“Something got crossed in the wires, and I became the person I should be and not the person I am. I feel like I should go back and get the person I am and bring them here to the person I should be.”
(Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz)
First, if you haven’t read Blue Like Jazz, you’re depriving yourself of some ridiculously honest literature.
The person I should be.
People talk about it.
People warn against it.
Old men sit on creaky rocking chairs (I hope that happens still) and talk about being who you feel you should be instead of who you are.
And that “should be” part can feel really strong. Not strong like a knockout drag-out punch from Muhammad Ali but strong like a river’s current in rainy season. A punch would be easy to ignore – you simply get up and the fight is over.
You lost. You move on. It’s done.
But stepping out of a river is hard.
I mean you start to swim in it and forget it’s pulling you.
You forget there are other streams.
You forget that you could swim to shore.
You forget that you don’t have to be in the water.
I know a punch from Muhammad Ali would probably hurt like something out a nightmare but I’m telling you a punch is not as strong or as dangerous as a current.
Enough about analogies I know very little about.
The weight of being who you should be.
I’m not talking about being who others think you should be.
That’s a different thing. That’s a whole different stream.
I’m talking about the weight of believing you have to do something.
It’s not an option. It’s something you just have to do.
Sometimes these can be wonderfully beautiful things connected to our true “amness”. It’s a made up word. Amness. Who I am. Who you are. Amness.
Sometimes this is beautiful and who we are.
Sometimes though this is not beautiful and not who we are.
Law is not who I am.
For reasons that are better left to a book not a blog post, I felt I had to be a lawyer.
I simply had to. “It’s who I am” – I told myself.
I lied even after I rejected a job at the law firm representing Bill Cosby.
That was the track. It was downtown Chicago. It was the track to partner. It was what I wanted. It was me…I thought.
And I hated, for a long time, that it wasn’t me.
I hated that I knew I couldn’t accept their generous job offer.
I’m getting better, but some nights I still lie awake and hate that I couldn’t be the workaholic lawyer that slaves away in the windy city.
But that’s the thing with currents, you have to swim out of them not against them.
You have to be brave enough to go to shore and let the water just run for a bit.
Maybe you’ll hop back in the stream and maybe you’ll find another one.
But you have to dry off.
You have to sit in the sun for a bit. You have to get hot.
You have to forget what it was like in the stream. It took me over a year to dry off.
And in that time I realized, that what I am is a writer.
I don’t just like it. I don’t just enjoy it.
I am a writer.
I blush as I write this. And that’s how I know I’m in the right stream.
Because as much success people told me I would have as a lawyer, I never blushed. I was so disconnected from the reality of that life that it was like looking down on someone else and saying “Sure. Thanks. I’ll work really hard and I’m sure I’ll do fine as a lawyer.”
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve dried on the shore it’s that what you blush at – what you can’t believe people say you could actually do with your life – this is your amness.
This is who you are.
It’s an extension of your created frame.
Do that thing that makes you blush.
And tell peopled through your red stained face that you don’t just want to do ____ but you want to be a ____.
Own the blushing, friends. You’re on the right track. Or in the right stream. Or whatever.
Cheers if you’re just mustering up the courage to swim out of the stream.