, only to be obligated to the strict moral order.
One thing I do know is that work (and I've said this before) is the last thing I want to be doing. Oh sure, it pays the bills and keeps a roof over our heads, but I remain convinced, still, that answering the above question offers many more life opportunities than being strung out by a life of doing and, frankly, as long as I remain open in a heartfelt way to what life truly has to offer, the more likely it is that when I leap things will emerge, as they always have.