On Purpose

Here’s my response to WordPress’ daily prompt: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/purpose/

Purpose is something I’ve struggled a lot with lately. It’s queer how such an abstract noun can affect such concrete consequences in one’s life.

We speak often about our lives “having Purpose.” What does this actually mean? Is Purpose a little slip of paper with a short checklist of tasks to be accomplished, passed out by someone on your first day of adulthood? Did I miss that day?

Is Purpose a vocation — firefighter, accountant, kayak guide — that I was supposed to choose based upon that multiple-choice test they had us take in high school? I think I was under the bleachers kissing my first girlfriend when they went over the results.

Is Purpose finding a thing that you love to do, and doing it all the time? I’ve seen written: “do what you love and the money will follow.” So I spend an afternoon birdwatching, and when I return to my car and go to put my binoculars back in their case, I am shocked to find that no currency of any sort has materialized in there.

Is Purpose a prize you stumble across while sweeping the sand of some great beach with a device designed to detect destiny? Am I to simply keep walking, plotting a methodical course, waving my arms steadily back and forth in front of me, waiting to hear a beep? How do I know I’m even on the right beach?

A couple months ago, I was offered an incredible opportunity to work as an Interpretive Planner with Taylor Studios, Inc., one of the nation’s premiere exhibit design firms. I was over the moon. I pulled myself up by my roots and found myself trying to replant them in Champaign, IL.

Obviously, this opportunity was a Big Deal for my Life Purpose. A full-time job! A salary! Moving On Up! Finding My Way! Lots of capital letters, and all.

And it was, sure. It was a great job, working with great people, doing important things. TSI is an incredible company. I loved it there.

But things happened. Things I didn’t expect and couldn’t have foreseen even with the best pair of optics on the market. A latent depression that, cicada-like, returns to stretch its legs and see what’s new. Anxiety that I’ve always carried around abruptly getting much heavier, and commencing a curious ticking sound. A longing for my family and friends and homeland so profound that it must surely be some evolutionary remnant of a migratory urge.

I had found Great Purpose in my Great Move and Great Job and Great Growing Up. So why was I suffering to the tune of unbearable?

I think it’s largely because I thought I knew more about Purpose than I really did. I find this is a great causer of problems in many different arenas, this gap between what we think we know and what we really do, and then between those two and what we can ever actually really know.

So here I am, just giving you a gentle reminder that maybe you don’t know all that much about your Purpose, even if you think you do. Don’t be surprised if Things Happen and quietly, almost tenderly tear your theory to shreds. Don’t be surprised, and don’t despair. You’re on the same beach I’m on. You can keep searching frantically for Purpose if you want, but I’ve decided to just sit back and watch the tide for awhile, and I’m doing just fine.

#humblebrag: I’m a Writer (capital W)

Good evening, readers! I wanted to take a moment to apologize for my recent absence from bloglife.

Actually, that’s a stiffly-built formality if ever I wrote one. I really just want to #humblebrag. (I only feel comfortable using this word since it recently appeared as my Word of the Day.)

I’ve been busy of late. After a lovely holidaytime with my family, I jumped into my car and raced off to dazzling Rantoul, IL for an interview with Taylor Studios, Inc., an interpretive design firm.

greeings from rantoul.jpg

Home of 12,000 people, three Mexican restaurants, a healthy population of old-timey fighter pilot ghosts, and one killer interpretive design firm.

The interview must have gone well, because I was offered a position as Interpretive Planner. If you have no idea what the terms “interpretive design firm,” “interpretive planner,” or “fighter pilot ghosts” could possibly mean, you’re not alone. I’ll cast some light on these very vague, millennial-sounding job words in a forthcoming post. (Well, the fighter pilot ghosts are exactly what they sound like.)

For now, I’ll just say that I’ll be doing a lot of writing. And that makes me incredibly happy.

I’ve loved words as long as I can remember. Collecting them like stones, sorting them by color and feel. Stringing them together in different patterns, testing each prototype on paper or in speech, feeling the effects of that particular combination. The only sport I played in school was Power of the Pen; I’ve gone through notebooks like toilet paper.

So when I was offered this position – working with the same concepts I knew and loved from my prior work as an interpreter and programmer, but using the vehicle of writing more than speech, as a part of a small and passionate company that creates incredible products and experiences – I couldn’t be happier.

That is, until last week, when the editor of Adventure Kayak magazine told me that she’d like to publish my last blog post in their next issue as an op. ed. piece. The new job was like a slowly growing campfire: a rising, glowing, hard-earned satisfaction. This? Well, this was a firecracker – one that went straight to my head.

All this #humblebragging to say that I’m very grateful. I’ve worked very hard in my life, particularly in the last year or so, to get to this point. To the point of calling myself a Writer, capital W. And it feels awesome to finally be here.

