We are the generation of "I'm, but." Chapter Two of "Quitter" begins with explaining the propensity that we have to describe ourselves as what we do versus what we'd like to do. For instance, "I'm a teacher, but want to be an artist." I immediately struggled with the concept because for the longest time I had no idea what my "but" was. Or at least I didn't think that I did.
I never had a back-up plan. From the time I was about 10 years old until late college I was going to be a doctor. Back-up plans were for people who couldn't commit to things. And as I was driven and focused, I did not have one. I took years of math and science in high school. I tortured myself with Botany, Chemistry and Physics in the same semester at college. I worked very hard. So during my junior year, when I literally walked out of my Physics final crying because I suddenly knew this was not the right path for me, I was a mess. I was lost and directionless. I had no fall back. I'd never seen myself as particularly good at anything other than math and science...and for a time writing (ding ding ding) It took me years...and I do mean YEARS to recover any semblance of dreams or goals I had outside of medicine. I was not an "I'm, but" because I felt I had no "I'm."
We think finding out what we want to do is going to be a revelation. - Pg 33
I tried everything. I read every "What Color is Your Parachute?" book there was out there. I was determined to figure out what I was good at as I'd never really thought about it before. At least that was my mindset. But looking back, I realized that there had been inklings and even grand moments when I'd known what I'd love and what I'd love to do.
Jon explains that for most of it's not that we don't have some kind of idea about what we would love to be doing. It's that somehow along the way we've forgotten what it is that we loved. The distractions of life, the fear of failure and numerous other things estrange us from our first love. When life gets full we put our dreams on hold. When things get rough, we push our goals to the side. Then the thing that was once so beloved to us becomes dusty, unseen and forgotten. It's so unfair.
The act of recovering your dream can be immensely overwhelming. But Jon raises a good point
You don't ask the bottomless, "What do I want to do with my life?" but instead, "What have I done in my life that I loved doing?" - Pg 40
I literally wrote "Thank God" on this page. While I've known this for some time now, it was nice to see in the print of a legitimate publication (not like Vogue or something) that not only was it okay to be overwhelmed by the prospect of figuring out what to do with my life but that finding the "dream" could be made a little easier than I thought it would be. I began to think about the things I did in the past. My life wasn't just studying weird science terms and learning the Pythagorean theorem. There were things that I did in the interim. There were moments when I knew I could be excellent at something other than cutting people open. "Quitter" calls them "hinge moments."
A hinge moment occurs when you're planning to do something standard and normal...And then something hinges you in a different direction. - Pg 44 (Apologies to Mr. Acuff for chopping down that paragraph so much. But I figured you wouldn't want me to plagiarize your entire book on the blog.)
Three hinge moments immediately came to mind as I read those words.
1. My 2nd grade teacher was a saint. After a horrible 1st grade experience with a teacher who was subsequently forced into early retirement, Ms. Clowe was just the kind of teacher I needed. Caring, kind, supportive. She renewed my passion for school and learning.
One afternoon she pulled me aside to encourage me to keep telling the stories (of the entertaining variety) and to keep doing well in English and Reading. She saw potential in me and took the time single me out to encourage the gifts in me that she already saw developing. Decades later that moment and that women still remain with me.
2. I sat with my feet dangling above the floor as I dug into the silver dollar pancakes that my dad made every Saturday. Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" video was playing on MTV (back when the "M" stood for music and not miscellaneous as it does today.) I was singing along as I normally did because my brain was a sponge for anything music related. My dad leaned across the kitchen island and asked, "Do you know what band he used to be in?" Before stuffing another bite of pancake in my mouth, I answered, "The Eagles." I remember the look of pride on my dad's face. I didn't know why my musical knowledge pleased him so. But I remember liking the idea that my love of music was something to be valued.
3. Death is not something that most of us deal with well. So when a friend was killed in a freak biking accident in 10th grade, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I wrote. I wrote about how much I would miss him. I wrote about how much potential he had. I wrote about how unfair it seemed that God chose to take him so soon. I wrote until I couldn't write any more. It was the only thing that made me feel better. My mother, ever supportive of my studies, but seemingly uninterested in my extracurricular activities, found my writings. I walked in on her reading my words, hand over her mouth, apparently quite moved by something I'd merely seen as cathartic. She looked me in my eyes when she finished reading and said, "Tia, you write beautifully."
While these "hinge moments" were fairly obvious, they're not always like that. There are several questions in the book that helped me identify other less apparent hinge moments for myself and for this blog. And while answering the questions may bring up a variety of pleasant hinge moments, Jon does offer a word of caution. Hinge moments should not be confused with happy moments. Although the hinge moments I listed were happy and I can now see how they reinforced the thing that I would love to do all day every day (in case you're new here, I want to write, particularly about music.) they're not always like that. Some of the questions that we have to ask ourselves when defining hinge moments may bring up times that weren't necessarily shiny, happy, unicorn filled moments. But sometimes those broken, painful parts of a hinge moment can help change our focus from what we thought we wanted to do to what we're ultimately supposed to do.
My Physics final breakdown was a hinge moment. The minute I laid that test on the desk I KNEW I couldn't commit the next 8 years of my life to school, lack of sleep and textbooks with more pages than an Los Angeles phone book. I was broken and shed tears for the time I'd spent chasing a dream that was not to be. But it had to happen that way. And thankfully it happened before I was several hundred thousand dollars in debt. (Hallelujah!) Good, bad, happy, painful, ultimately the hinge moments will swing you closer to pursuing what you love. (Pg 53)
Rediscovering the loves and passions of the past and the moments of reinforcement are key to becoming a "Quitter." But as Jon was nice enough to point out, "Anyone can dream; it's the doing that is such a hassle." - Pg 53. Yeah...chapter 3 was AWESOME for my ego, my apathy, my incessant need for control/perfection. But more on that next week.