Listen, I know it’s terribly unpopular for writers to talk about how they write because everything should be effortless to a reader, but you guys know how I feel about effortless. And so, I’m going to talk about it.
Whenever I feel really, truly convicted about something, I want to share it that very moment. And because I’m not new to this rodeo, I know the right way to share an epiphany or conviction or brief bit of wisdom online is to put it in list form and title it something crazy SEO-friendly, like “Three Steps To A Happier Life” or “How To Cure Bacon In Thirty Seconds” or whatever. But you know what? I don’t want the angle. I don’t want to brand myself as a life expert, complete with bullet point lists and tweetable captions. I’m an expert in me; you’re an expert in you. And the expert truth is that neither of us are experts in anything at all, except for maybe the genius that thought of this. That certainly borders expert territory.
And still, we are convinced, trapped, by the assumption that there is a right way to do something and a wrong way to do something, which is a lie – a liiiiieeeeee!
There is, instead, only a right way to do something and a right-for-you way to do something.
Right is a universal standard that isn’t universal at all. It is a mirrored gem, and you look at it into the light and it catches something different, a reflection of its surroundings. It changes by circumstance, and time, and popular opinion. You wear it on your hand, a ring, and it tangles your hair.
Right-for-you is a gem, too, but it is the one still earthed below, unpolished and raw. It is buried deep. It hasn’t yet entirely surfaced to be marked or ground down or touched by human hands. It is yours for the honing, the keeping, the sharing.
My girlfriend is working on a project that’s a right-for-her project. You can tell it’s a right-for-her project, because her hands flap wildly when she speaks of it, and there’s a certain buoyancy in each word. Her smile travels up into her eyes and bursts, and for a second, you’d think it was a right-for-you project, too.
But it’s not. It is hers. For the honing, the keeping, the sharing. A gem of a gift.
And then, another girlfriend. She’s working on a project that’s a “right” project. It is everything she should do, everything that is right, everything that makes sense. And yet, it is tangling her hair.
And I don’t know what to make of it all, because we’re taught right vs. wrong and good vs. bad and the truth is that there is all of it – right and wrong, good and bad, glorious and wretched – in all of us, and there is no simple decision that will contain one without the other.
I was raised in Christian circles as a kid, and there was no end to the discussion of a calling. We’d talk about our calling crouched down in metal chairs at church camp, in couches of the youth rec room, in wooden pews after services. We would pray about our calling, think about our calling, obsess about our calling. A calling is to say, yes, this is the job God has created me for. This is how I will serve the world, how I will shine my particular light. I will be a fill-in-the-blank. Yes, that is right.
And what I have found is that, no, this is not right. A calling isn’t a profession, a job, a career. It is, simply, character. It is not what you do, but what you are. What you treasure, what you practice, the fruits you produce.
We can be joyful as an elementary school teacher, and we can be joyful as an accountant. We can be patient as a stay-at-home mother and we can be patient as a pilot. We can share a legacy with our biological children, or with no children, or with ten adopted children, or with the 97-year-old man we visit at the nursing home twice a month. We can have faith seated in a cubicle, or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, or waiting for the test results, or vacuuming the carpet for the third time this morning.
And we can love. We can love in all of these jobs, with all of our skills, with all of our souls. We can even love the gum-crackers*, if we try really hard.
And so, right-for-you, or right, or wrong, or wrong-for-her, or right-for-him, or right-for-me and wrong-for-all, these things don’t truly matter, do they? We are free from this. We are free from the right, period. The wrong, period.
It is time for the ellipses.
Do the right thing or the right-for-you thing. Do what you love, or don’t do what you love. Just do it with love.
*Gah, the gum-crackers. I’m trying.