That’s the response my husband teasingly gives me each time I claim that some new way of being in the world—a coveted role or title—will be mine forever, or, in cultural terms, that I’ve finally figured out “What I want to be when I grow up”.
When he first said this, I bristled against what sounded like a lack of faith or trust in me: Can you not see how excited I am? Why would you think this business/venture/practice/role won’t last forever?
Today, though, I fully claim “for now” as an expression that celebrates how I move through life, shapeshifting from role to role, trying new ways of being in the world, and then, when I get an itch, moving on to something new.
For my website branding, I chose the snake, as it’s a metaphor for my real-life metamorphosis and represents how I move from “skin” to “skin.”
This wayward, tourist-like path through life is just as valuable as a straight-and-narrow, “I’ve always known what I wanted to be” path. It might look confusing to outsiders, but it no longer is to me.
It’s our conditioning that tells us that we’re supposed to “be something.” It’s my soul that tells me this can change.
I see my relationship with the roles of my life as little more than short-term affairs. I no longer look to them for a long-term romance.
Yet, the question on my mind lately is: What is that thing that connects everything I’ve ever done? What’s the throughline, the common thread?
I decided to do some exploration.
Who Were We?
I’ve heard it said that if you want to know what you’re meant to do in this world, look at what you loved doing most as a child. Who were you, before the world got its hands on you and infused you with the cultural shoulds and expectations of how we show up in the world.
Did you dance? Sing? Draw? Did you love bringing people together? Organizing? Leading?
Beyond what you did, what qualities did you possess? Were you curious? Adventurous? Courageous? Studious?
How we were as children, I think, offers more of a window into where our passions and talents lie than what we did. It is these core qualities, present all the way back to our childhoods, that can point us to our joy.
We don’t even have to go all the way back to childhood, though, to gain insight into ourselves. For one thing, not all of us had idyllic childhoods where we were able to explore all the facets of who we were or could become. Many of us had to become adults far too early for all kinds of reasons.
Alternatively, we can take note of what characteristics we bring to each job or role we take on, no matter how different the work may be on the surface.
Are we the ones taking on problem-solving? Are we the idea generators? Do we enjoy communicating, collecting, or organizing? Look at the “ings” of our lives, the verbs that describe us best. Ignore the nouns.
The Thread That Connects it All
For me, after exploring these things, I see that I’ve always been a curious, engaged, and mindful communicator.
I brought these skills into my decade as a yoga teacher. They carried me through as I became an alternative health care provider. They were always there, too, when I was podcasting, or doing healing work.
And yet, the root of all of it, and what made me succeed in doing these roles, were my skills as a communicator.
Behind any role I’ve played, I’ve always been a communicator. While I enjoy teaching and presenting, my favorite way to communicate has always been writing. Whether I’ve been putting together class descriptions, newsletters, flyers, brochures, or websites, the best part of my job has always been the creative joy of communication through writing.
Now that all the modes of delivering my writing are gone, only the writing remains. It feels pure, centered, and whole, as if these roles were merely avenues that gave me opportunity and permission to write, but no longer need.
Who am I Today?
Writing feels like the core of everything that I am. It is the thread that connects the child in me to the young adult I was to the woman I am today. And, it is that something that, unlike so many of my previous “skins,” I truly do imagine doing for the rest of my life, not only “for now.” This is because there are so few dependencies to it and barriers around it.
Unlike other “skins” I’ve spent time in, writing doesn’t depend on paid clients (at least for my freelance style).
It doesn’t require special hours, and I don’t need an office (though it’s nice!)
Unlike teaching yoga, writing doesn’t require me to travel. It’s doesn’t require ongoing certifications like some of my pathways have demanded. And, like I wrote about here, writing hardly has any gatekeepers anymore, meaning that there’s always somewhere, even if it’s our own blog, where we can post writing.
The barriers to entry for freelance writing are few. If you enjoy it, there’s little reason to ever let it go. We can write no matter how old we are. We can write while quarantined. We can write without a roof over our heads.
I can now just write—no role, no container, no reason, no permission—needed.
Writing satisfies the inner child in me, who is ever curious and hungry to learn and share. It satisfies the seeker in me who needs to keep learning and have a reason to do so. It appeals to the teacher in me, as I still love to organize and offer ideas in a well-constructed way. And, it satisfies the adult in me who has been looking for the core of the apple of what brings the most joy to my life.
Who Would I Be Without Writing?
“The job of an artist is to offer a sanctuary of beauty in an ugly world.”
The arts are the life rafts and the oxygen masks of our world, especially in dire and frightening times.
Being able to write helps me process my fears. It helps me share what I’m learning with people who are equally interested. It connects me to people all across the globe and from all walks of life. It helps me be of service in some small way, and offer inspiration or beauty or power to anyone who happens to pick it up.
Unlike a yoga class, my writing will be around forever.
Unlike a session with a client, a conversation between writer and reader can live on beyond this moment. It can be repeated as often as desired, and be discovered by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Even a packed room full of yoga students cannot hope to reach as many people with our message as writing can do.
No other role or title—has ever been this powerful.
And now, I don’t know who I’d be if I could no longer write. If something happened and suddenly I couldn’t write anymore, I don’t think that’s a skin I could so easily shed. Never mind that mildly-put statement: I would lose my shit.
But it shouldn’t be a problem, because all I need are my eyes, my hands, a functional computer, and a willingness to share, right?
I think I’d be lying to myself if I thought my writer “skin” was one I could so easily slither out of. Because it’s not just a temporary role, it’s who I am.
Everything else up to this point has been merely an outer layer that needed to be peeled off so that I could get to this, my most genuine layer.
It makes sense to me now that all of my short-term affairs in my life have served one purpose and one purpose only: to get me to finally meet my mate for life: writing.