Accepting Who and What We Are

That Youthful Imagination

Since I can remember, I have been fascinated with all things Old World. That interest extends not just to pre-Columbian Europe, but to the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans – when everything was magic and superstition, when the world and its boundaries were as unfathomable as the seas. As an eager first grader, I’d wait none too patiently to receive my latest issue of The Weekly Reader. I’d also keep close guard over my dog-eared and food-stained back issues, creating an honored stash in the holy mess that was my bedroom. That stack of papers was a cool island of scholarship in a riot of cast-off clothes and scattered Barbie doll accessories. At the time, this truly wonderful Scholastic publication contained articles about archeology and anthropology, long before Indiana Jones raided the lost Ark or tamed the Temple of Doom. (And decades before Angelina Jolie assumed the role of “Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.”)

Each issue of The Weekly Reader always had something new and intriguing about a far-away dig and the insights that could be gleaned by sifting – slowly and painstakingly – through layers of earth, and, in effect, layers of time. It amazed me that the approximate age of an object could be surmised through a process called radio carbon dating, or that an ancient timber could be analyzed by counting the rings beneath its outermost layer. It blew my mind that a black granite tablet like the Rosetta Stone could serve as the key to decoding an extinct language when it was discovered in Memphis, Egypt, in 1799. And dinosaurs! Don’t even get me started on those great big beautiful piles of bone.

As We Grow, We Start to “See”

So from early childhood until almost the end of high school, I was hooked on archaeology. I read about it, watched every historical movie or documentary I could get my hands on, and began to experiment with online research. In those days, the Internet was just starting to catch on and websites were still in their awkward early days. And then came my freshman year in college and a course in art history that didn’t dull my ardor in the least. But, eventually, when it was time to transition from the core courses at junior college to a major at a four-year university, I had to come to grips with two harsh realities. The first was that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do math to save my life. Mathematics had always been the bane of my existence. From about third grade onward, I struggled mightily in math. Math skills also figure prominently in archaeology. A person can’t survey land or dig accurate trenches if she can’t make heads or tails of the calculations necessary to do so. The second reality was the need to earn a living. No matter which way I tried to spin it, my job prospects as an archaeologist were slim to none. And I needed to start working yesterday!

But there was one thing I’d always had a knack for and that was writing. Short of being an English teacher, what kind of career prospects might the writing life entail? You guessed it: journalism. Not only did the journalism profession appeal on a writing level, but it involved honing the skills to “dig” for information and draw conclusions by delving into the issues of the day. Instead of sifting for pottery vessels or bone shards, I’d be wading into a whole other kind of dirt. I’d be unearthing all kinds of fun and frightful surprises, but in the now. The idea of journalism was every bit as glamorous as archaeology, with the distinct bonus of being at least a little more marketable. 

Finding Your Way – Finding You

Now, almost 20 years later, I’m an editor at a newspaper. I’ve edited magazines, books, articles, newspapers and news magazines. I’ve written about so many topics it’s difficult to recall them all. I can rattle off questions blindfolded and with my hands tied behind my back. In the process, I’ve learned a great deal about all kinds of things. Journalism is a profession that forces its practitioners to sharpen their curiosity – to ask and elicit answers. But it also trains us to move quickly. Its time constraints require the agility to master unfamiliar topics fast and convey them even faster. In many cases, it really is the first rough draft of history.

But getting to this point was not easy, and journalism has never been the most accomodating profession for anyone. So I often think back to those times in college when I was trying to decide what to do – what to be – and I wonder what life these past several years would have been like if I’d taken another path. What if I’d decided to teach? What if I’d gone on to law school as I had wanted to do but couldn’t afford? What if I had parlayed these journalistic skills into some kind of high-end marketing or sales position along the way? Would I be better off financially? Probably. But I wouldn’t be who I am now and I wouldn’t be as equipped to become what I am yet to be. In my case, I chose the path that fit the best. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s what I gravitate to every time I start to stray. It’s who I am. And now that I know that, really know it, I can accept and embrace it. I also can move forward.

There are times in all our lives when we look back and wonder what might have happened if we had chosen differently. Throughout our childhoods, we’re told by well-meaning adults that we can do anything we want to do in life if we set our minds to it. And, in many cases, we can. I firmly believe that if you work hard enough and passionately enough toward a goal, you will realize it. But – and this is a very big but – before we set our sights on something, it’s best to consider all the angles before plunging forward. Big decisions require a great deal of thought. Knowing our strengths and recognizing our weaknesses is, I firmly believe, the best way to set the course for our futures. I could have deluded myself into pursuing archaeology and then ending up flipping burgers, but I didn’t. And I’m glad. 

The Importance of “Doing Your Thing”

Every one of us is on a different trajectory, and if we fight who we are or fight against other people’s expectations rather than honoring that inner person, we’re going to be unhappy. Would I like to be running around in the sands of North Africa, digging up buried treasures? At one time I would have said yes. But time and perspective have led me to the certainty that I made the best decision I could for the person I am and the traits I have. Am I wealthy? No. Am I happy? Yes, most of the time. I’m never as content as when I’m polishing the words of the writers who work for me, or when I’m writing an article of my own.  

So the question is, what makes you happy, but has some practical value too? If you can answer that question, you are in a very good place. If you can’t, keep digging until you find that treasure within. It’s there. If you acknowledge that many of your inner feelings are really insights into the life that you were intended to live, you can start to think more carefully about what that inner voice is saying to you. If you can somehow come to believe that your life has an intended purpose, you can start to make choices you feel are right for you regardless of what others are doing. If you can start to see that you are here to accomplish specific things – for yourself and for others – your life takes on a new and special meaning. If there is a secret to living a meaningful and rewarding life, it must be working to confirm that intended purpose and then making the choices to fulfill it. Good luck in finding and fulfilling yours.

“Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important, 
whether he chooses to be so or not.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Written By Lindsay Jones 

Copyright 2014 / Good Choices Good Life, Inc. / All Rights Reserved

“No one will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding, except when he listens to the whisper which is heard by him alone.” Ralph Waldo Emerson