Photo by Rosie Hardy
Editor’s Notes: This is such a simple, elegant and inspiring article. Make sure to give this a read. You’ll be glad you did. :)
“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive and go do it.
Because what the world needs is
people who have come alive.”
~ Howard Thurman
No quote has ever had more of an impact on me than this one.
When I first read it, I was working in the accounting department of a government contractor in Virginia. I was commuting back and forth to the 3-bedroom house on ½ acre that I’d just bought and I was doing it in a sporty little Mazda 626.
I was making a respectable salary. I had parlayed my college degree into a “successful” career, and I was understandably proud of myself.
But I was not alive.
I was just one of hundreds of thousands of bean counters who sat in traffic a couple of hours a day to get to a cubicle in a maze of other cubicles to sit for another 8 to 10 hours a day trying to make numbers add up.
Weekends were all about errands and yard work and house maintenance and laundry and shopping and … well, I’m sure you know the drill. My weekend “second job” was Support Staff for the lady of the house (me) so that she could continue to make a living.
I was “making a living”–an idiom meaning that I earned enough money to support myself. I was maintaining … I was solvent … I was independent … I was staying afloat.
But I was not alive.
One night as I was walking my dog along a dirt road through the woods near my house, a little verse suddenly popped into my head:
“Once upon a time–not so very long ago–lived an ordinary woman out to change the status quo.”
I don’t know where the words came from and I didn’t know where they were going to lead. But that verse led to another, and then another.
Each little verse was like a gem in the rough that required faceting and polishing–or a worry stone that I kept in my pocket, stroking and smoothing it until it felt “right.” I had to massage the words, the syllables, and the accentuation to make each one perfect.
Those little nuggets kept me company every hour of every day for four years after that. In the end, I had 164 verses and my first book about simplicity was born. More importantly, I was born.
What I had learned from writing that book was that you can buy the physical necessities to keep your body going, but there’s nothing out there on the store shelves that will feed your soul and nurture your spirit.
Survival requires having. Being alive requires doing.
So I left the government contract job to do something I felt was more worthwhile, more valuable, more rewarding.
I coordinated a financial counseling program for a while, but I got bored with it. I worked as an assistant manager in a thrift store for a while, but I got bored with it. I even opened a successful thrift store on my own for the local SPCA – but I got bored with it.
I felt as if the things I had begun to do were more socially redeeming than counting beans, but after a short time — when most of the upfront challenges had been overcome — I would be back to just making a living.
I wanted to be alive! I wanted to pop out of bed in the morning like toast from a toaster! I wanted to look forward to every day as another exciting opportunity to bring something unique and wonderful into the world!
Ah. Something unique and wonderful.
Every human being–like every snowflake–is unique and wonderful. Every human being has a unique and wonderful combination of gifts to bring into the world. I knew I had those gifts, too.
So I persevered. I kept looking for answers, following the clues. What was my “right livelihood”?
I knew it had to do with being unique. If I didn’t count the beans, someone else could and would. If I didn’t coordinate the counselors, someone else could and would. If I didn’t manage the thrift store, someone else could and would.
I wanted to do something that no one in the world could do but me.
When all the tumblers finally fell into place, the door swung open, and there I was with the key in my hand. I had to write about simplicity in my own words from my own perspective based on my own personal experience. I suspect I’d known it deep inside for years.
So this is my success story.
Has my writing brought me fame or fortune … or even a modest income? No. But I do pop out of bed like toast! And not just in the morning, but usually several times a night when an idea will grab hold of me, or a phrase will sink its teeth into my consciousness.
I write because I have to. I write because I love to. I write because no one can write the things I write but me.
And NOW I am alive.
* What makes you come alive? Share your thoughts and wisdom with us in the comment section below.
** Do you feel stuck or uncertain of what makes you come alive? Check out Discover You Now — We guarantee it’ll help you find the answers (or your money back).
About the Author:
From Kate Carpenter: I became a simple living groupie in college when I read Living Poor with Style by Ernest Callenbach in 1972. I started writing about it in 1998. I left the rat race to do it full time in 2010. I love stripping life down to its fundamentals without any distractions or complications blurring the focus. My goal every day is to make something simpler, smaller, or more clearly understood. Life shouldn’t have to be so hard!
Related Articles on How to Come Alive:
- Discover Your Personal Values
- Dream to Reality: How I Quit My Day Job
- Life on Purpose: 15 Questions to Discover Your Personal Mission
- How to Make Dreams Come True
- Why I Write
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