Power, Freedom, Creativity, and Respect

I was 25 years old in 1995 and I was unhappy. I had big aspirations, but my job was dragging me down. Nobody listened to my advice. I couldn’t advance and I often got patted on the head. I was too young but too smart. It was frustrating. I applied for different jobs, I networked, and I tried. But nothing fit and I wasn’t taken seriously.

I saw a film about Maya Lin, the woman who designed the Viet Nam War Memorial, called Strong Clear Vision. I was impressed. I was horrified. She was 25 when she did this work. What was I doing? Nothing. I had many interests: writing, teaching, film, and politics. I was reasonably smart, I thought, but I was going nowhere. What job should I get? What job did I want?

During this self-centered, despondent haze, I realized, “It’s not a job I’m looking for but purpose.” What were the deep needs I wanted to satisfy? If I answered that, job titles wouldn’t matter. I heard David Sidaris in an interview say he knew he wanted to succeed big at something, anything. If he was going to be a potter, he was going to be the best damn potter ever! Exactly.

That December I flew to San Francisco, got a hotel and decided I’d walk around the city until I figured it out. It hit me all at once: power, freedom, creativity, and respect.

Power is the ability to make change. Freedom is doing what I want. Creativity is finding new solutions to old problems. Respect is, “That’s the best damn potter ever!” I’m never at 100 percent of these all at once, but they are my gauges, still, telling me where I should be; do I have as high a measure of each as possible?

Next entry, Well, Now What?