“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~Dalai Lama
Some people know from the time they are small what they are going to be “when they grow up.”
I, at various times, was going to be an archeologist, paleontologist, veterinarian, famous rock musician, famous film director, actor, studio guitar player, music production engineer, choir teacher, choral composer, less famous film director, film editor, screenwriter, alpaca farmer, or cattle farmer.
As of this writing, I make wedding films and assist my wife with wedding photography. There is no fame, enough money, but no riches and no acclaim. Despite being told how special, intelligent, and talented I was as a child, and how I could do anything, my life has ended up being quite ordinary and, dare I say, a little boring. And I wouldn’t change one bit of it.
Our culture seems intensely focused on passion and dreams. The most popular shows are all about people competing for the chance to live their dreams. The thing that stands out to me so starkly is the reactions of the people that don’t win.
So often they will say something along the lines of “I just don’t understand how I didn’t win. I wanted it so badly. I wanted it so much more than all the other contestants.” As if wanting and desire is all that’s necessary to achieve a goal!
I spent most of my life floating at a level of desire. Wanting things, relationships, experiences, sometimes having the desires fulfilled, most times not.
Even when I got what I wanted, it only would make me happy for a brief time, always looking for something outside myself to satisfy me.
Amid that was also the ego’s constant desire for specialness. I was smart and talented, so I deserve to be noticed and have an interesting job and a wonderful, amazing life. But life had different ideas for me.
After high school I was planning to attend a music school in California to study guitar performance. However, when I was nineteen, I left home for two years to volunteer for my church at the time. During those years, my priorities shifted, and I was no longer sure if living as a touring musician lined up with more important spiritual goals, as well as goals of wanting a family.
I shifted my thinking to music production, and then choral education after a girlfriend mentioned it as a possibility. I was going to teach choir. I had great times performing, composing, and learning.
Two years into my degree, my wife and I started dating and got married. Around the same time I transferred to a different college, in a different city nearby. I was not taking very many classes, but one by one, they all fell by the wayside.
One class I needed another prerequisite, another I had missed too much to catch up because of my wedding and honeymoon, and then I was left with a choir class that I soon realized I hated. Did I really want to do this for the rest of my life?
I withdrew from college and just worked. From the natural foods store, to the steak and buffet restaurant, to the parking garage, to the telemarketing center, to the law firm copy center. We talked about going back to college at some point, but could not afford to pay outright and did not want student loans.
When I looked at going back to college, I ran into a lesson I’ve tried hard to remember since. Too many careers that popped up would require me to have made different choices for the past twenty years to make them work.
I thought about going back to school to become a veterinarian, but it would take me a decade, and I would not have the advantage of having volunteered at a vet’s office when I was twelve to put on my resume!
During that time my wife started her wedding photography business. It took a few years, but eventually we had enough work that I could quit my other job and help her full time. At the same time I renewed my interest in spiritual development and discovered Dr. David Hawkins’ writings, which led to my present commitment to enlightenment as my primary goal in life.
If I had gotten everything I desired, I doubt I would have made those discoveries and learned that acceptance and surrender are a surer path to joy than following desire. Now I have nothing of what people would consider ambition. I have very few goals, and no five or ten-year plan.
It might seem that I have become some kind of shiftless drifter, accomplishing nothing. Overall in my life, I have tried to replace desire with intention, which is like the rudder on a ship. I have devoted myself to love, kindness, peace, and joy, and lots of waves crash against the bow of the ship, but it does not affect my heading.
With that, many things just fall into place, (or out of my life,) just without the seeking and grasping of passionate desire. I will automatically do or not do certain things because of that intention, because it is what I am.
I want to have enough for my needs, and to accept whatever comes in every moment. I trust that what comes is the perfect expression of potential in that moment. Now I know that the source of my happiness is inside me, and the circumstances of life cannot take that away from me.
That is what I mean when I say surrender and accept: accept the fact that whatever it is we want in life, we cannot control the outcome, and if we could, sometimes we do not know what is best for us anyway. Instead of a passionate striving to “accomplish” something, we set the compass, and start down the path.
We can only control our walking, not what the end of the path looks like or whether there will be anything at the end.
The more we find our happiness from within, the safer we are. We can pursue anything we want, finding joy in the process. Whether it turns out the way we envisioned or not becomes irrelevant, because we didn’t bet all our joy on that outcome.
I thought I wanted to be special and important, but life led me to something very normal and a little boring. I could try to change it, but it is the perfect life for me.
So if we haven’t made it to some dream life that is fueled by passion, there can be great peace in learning to find the joy in being ordinary. To those of us that are led to follow our dreams, just love the dream, and surrender the result. Maybe your dream will come true, but if not, being boring is pretty great too.