It’s Friday night at 6.01pm. I’ve just clocked out 43 hours in a 4 day work week. I’m about to go to dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I’ve managed to see friends a couple of times this week, smashed fewer than usual gym sessions but still lost weight. I’ve meditated, left room for spiritual things and even caught up on a favourite TV show. I’ve eaten right, but not too right. I’ve been well-behaved but not too well-behaved. I even managed to do an early morning daycare run for one of my best friends; playing aunty to their 2 year old girl. And I’m telling you honestly, if this is my life, this is not enough.
This is not about being too busy. This is not about being tired or trying to achieve higher heights at work. This is not about the tension between the corporate career life I’m in and the not-for-profit, youthwork and hospitality life I love. This is not to complain because I know I’m blessed. It’s not because I’m lonely or pining for what I don’t have. I am wringing the marrow out of life on a daily basis. But this is not enough.
I live between two conflicting philosophies; one that compels me to use whatever I’ve got in my hand to do whatever is in front of me and the other, calling my attention to the horizon and all the possibilities beyond it. One hand holds tight and says, ‘be good, be useful’. One hand reaches out towards what might be and says, ‘be more, do more’.
I have to get comfortable telling the truth, to myself as well as others.
No matter how hard I work at my job and how much better I can be, or how much I achieve,
(with strengths and weaknesses)
No matter how rich and deep the social circle,
(too good already)
No matter the gracious chance to love other people’s kids,
(I’m so grateful)
No matter how healthy or strong or skinny I might become,
(with all the trappings of vanity)
This is not enough.
I am a Futurist, as well as a few other things. I’m always looking to the future possibilities and trying to figure out how to get there. But that’s not why this is not enough. It’s not enough because these things are meaningful for other people, not for me.
I’ve come to know that I work better when I am part of a team, because I find meaning in the dependency that we have on one another. It propels me forward. It gives me a story to tell, a story that is ours. It’s not always easy to form a team or to form a team that has shared meaning and story but it’s even harder to be one person who’s lost the meaning of their own story.
I once had a singular focus and ambition and I’ve spent a few years now trying to find my meaning in other stories and in new places only to circle back around.
I can only imagine that this is close to what some mothers feel, when their careers and life paths change to centre around newborn babies and growing children. A re-orientation, losing a sense of self while becoming part of a new team. Sudden, the story of our kids tends to be centre stage.
So this, what defines my life right now – is not enough, simply because it’s not the story I want to tell at the end of my days. Or even today. The meaning I’m after (the ambition that has simply been buried and biding it’s time) is still the same. The values that drive me are still deep at the core of who I am and the story I want to tell.
I wrote a collection of these lines in 2008:
there are the dark days
that cloud the mind right from the start
there are the eulogies i compose
melodies i’ve learned to sing
by heart when i’m alone
afraid my life might be a song of sorrows
unless i find the meaning
there is a quietness that i have never shaken
a terrifying absence and conviction
that most of what i dream will never come to pass
i imagine life too big before i start
but my ambition is to make a difference
as large a one as i might ever conceive
if my name is never known
the ambition is the same
i’d make a difference in your heart
i’ve read ten thousand names
and whispered them aloud
i’ve spent long nights awake
perfecting every part
i’ve listened to the heartbeat
of a thousand lives
and heard the same refrain
and my ambition is to make a difference
collecting all the stories my life is made of
and if i could somehow remember all their names
my ambition was to make a difference
and their names would make the finest start
The truth is, I do want more. Maybe it’s because I want to have children of my own to invest in and it could be that’s selfish. But I also want to make a difference to the world at large. I don’t want or need fame, but I crave influence – to enable change for the many. I’m ambitious enough to believe I could do it. In fact, in my deepest secret self, I believe I’m meant to, somehow, be part of something bigger and more significant than my life alone.
At high school we completed the clichè ‘write your own eulogy’ assignment. I wrote simply, ‘She made us think differently.’
I still want that, and so this is not enough.