If you’re anything like me, you find it difficult to articulate exactly what you want out of this short life on earth. I’ve done the Strengths finder 2.0., identifying my top 5 strengths from a list of 30 or so strengths gathered from various industries and cultures (I’m actually obsessed with this – if I haven’t talked about it, bring it up with me I dare you!!!). As far as my strengths go, let’s just say ‘Strategic’ doesn’t appear in my top 5. However one of my top 5 traits is ‘Individualization’, quickly described as the ability to identify people’s differences and put people together in winning teams. Almost all of my friends have the word ‘Strategic’ in their results. From this I deduce that I vicariously live from the strategic gifts of the people around me –in other words, I use their strategic powers and barely notice that I don’t have my own.
The reality is that I am a bozo at articulating what I want. There are so many things that cloud life with a haze of options for me – what other people want, what people think I should want, what I used to want, and thousands of possibilities of life ahead of me in the future. This has only been compounded by encountering the American institution of a “SUPER-market”. I have begun yelling the first half of this word after I was caught regrinding my beans at Trader Joes in order to suit a french press or plunger, which America seems to have a general lack of. Let’s just say that the regrind got stuck, I used a feather duster, and while I escaped without a criminal record, I now have in the cupboard half a coffee tin of unsable grind that causes me to shake in fear.
Before things get all “humanist” (see my post on humanism should you be interested in mildly chuckling here), the scripture Psalm 37:23 gives me much reassurance about the future:
The LORD makes firm the steps
of those who delight in him;
though they stumble, they will not fall,
for the LORD upholds them with his hand.
I’m not saying that what I’ve received out of life thus far is wrong. Strangely, I wouldn’t change a thing. But I don’t believe in fate, I believe in God. Not that God is literally picking me up and putting me back on the sidewalk (although that may have happened once or twice). I believe he is a kind of Craftsman in the trade of human development, ensuring that the highs and lows of my life result in a stronger character. He’s not a “helicopter parent” as Australians call those ready to swoop in at any time with an escape route. No, I’ve stumbled plenty of times. But the story isn’t over yet.
I often quietly quote the traditional King James Version of this scripture to myself “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” and remember life stages where God guided me to the right job, decision and/or friend. While my husband Tim hates the lack of gender inclusive language, this works for me. I’m not a great organiser, so it’s relieving to think that God would help me out by ordering things.
But I’ve been thinking about my part of the deal, and have become convinced lately that articulating what we want is important in defining our future.
It’s not like you can’t have a future without articulating it. If you’ve ever caught yourself staring at a piece of paper and realized you’ve pretended to study for about an hour, then you’d know this is true. Time continues to move on regardless of planning or foresight. But if you never define and articulate your desires then the people around you never truly know where you stand or what you’re trying to achieve. The act of future defining is important mainly if you want an extraordinary life. Regular people are fine to allow the world to define them. They respond and react to various things that occur around them and at some point reflect upon this process, rather than envisaging what they would like for the future.
So I thought I would write a list of things that I want, in order to encourage other people to define their own future. I think it’s important to be honest to yourself – which means that no one list will be the same.
– a growing faith or spiritual life: I’m willing to take responsibility for the fact that after three degrees and a stint lecturing I am incredibly difficult to teach. I learn all the time, but often not in the way the person in front of me hopes I will learn. I don’t cope with ‘fill in the blank’ exercise sheets, and I can’t stand a three-point sermon. So I’m going to have to start working hard in order to sift through the endlessly available three point sermons to find something that sustains my inner self.
– happy little Sheer-people with pattering feet: while most people would agree that during a PhD is not the best of times to rear children, I do want some. And not necessarily my own. I realized I would be more than OK with adopting recently when I walked past a bored nanny trailing a snotty child behind them – not everyone in our world is loved yet.
– for my husband to reach his fullest potential. He has songs, dreams and wishes that simply won’t appear unless I put it on my to-do list. (on this note, it’s hilarious to me that when asked his life goal, his answer is usually “well I’ve seen the Coliseum in Rome so now I’m not sure”). I’d like to take credit for that, given the fact that I always plan our itinerary, and thus at some point he can be assured we also visit Hadrian’s Wall, at which point I’m hoping he doesn’t lay down and die from excitement.
– A faith community that stretches beyond the border of any one ‘church’ but that includes a close friendship circle that drinks coffee together and laughs uproariously. And Tim would include here a community that gardens together. I’m not 100% sure that people are willing to grow tomatoes together yet but see the previous point for my response.
– To contribute. When they look through the annals of time, I’m actually OK with not having a large encyclopedia section – but I’d like an entry. And I’d like whatever is written to be a very significant entry in the vein of humanity’s best contributions towards building a better earth together. I’m happy if it’s small because I will personally know the whole – that I helped that famous person build their role, or that I wrote a paper that caused that event… some behind the scene glories left for celebrating in heaven.
– To be able to live without financial fear. As a singer/songwriter, most of my life has been spent pretending that I don’t care about the ups and downs of my income. But the honest truth of it is that I get sick of the uncertainty. It’s not the exciting type of uncertainty where you don’t know whether you will be able to get to Korea next month, but the type where you wonder whether you’ve budgeted enough for the accountant’s fees, and whether the incoming will match the outgoing commitments next month. If you’ve ever had to ring the tax office you know what I mean.
– To write music that literally lifts people’s eyes out of their backbreaking, earth staring existence and helps them gaze heavenward. In all sense of the word, to be a worship leader. (My aim is not to make them gaze at me, please note).
– To help Australia understand that (although the Enlightenment decreed otherwise) the spiritual and the natural are entwined irreversibly, and our past IS our future – and reconciliation with the Aboriginal people is necessary for us to build a very great nation in the land we walk on.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good start for me. It’s obvious that I have a backlog of writing – this was written in my last days in Australia (with the exception of my supermarket stunt) but now I am here in the U.S. having recorded an album and now in a furniture-less apartment ready to start my PhD. So there’s lots more to write, which I will do soon.