February 24, 2013

Learning how to "do what you love."

When I was little I was obsessed with swimming, and every opportunity I got I wanted to be in the water.  Because of this, every body of water that I saw – be it a stream, pond, lake, or someone else’s pool – I did whatever I could to find a way to swim in it.  One time, when I was barely six years old, my parents rented a cabin on a lake, and I swam as far out as I could and almost drowned.  Despite this, I still wanted to swim every chance I got.  Swimming was the thing that I loved to do as a kid, no matter how inconvenient it was, or no matter how yucky it made my hair.

As an adult, as I’m sure you can probably agree, the things I SHOULD do often overshadows the things I LOVE to do.  This is in part because there is often guilt associated with partaking in what's indulgently pleasurable because “time is money” and there is always money to be made.  And the reality is that at the end of a long day we are often too tired to devote to the things, these pursuits, that we love. 
But why do we save our most cherished hobbies and pursuits – those things that give us the ultimate enjoyment and happiness – as something that can be partaken only AFTER we’ve accomplished everything that needs to be done, when we are often so depleted that we no longer have the energy to truly enjoy them?  Why do we always feel we need to earn it, to “save the best for last”? 

Instead, we seek instant gratification by distracting ourselves from what we should be doing, by scanning through our Facebook newsfeeds, clicking for inspiration in Google Reader, getting excited for 10 a.m. because that means we can have a snack!   It is not to say that these distractions are bad.  In some ways these little distractions force us to find the simple pleasures in a day consumed with obligations, complex business matters, serious adult stuff.  It’s our way of seeking mini escapes through it all, even if the escapes we’re seeking wind up not being that gratifying, because what we’d rather be doing, or looking forward to doing, are the things we truly love – the grown-up version of finding a swimming hole to jump into.  And the sad thing is that so often do we forget to realize that the things we truly love are actually GOOD for us in the end.

This past week I spontaneously booked a massage, something I so enjoy but do so infrequently (like once or twice a year infrequently).  It felt indulgent and special and oddly naughty to be getting something that I hadn’t planned out in advance, but the payoff was great – I felt more relaxed than I had felt in months and the almost daily headaches I had been getting for the previous few weeks suddenly disappeared. 
We’re always telling ourselves that life is short, because it is, no doubt, and therefore understandably consumed with necessary obligations to achieve the life we want, but why don’t we adjust to life’s brevity by placing equal importance on carving out time to do what we love as we do with those practical obligations?  I can't say I have the answer to that, but I do know I'm going to work on learning to include more of what I love in my daily life.

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