I’ve been in a contemplation for a few weeks now around the question, “What is going to be my greatest contribution?” Big one, huh? You could say this has been the question of my life. I sat in trees as a teenager weeping for the world (and my narcissistic teenage self, of course). My twenties were filled with opportunity taking and experience analysis. And now, here I am approaching my thirties, back to the root of it all. What am I going to do that is meaningful? What am I going to use my life for that will live up to the highest truths I know? These are big, profound, deep questions. They are tough; they evoke seriousness, and they ground me. To me, these questions are practical and necessary. I often have this vision of me chillin on my deathbed, and the feeling of dissatisfaction and unmet potential vibrates within my very much alive body. I wholeheartedly want to take my last breath knowing I gave it all, that I never held back.
So, on my quest to discovering the answer to this profound question, I found my mind on it’s typical path to discovery. It began shooting darts. Maybe I should dedicate myself to working with young girls and speaking at high schools and universities. Oh wait, I should design that new textbook I have an outline mocked up for. But, what about that documentary? Plus, I have a vision for Pushing Beauty that hasn’t manifested yet. Ideas are not the problem for me. They are limitless, exciting, and, sometimes, overwhelming.
Ideas and passion aren’t the problem, and they aren’t the answer. What I’ve realized is that the answer to my deepest calling isn’t a thing. It’s not an action step. It’s not a project I need to do or a business I need to create. That’s a given. That’s who I am, a creator. So, at the root of this comes the simple realization:
The greatest contribution I can give the world is to be me.
This will land on ears very differently, so hear me out. Once you start breaking down the ego things get very subtle. Obviousness begins to dissolve. Black and white fade into gray. Earlier this year I realized that I was essentially chasing an image of myself. Holy shit was that a shocker. Truly. It blew my mind in the coolest way imaginable because I realized that we can only use tools to understand ourselves to a certain point. So, I’m not going to give you any tools for this part because I don’t think there are any. I will tell you where I’m at and how I’ve gotten here. But, they aren’t really things you can actively do. You can’t try yourself into them. You can’t pretend. You have to recognize you are a process, and you have to be willing to see everything for what it really is. You have to want to see the truth, whatever it may be.
To know yourself means letting go of ideas.
It means being humble.
It means truly being humble.
It means realizing that we think we are things, good and bad, that we are not.
It means realizing that we are things, good and bad, that we don’t realize.
It means being willing to see those things in ourselves, good and bad.
These aren’t tools. You can’t humble yourself. Life humbles you. It makes you say, “Oh shit.” It leaves you speechless. It reminds you of what truly is. You can embody humility, but you can’t use a chainsaw to get there. You can’t force yourself to let go. It’s not as simple as jumping into oceans, speaking in front of people, ecstatic dancing, or screaming at the top of your lungs on a mountain. Those things are liberating, stimulating, and exciting. But, what I’m pointing to is subtle, subtle, and subltler. To face the truth of yourself doesn’t mean that you can throw on some armor and be ready for it. It’s something you can’t really grasp. It’s something intangible. It’s a willingness, a readiness, somewhere deep down that is just a part of who you are. It’s awakening to yourself, embracing, and accepting yourself. Not the image of yourself, not who you think you are, but who you actually are.
So, to be me means that I’m going to do something meaningful. It means that the projects I work on, the things I choose to do, those things will be a reflection of who I am. If I pursue anything from an unstable foundation, from an image of myself instead of from who I authentically am, those things won’t be full of me. They will be contrived. They will leave me unfulfilled, unsatisfied in a deep way. I realize that I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need to know exactly what it is I am going to do because that definition will create limitations. I know this might sound like a contradiction because we also need to name things in order to begin them. Yet, at this point in my life I’m realizing paradoxes are ubiquitous. Opposites are all around us. The good and bad. It’s all beauty. It’s all got to be embraced.
So, to know who I am means that each thing I choose to do in life will be a reflection of that. I’ve always felt that there’s not one thing I’m going to do in this life, but many. And those many things all need to be from me, the real me. There’s something so deep in me that needs to come out. It’s always been there; I’ve always felt it. And it’s not going anywhere. I know that. So, I think the greatest contribution I can give this world is to know myself and to be myself. If I do that I can’t ever let myself down.
Photo Credit: Laria Saunders