‘Chase down your passion like it is the last bus of the night.’ Terri Guillemets
This saying is such a great reminder to follow our passions, but to be willing to catch whatever ‘ride’ the Universe sends our way in order to reach them. How many of us tell ourselves that we will be happy when X happens, or that we will be able to enjoy ourselves once ‘this’ condition is met, or that we will retire once we ‘get everything done’….
I am convinced that taking this stance is the equivalent of thumbing our nose at the universe. When we wait to show up until everything looks ‘just the way we want it to’ we run the biggest risk we can take as human beings. We risk missing the big dance- letting our lives slip by unlived- squandering opportunities that never show up again- and a thousand other tragedies.
If there is one thing I have seen over and over in my work with those at the end of life, it is our human tendency to save ourselves for someday. We withhold ourselves from living, afraid to invest in today because we think there is some blissful tomorrow down the road where we can get more bang for our buck. That blissful tomorrow is a Utopia that rarely materializes- it is the proverbial oasis in the desert that lures us forward- tricks us into foregoing all sorts of shelter and sustenance while we crawl towards the illusion of the future.
I know I refer often to the things I have learned from the dying, but truly, the 20/20 vision that end of life brings is powerful- and staggeringly predictable. The things that matter to us- whatever they may be- are achievable always in the here and now- but sometimes our idealistic natures make us unwilling to see when the close up vision does not match our far off dreams.
I just had a discussion about this with my daughter yesterday. Being 23 years old, her window on the world in still pretty squeaky clean and her aspirations of ‘achieving it all’ are very high. (Including a doctoral level education.) She made the commentary that she saw me as someone who has managed to live my dreams- and in a sense she is right- and I give full credit to what the dying have taught me for my ability to manage to attain what I have. If I have any far sight at all, I owe it to them.
When I was 23 my dreams were to be a Clinical Psychologist and to write a book- and of course to change the world. If I had held out on acting in the world until I could wrestle my Utopian plan into place, I shudder to think of where my life would be.
I was married at 21 and the mother of two young children by the age of 24. A grueling clinical psych program did not fit in very well with motherhood. Something had to give, so my goal of obtaining my Clinical PhD faded away. Undeterred, I instead got a Masters Degree that allowed me to became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. It had none of the glory of the Clinical PhD I idealized, but it was a clinical path that allowed me to open a private therapy practice, receive insurance reimbursement and treat the population I wanted to work with.
After that, I still wanted to further my education so I enrolled in one of the first online distance PhD programs available at that time (1993). I did my research and figured out what the most highly accredited non-traditional PhD program was and I enrolled in it. It did not give me a license as a Clinical Psychologist, but it did give me a sound academic program to complete, which gave me a Ph.D. in Psychology, and allowed me to merge my passion for Near Death Studies with my education. It required me to do 2 years of intense academic work, followed by a full research based dissertation (200 plus pages) which I defended in front of a faculty based dissertation committee. It was not traditional- but it was legitimate, and it remains one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself and my work. (My research caught the attention of the pre-eminent Near Death Researcher, Dr. Raymond Moody, who ended up writing the afterword to my first book.)
And about those books- I wrote my first manuscript in 2000- and I have told the story of this before here at Rx for the Soul- I sent it in to a ‘published author’ who was going to act as an editor. He sent it back to me with a small post it note that admonished me for ‘trying to tackle something far greater minds had failed at.’ With that, my Utopian dreams of being a best selling author went down the drain- but my dream of being an author kept right on moving ahead. Less than a year later I self published that same (un-edited) manuscript and it went on to receive a handful of literary awards, was named ‘New Age Book of the Year’, and has sold around 12,000 copies to date. It will never make it to the New York Times Best Seller List, but knowing that a handful of folks in this world have a tattered copy of it that was their steadfast companion through the darkness- is good enough for me.
My daughter is right in a sense- I have managed to realize my dreams, although what she could never know is that they are not the Utopian dreams of my youth- they are the adaptable dreams that have remained after real life has gotten done with me. I wouldn’t trade these dreams for the world- and I thank God every day I did not let them pass me by while I waited for my ‘real ride’ to show up.
Sometimes the ‘vehicle’ that arrives to take us forward is not what we expect it to be- but as long as the Universe is the driver, I have learned to at least hop in and see where it might take me…. Because you never know when it might be the last bus of the night.