There are many times in our lives when we come to the metaphorical crossroads. Do we plunge on ahead, take a left, go back the way we came or pop into the McDonalds for a chocolate shake and some diabetes?
A tweet came up in my feed from someone who was undecided about whether or not to do a writing Masters (on completion of her history Masters) and was worried about the financial implications of staying in education. I left some advice about there being little on a Masters course in creative writing that can’t be learned by sitting down and writing every day, though it can be an enjoyable fast track. Whether it was welcome or helpful advice is by-the-by but it did get me thinking.
More and more people are having portfolio careers, going freelance, combining an interdisciplinary array of skills in order to break new ground and it’s very very exciting.
As I recently lost my full time job, I found myself at my own crossroads and considering how far I’d come in my various careers. I haven’t taken a normal route, haven’t got a clear succession of coherent study or linear experience and I’m not alone. More and more people are having portfolio careers, going freelance, combining an interdisciplinary array of skills in order to break new ground and its very very exciting. It’s also terrifying for anyone that values stable finances. Do you take the financial route or the passion route? Heart or head? Sensible or “fuck you Mum and Dad, I was born to dance!”? When you can’t decide between taking a full-time job for security and following your passion, it’s always ok to do both.
When you can’t decide between taking a full-time job for security and following your passion, it’s always ok to do both.
The trick is to keep your ultimate destination in your mind. This isn’t one of those “keep believing and the universe will provide” kinda deals. Sorry, it doesn’t work like that despite what a multi-million pound self-help industry keeps farting out. What is true though is that any kind of future can only, as Joseph Campbell said, “come from the energies of your own psyche”. In other words, one way or the other you can make it happen, even if the ship you’re sailing is tossed in all direction by the wind of – well, tossers.
I’m reminded of a story told by Osho, the rather maligned Indian spiritual teacher. The story is Christian in content but the idea is applicable to all. There was, he said, three trees on a hill, dreaming about what they would become. The first said he wanted to be chopped down and become a cradle, holding a precious newborn. The second dreamed of being chopped down and made into a grand treasure ship, carry coins and precious jewels. The third said he wanted to stand on a hill and point people to heaven. The day came when the woodchoppers came and as they cut down the first they said this tree shall be used to hold animal feed. Of the second they said this tree shall make a fine fishing boat and to the third they said this tree will provide an instrument of torture. Filled with horror, the trees were taken away to start there new lives but they kept their dreams in the hearts and the faith that one day they may get their wish, despite the hopeless outlook. The years past and the cattle feed holder was used to hold a baby when there was nowhere else to lay him, the fishing boat was bought and used by a man named Simon Peter who carried a man from Nazareth as he spread his teachings and the instrument of torture was a cross that has been pointing people to heaven ever since.
People can – and do – get to where they are supposed to be.
It doesn’t matter what your dream is, what you aspire to, how hopeless your ambition. Your route to it is going take unexpected turns and the circumstances may not be as you foresaw them but regardless of planning, education, background, social class, trauma, resistance, mental and physical health and all manner of other seemingly impassable barriers, people can – and do – get to where they are supposed to be.
Join me by wishing @peachthewriter all the very best with her decision and future