You’re not lost. You’re here.
I’ve travelled a weird and wandering career path. I’ve sold everything from pant suits to cheeseburgers to giant solid jade tiger statues large enough to ride. (Told ya, weird.)
Although my education and work life might look meandering and kinda random from the outside (from art galleries to a home decor store to a government human rights agency to shovelling pig poop, all with a Visual Arts Degree in tow) all of it has lead me on the path to walking in my calling.
Maybe, maybe not.
Maybe your own career and education feel – unmoored. Maybe you feel stuck. Maybe you don’t know which way to turn.
Maybe you have a hint, a whisper, of where you want to go, but you’re afraid or ashamed to say it out loud, never mind chase it down.
Part of claiming your calling is about simply continuing to move forward, even if you don’t know where you’ll end up.
The trouble with career planning, especially when we’re young, is – we assume we’re in control.
We assume if we do all the things, tick all the boxes, we’ll proceed step-by-step, square-by-square to the life of our dreams.
Candyland might work like that, but in my nearly 40 trips around the sun I’ve learned – Life? Not so much.
That shouldn’t be feared or dreaded.
It should be celebrated.
What fun would life be if we knew exactly where we’d end up?
How much smaller would our experience be if it was limited to the narrow bounds of our own tiny imaginations? Or worse yet – the ‘imagination’ of society at large?
I never would have guessed I’d become a farmer when I grew up. Never thought I’d be working against the grain of the industrial food system, fighting for climate and racial and class justice with my feet planted firmly in the soil of this particular place.
I certainly wouldn’t have planned it.
I was going to be a high school art teacher. (That is, till I completed my Bachelors of Fine Arts and dipped my toe into my Bachelors of Education only to realize the formal school system is completely f*cked and would eat me alive.)
I had no way of knowing that when I made my plans at only 17. I also had no way of knowing that I’d loop back around again to teaching, nearly 20 years later – on my own terms.
What in your life do you have no way of knowing about?
We can’t know, right?
All we can ‘know’ is that there are plenty of unknowns out there – and if we are unwilling to embrace them, our life will remain smaller than it ought.
So if making grand sweeping plans for our lives is futile, what should we do instead?
Do the next ‘right’ thing. Take the next step.
Trust that somewhere, deep in your belly, you KNOW what is right for you. We all have that deep well of knowing inside us, that repository of core emotions, the ones that when we feel them, we simply KNOW to be true.
I’m not talking capital T truth here. I’m talking true for you – which is really the only truth we can hope to know in this life.
In order to tune into that well of knowing, we need to be still.
Be calm. Be slow.
We need to quiet the noise long enough to listen. To really pay attention.
Allow that compass to guide you, and listen when it says NO. Honour it.
That, for me, looked like pursuing a Visual Arts Degree when I could have just as easily pursued Law.
It has meant following the breadcrumbs of joy in my life – tiny hints from the universe that whispered – YES! That’s it, that’s the good stuff. You’re on the right track. Keep going.
It has meant recognizing tiny, powerful choices compound into a life of purpose and meaning.
First there were the blueberry bushes I planted instead of shrubs in my urban East Vancouver FRONT yard.
Those first rebellious berries paved the way for an entirely edible front yard. Cabbages lined the sidewalk and tomatoes climbed the gate.
Over time, that garden that grew into a tiny urban farm, complete with (totally illegal) backyard chickens.
Now, more than a decade since those first fateful berries – we own a six-figure farm business on a century old farmstead, serving over a thousand families, five award-winning farm to table restaurants and a local institution of a butcher shop.
I can’t have possibly known that tiny decision to plant berries in the front, instead of the back, yard would lead me down this road, to what I know in my heart is my calling – nourishing my community through good food, empowering education and rebellious activism rooted in ecology, joy, hope and resistance.
But trusting your path, moving towards your life’s purpose doesn’t mean relentless striving, pushing, moving forward.
It has also meant pressing PAUSE when my body said NO.
Sometimes, moving forward means standing still.
Being willing to deepen into that stillness, to sit with grief or discomfort or depression or loneliness or anxiety or despair.
To allow the waves to crash over us, be buffeted by the storms of our lives, to find a way to not only survive them, but to feel gratitude for them.
Whether it was my complete, spectacular meltdown of 2010, that propelled me out of my ‘successful’ life into a slower, heart-centred one, or the horror of watching my vivacious Mum be taken by cancer at only 64 – these calls to pause have been inflection points in my journey towards my purpose.
Learning to say NO with the strength of will of a young child, to refuse to be moved, to sit with my grief or my depression . . . These periods of stillness, inexplicable in the moment, afterwards were revealed for what they were:
Signposts. North stars. Messages from the universe – Stop. Slow down. Feel it. Lean in. Look and see.
If you are irritated by every rub, how will you ever be polished? – Rumi
Now, standing here on the cusp of my 40th year, I can look back and see that my random, meandering path wasn’t so random after all.
I think about the gift of mentors I’ve been given – strong, totally badass women who weren’t afraid to kick my ass, who took my know-it-all younger self and taught her anyway.
I think of Bette Patrick, founder of Fan Tan Gallery in Victoria’s famed Chinatown – who celebrated 30 years of business when I was just an 18 year old scamp managing her shop, who went on to helm that business for more than another decade before she finally retired.
I think of Eunice Lowe – who despite the incredible loss of her husband, the painter Stephen Lowe, built a community around his legacy. She’s a tiny, reserved woman, her beguiling nature barely veiling the truth – she is an absolute force of nature.
I learned SO MUCH from these two women – each so different but also cut from the same fierce cloth.
My all-nighter shifts at McDonald’s as a teen, my many sales jobs, my Master Organic Gardener certification, my human rights career, my art education – the good, the bad and the coming-home-smelling-like-a-big-mac ugly – all of it serves me, everyday.
It wasn’t random. It was all leading me to this point, now.
To this strange and beautiful life where I teach and write, serve a community, mother my children, learn everyday, read great books, sell, grow food, design products and graphics and heal this lovely little bit of the earth – all while working to leave a legacy of love.
I choose to have faith that wherever I am, however difficult or confusing life may be in this moment, it is all leading me where I belong.
Where I want to go isn’t a set destination. It’s not a quarterly goal. It’s a feeling. It’s a state of mind. It’s a knowing. It’s a 30,000 foot view of my life – with the deep, purposeful goals that root me in my core.
To be of service. To live a life of ‘success’ as beautifully defined by Emmerson:
And so we end where we began. If you are feeling lost in your search for your passion, for your calling, for your life’s work, remember – You’re not lost. You’re here.
You are exactly where you are meant to be. You do not have to have it all figured out. You do not need to know where you will be in five years or ten years or even next Tuesday.
You can take things step-by-tentative-step. You can pause. Be still. Take a breath.
You can fall completely apart, go to pieces, stop, turn around, go back the way you came.
You can say NO to whatever doesn’t light up your heart, to what hurts you, to what doesn’t feel true.
You can make mistakes. You can start again. You can try and fail and try again.
Trust your path. Trust your voice. Trust yourself. Trust that tender space in your heart that whispers – Yes, this is the way.