What Dreams May Come -The Search for Passion, Mission and Meaning in Life

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” - Maya Angelou

Here am I again. It’s been a long time since I posted an original piece here, I know.

Where do I begin? At the beginning, I suppose… Well, a little more than a year ago, I came to a crossroads in my life and found myself spiraling out of control until I hit what I thought was rock bottom. Trying to pick myself up by the bootstraps, I began a course in self-evaluation and growth. It was not a program I willingly submitted myself for – trust me, I went in kicking and screaming – but I am grateful for it.

You know that point in your life where you begin to wonder what this is all about? Whether you’re doing the right thing; whether you’re fulfilling your mission in life? That’s where I was. I was torn between following my ambition and aspirations and following what I was beginning to feel I was being called to do: a life of asceticism and spirituality. Honestly, I still haven’t found the answer, but I am beginning to see a way to merge the two and still be true to myself.

What is passion? It is that thing that gives you the most joy when you’re doing it and you keep coming back to it over and over again. That is where dreams are born. Some of us find our passions and put them on a shelf for the sake of family, a partner or spouse, a job, for life… And some of us go through life trying to find our passions. The problem with trying to find our passions is that we can only find them with our hearts, not our minds. And our minds will invariably overrule our hearts. As mine does. Being a person who is almost equally left- and right- brained, my creative streak is matched by my own analysis of it. And I have been known to over think things a time or two… (Marie Forleo's The Secret to Finding Your Passion is a good read.)

What is mission? It is that thing you feel called to do and it usually involves altruistic motives. That is what gives meaning to our lives. I’ve always seen my mission as making people happy; making people enjoy their lives. The vehicle has kept changing, but I found that it was always the things that put a smile on someone’s face that gave me the most pleasure. When directing an event, I create what I call an ‘emotional tunnel’ through which I take the audience. An event or show is not just a series of smaller activities strung together but it is an emotional experience from beginning to end. Every word, every ambience change, every sound that made your heart swell or made you gasp was carefully placed in that emotional tunnel.

On reflection, I think it became less pleasurable to write because with the lack of feedback, it felt like talking to an empty room. No smiling faces. No welled up eyes. No sighs, or gasps, or laughs…which partly explains my irregularity with my blog. Just like with my cooking – another of my passions – I really don’t cook for myself. I cook for other people’s pleasure. It’s the looks of surprise, and the moans of pleasure – and even looks of ‘this doesn’t taste right to me’ – that make it all worthwhile.

I guess I have always been a writer. I wrote my first set of short stories and poems at age 11 on my father’s hand-me-down typewriter (yes, that was before word processors). And I loved literature at school and took up my mother’s love for reading when I learned to read at age 4. But I discovered I had a passion for writing quite by accident when I was telling an acquaintance what I do for a living and added “and I write on the side”. A friend of mine who is an editor of a couple of magazines who heard me responded firmly, “No, Ayite, you’re a writer”. It didn’t make sense to me because I didn’t necessarily make a living as a writer and I didn’t count copywriting or writing for shows as writing. “You have a great way with words and you’re a writer”.

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that about my writing, but I always thought I hated the process of writing. But then I realized that anytime I came across an interesting scenario, or a subject I was interested in, I would immediately begin crafting how I would write it in my head. So I probably had a passion for writing after all. But it’s not just that activity of clanking on my computer brings me joy, but I enjoy painting ideas and conveying emotions through words (I just wish I the thoughts could be ‘automagically’ put into words!) My quandary is that my passions and mission need to align; I can’t have one without the other – they are both necessary for my satisfaction. But my real problem is that I have many passions. So many things excite me! I’m like a kid in a candy store and I want some of everything…and I only have one lifetime…!

Living without a dream is like living life with your eyes wide shut. We become robotic – going through the motions and feeling very little. We are unable to fully experience life because we’ve put away the very thing that makes life worth living. Every now and then we look up wistfully at the dream we wrapped up in brown paper and tucked out of sight and rationalize why we did the right thing putting it away and come up with ten reasons we can’t dust it of and tear off the brown paper. To make up for our guilt, we create surrogate passions: our children, shopping… On the other end of the spectrum, we cover up and numb our pain and shame with smoking, drinking, drugs, sex…

What are your dreams and passions? And what is your mission in life? Take a look at your life: what music do you listen to? What books, magazines or blogs do you read? What activities do you enjoy? What subjects do you like to learn about? What topics make your blood rush? Look for a pattern, but look with your heart not your mind. Ask your closest friends to help you if you like. You might be surprised at what you uncover. Oprah has a useful Find Your Passion exercise. Like me, one of your passions might just be under your very nose and you didn’t even know it…!

My last question to you is: Are you living your own dream, or are you living someone else’s dream?