This time last year, I was flailing, not knowing what I wanted to do or why. I was, by and large, working for my paycheck. Sure, I was invested in my agency, and its mission, and I enjoyed what I did. But my work seldom brought me joy. It rarely got me passionate. I never felt challenged. Perhaps more importantly, I felt resentful toward the people in my life who were so committed to and enamored of their careers that they felt deeply and personally fulfilled by them.

So I guess I’ll try to bring this around to some sort of moral, try to infuse this wholly self-indulgent post with some sort of redemptive message. If you’ve ever been jealous of someone who is totally, sickly in love with their career…

Harness that emotion. Put it to work for you. Tell yourself “I want that,” and take steps toward getting it. Think about what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, what you love. Figure out how to make it your life’s work. Write down some goddamn action items, the whole nine yards.

And make it happen.

Because when I was asked offhandedly the other day what I did for a living, and I simply said “I’m a Writer,” the feeling was worth the work.

Just a coupla’ updates!

Hello blogland! I’ve got a post a-cookin’, but I just wanted to briefly share a couple of exciting updates.

Firstly, you may notice that Love and Birding is all growed up and has its very own domain space! You can now find me at loveandbirding.com, instead of the dreadfully long-winded loveandbirding.wordpress.com. Oooh! Aaah!

Secondly, the tweeters are a-tweeting. I’m now on Twitter as @loveandbirding. Check that out! Kabam!

And finally, a dear friend of mine just informed me that Legacy, the magazine for the National Association for Interpretation, has just mailed out its January/February issue. If you should happen to receive this publication, you may or may not notice that one of the feature stories was penned by yours truly! I am very excited to have had this opportunity; it’s what rekindled my interest in writing and ultimately led to the birth of this blog. If you are a NAI member, be sure to check it out! If not, tough cookies.

That’s all for now! Look for a new post in the not-so-distant future.

And on the seventh day, I did stuff.

Well, I’m here at last. I’ve messed around with my settings. I’ve changed my theme about two dozen times. I’ve spent an hour cropping photos just so. I’ve opened a word document and brainstormed topics for posts. I’ve done just about everything I can with this blog except… well… blog.

I guess this is as good a topic as any for an inaugural blog post. It might not be about birds, or about love, but that’s okay – not every post will be. Disappointed? Tough acorns! Over to the right, there, you will discover a list of subspecies; I shall dutifully sort my posts into these categories. You can choose to view only those which interest you.

For now, though, I’ll offer a few thoughts on something that may sound simple, but really couldn’t be more complex: doing stuff. Yeah! Stuff! You do it! Well, sometimes you do. Other times, you set out to become a freelance writer, and you establish a nice blog to help that dream along, and you spend six days fiddling with the theme and the photos and the title, and before long you’ve got yourself a very handsome waste of internet space.

I’m not sure why I have found it so daunting. I enjoy writing; I do it all the time. I don’t have writer’s block; like I said, I have plenty of ideas for posts. It’s not as if I haven’t written anything in the six agonizing days that have slipped through my fingers since I established this blog. I’ve written quite a bit, actually.

Just not for other people to see.

Perhaps this is just the process that any Creator of Things goes through, upon embarking on a journey to Create Things. Maybe the intimidation of writing my first blog post is akin to the fright of the musician when he first takes to the stage, or the dread felt by an artist before her first gallery opening. Hey, wait, forget what I said earlier – I’ve thought of something relevant about birding! Perhaps it’s the same feeling a rookie birder gets when she wants to ask a question or make an observation, among a group of more experienced birders or on a birding forum or website, but refrains out of fear for being “wrong.”

Perhaps it is something that lurks inside all of us, to varying degrees: the fear of “putting ourselves out there,” of coming up with something brand new, presenting it to people we love (or people we don’t even know), and seeing it rejected, or mocked, or scoffed at.

This is the key, I think, to rousing ourselves to action. We have to remember that everybody feels this way; whether you are a writer, a musician, an artist, a teacher, a student, or even a birder. Being a rookie at anything is just hard, period. But as intimidating as it may be to think about taking action, inaction almost always carries an enormous weight – one that is unpleasant and even downright painful to bear. So what do we do? We take a deep breath, put on our Big Girl Pants, and just do stuff.

So here I am. I’m doing this blog thing. I hope to become a better writer, to humbly share my oft-scattered thoughts on birding and love and an array of other topics, and to elicit a smile or a chuckle from you, dear reader. It’s a brand new day, and a brand new year! Even if you, like me, have opted not to chisel into a stone tablet some highly specific Resolutions, there is simply no better time to start doing stuff. So pick your stuff and do it!