I have been having trouble deciding what to do with my life. Most people think that we should find a career that is something we love to do, so that we can make a livelihood while enjoying ourselves. This can be useful to look at, but life is more than just what we do for work. I’m also thinking that the true livelihood is not making a living, but living rightly. Livelihood is the art of living, that does not need money as part of the equation.
Many will say to follow your passion or to live our your Dharma. Or in another way, they’ll say to go after what you’ve got talent in. For example, I’ve been seen by people around me to be a good draftsman and painter for most of my life. My mom, and others, will say that I should pursue that, because I’m good at it, and I’ve always done it. In a slight exaggeration, we can joke that the child who starts walking can ‘really get somewhere with that,’ just as someone who does something like play an instrument or draw a picture, can ‘really go places,’ with their art. We don’t see the pursuit of these things in that silly way. We don’t see that we are conditioned to think we should find a job, get married and have kids, or pursue things to make money that we may be good at or have done for most of our life.
One of my brothers started playing music when he was quite young. He was let into the bars to play on stage, and escorted out. Later on he played with many different bands and became a very good drummer. He doesn’t play anymore. Many musicians around the area were struck by this. “You’ve stopped playing?” This change completely threw them off of what was. My dad has often been disappointed by this. He wonders where my brother could have been if he kept playing. My brother states, “He thinks I’d be a success if I was playing for drunk people in a club.” Just because he is not playing, does not mean he will not play ever again, yet that’s what people react to. It’s strange how our view of things can really alter our relationship to what we are doing or what we think we should do.
To direct your life into an area is a big act. Some people take their whole life into one direction and specialize in a specific area. I think that that can be great, but it also feels like a large commitment that should be undertaken for the right reason. It’s as if one can go into a career for something, but to do that FOR the right livelihood aspect feels conflicting. That right livelihood must be here now, wherever you are. I don’t think it’s right if it depends on something, such as a career. Yet, this is where I get troubled by my questioning of “what should I do with my life?” I make the idea of career into this static image. For example, I might go into art still, in the sense of drawing and painting. It is something that I show continue interest in, and see lots of potential for it for self-growth and understanding. Paradoxically, when I think I’m going to GET something from doing it, I lose it. I begin to make an image of myself as an artist that feels lost, because it’s a fragmented view. It takes away my right liveliness and makes it something fictional.
This is an art I’m still practicing. The art of seeing what is and of also planning for what can be. It seems anything I do will be a part of that practice. Time to meditate.