So many of us muddle through life without asking ourselves what we really want and why. Instead, we take society’s definition of success and make it our own, often without question.
We’re expected to study certain subjects and pursue particular career paths. The choices are often narrow and our working lives follow a predictable pattern, imitating one another’s, despite the fact that we’re all unique with various interests, skills and strengths. When we do make choices that are considered unusual, we often feel the need to seek validation through fame and fortune.
As a result, we spend much of our lives studying subjects and doing certain types of work because we think we ‘should’, often disregarding the things we feel drawn to when we can’t provide an obvious explanation as to why.
I know I’ve certainly chosen career paths because they made sense from a practical point of view, rather than really questioning what I want my life’s work to look like and planning the steps I need to take to fulfil that vision, which I expect would change over time.
When I started writing The Pro-Body Project, a fortnightly series about my journey with my body image and disordered eating, I had no idea it would change the way I think about my work.
Within three months of starting the series I could see the articles growing in volume; not a random assortment of writing, but something that felt more concrete and connected.
Then, throughout the month of May, I painted almost every day. Not all day, just for short bursts between the demands of life and other work. The result is 40 pieces of abstract art.
I looked at what I had produced; my writing, my paintings, and I could see a body of work.
Around the end of last year I started to get disillusioned with thinking in terms of ‘a business’ and ‘career’ and ‘entrepreneur’. ‘Business’ always feels so impersonal to me, traditional ideas about careers are dying fast and the word ‘entrepreneur’ always makes me think of sales and strategies rather than beautiful humans with beating hearts.
However, it occurred to me that I could think about all of my past, present and future projects as being a complete body of work that I produce over my lifetime, which feels so much more expansive. I can actually make sense of my working life to date and it takes the focus away from business descriptions and job titles – away from the roles I play in order to get paid – and gives me the freedom to blend the many things I’ve done and still plan to do.
The two projects I’ve mentioned are not obviously connected; but with a complete body of work, they don’t need to be. The point of viewing the projects and roles I choose to do as a complete body of work is to understand the thread that connects them, then keeping that thread in mind in order to be intentional when making choices in future.
And intentional feels so much better than doing something just because I think I ‘should’.
© 2017 Esther Zimmer