The blessing and curse of a major life change is that it often leaves you with a blank slate, an empty canvas.
In my experience—especially my experience these days—this holds true not simply for the bigger picture, but from day to day, even hour to hour. Constantly flitting about my mind is the question, What now? I have dreams, yes, but in this precise moment, at 6:59pm, what shall I do to advance toward them? How about an hour from now? Tomorrow when I wake up, what activities could I choose that would bring me closer to being paid for doing what I love?
I left my previous life in large part so that I could go off seeking, to quote Write Learning’s tagline, a “viable life of mindfulness and creativity.” However, now that I have leaped, it’s proving rather tricky to find a path through the murky, uncharted territory of actually manifesting such a life.
First, there are the challenges of working mostly from home, trying to distinguish work space-time from space-time for me, for relaxing—though I truly enjoy blurring the lines between work and play, and often prefer bouncing back and forth between the two. I sometimes wonder whether one person’s multitasking is another person’s ADD.
Of course, arbitrary categories like work and play presume that we can classify a given activity, and on this score I have considerable doubt.
I have no trouble coming up with things to do, things that seem worthy of my time. In fact, if I didn’t need to worry about money—and honestly, I wouldn’t need that much—I wouldn’t be struggling with thoughts of what to do. (Really, I don’t understand how, with so much wonder in the world, so many things to investigate and explore, anyone can be bored. But that’s a subject for another post.) In fact, I’m quite busy these days working on things for my schools, my nonprofit, the local Zen center and my choirs: things I love, but which currently aren’t paying.
This status quo would seem to have me pointed the opposite direction from viability. And yet, could could some or many of my current activities be considered an investment, preparation for achieving my goals (e.g., a self-sufficient CASE, an income that will support my modest lifestyle)? How much volunteer work, how much networking and groundwork-laying might be necessary (or at least beneficial) to attaining a life of “viable creativity,” of sustainable and meaningful work?
I also wonder to what extent should I simply live my life, as opposed to preparing a hypothetical dream life somewhere down the road.
Naturally, my fifteen-plus years with Sudbury schooling color my thinking on this subject. I’m mindful of the tremendous benefit Sudbury students derive from spending their days and years in this manner, growing up deciding for themselves what’s worth their time and effort. Constantly sorting through overabundant information and possibilities, these young people are truly preparing themselves for life in this Information Age.
Also, I adhere to the lodestone of passion that lies at the heart of the Sudbury experience: finding and pursuing one’s passions, letting the things you love dictate how you pass the hours. In the right moments (what Sir Ken Robinson refers to as flow, or being in one’s element), passion makes time disappear (the old adage about time flying comes to mind), and renders you immune to questioning whether you should be doing whatever is creating this beautiful space. (More often than not, I encounter this dynamic when writing or making music.)
That said, what do I do right now? Should I focus mostly on building up CASE and then seek funding, or get just enough of a plan in place to seek seed money, then worry about building it up later? Should I research blogging and how to make money doing it? How about polishing my resume and my LinkedIn profile and looking for freelance writing/editing jobs? Might tutoring be a decent place to dabble? At what point would a part-time desk job at a local university or government make sense? How much time ought I to devote to getting my children’s books published?
I realize I’m in a somewhat unique position these days, being able to decide how to spend much of my time, not being so swamped that it’s all I can do to keep up with an overstuffed schedule. But I’d love to know: How do you decide how to spend your time? Do you tend more toward planning or spontaneity? How do you sort through what needs to be done and what you want to pursue, and how do you “go confidently in the direction of your dreams” to “live the life you’ve imagined”?