Coming Into Your Own – Embracing Your Own Best Destiny

by Randy Murray on May 24, 2010

Until recently, when someone would ask, “what do you do?” I’d pause and struggle a bit, then tell them about my job. “I manage a small technology company,” I’d tell them, or “I run marketing and internet projects for …” But what I really wanted to say was, “I’m a writer.”

That inner conflict, probably not much different than your own, came because of the choices I made about how I’d earn a living, how to raise a family, and how to establish as stable a future as possible. I struggled because I wanted to say, “I’m a writer, but I’m not doing the work of a writer.” I could point to a diploma and say, “It says here I’m a playwright, but I haven’t written any plays lately.” That was difficult and embarrassing.

I’d been through this struggle while in college. I had planned on working to become a doctor, signed up for all of the chemistry and biology classes, and buckled down. But it was the literature classes and the theater that really excited me. Without knowing what that path would bring me, I made the leap and raced down it. My friends even staged an intervention, sat me down and said, “OK, you’ve had your fun, but now it’s time to get serious and get back to work.” I never wavered, never doubted, and when they realized I was clear about my choice and, most importantly, happy, they never said another word about it.

I finished my undergraduate work and followed the path into graduate school, a three-year Master of Fine Arts program, still without really knowing where it would lead. Once again, I started on what I thought was the practical side, directing, but within a year I found myself teaching in the English department and writing plays. And I remember those years as productive and happy ones.

It’s not as if the time since then has been unhappy, but when I left grad school, I chose getting a job and earning a living over pursuing life as an artist. I wrote short stories occasionally, and did a lot of writing for clients and employers, everything from technical documentation to advertising copy. I don’t regret it. In fact, I now see it as very important. I needed to mature as a writer. I also needed to live. I did interesting work and made great friends. But I was not following my own best destiny and the further I strayed from that path, the more I struggled with the question, “What do you do?”

I do not believe in fate. I find the future completely unwritten. But I do know that for everyone there are passions and interests that can take hold and never let go for an entire lifetime. If you decide to step away from the path that most closely aligns you with these passions, be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it. Plan a path that will eventually, someday, take you back. Now that I’m back on the path, I’ve found, with delight, that all of the work I’ve done since leaving grad school is paying off in surprising ways. Business is good. I’m doing strong creative work. And I’ve got a play scheduled for production.

My daughters are both artists, one a musician, the other a painter. I hope that they can find paths that let them embrace those talents. If the choices that I made make that it possible for them to succeed as artists, then I’ll take pride in that. I see other parents worry about their children and they express concern that they’ll be able to find jobs and earn a living. I know that a person with talent and vision can almost always earn a living. The real question is can they embrace their talents and drives and find a way to unite what they love with what they do.

Yes, I’m proud of the paths they’re starting out on. Especially now that when I’m asked, “What do you do?” I can reply without hesitation, “I’m a writer.”

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