JK Rowling and the power of imagination

I’ve realized something as of late. I’m not who I thought I was.

I’ve always self-identified as ‘someone who cared.’ Someone who meant to do decent things in the world, and as such, I got jobs that loosely fit that description. I’ve worked, for the last 10 years, at organizations I thought did “good” things in the world, and, while I never really found the perfect fit, I felt assured that I wasn’t having a negative impact on the world in general.

But in all my time at these places, I was never sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Or, more exactly – maybe I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, but it wasn’t really what I was meant to be doing.

Because in the end, I think maybe I’m not quite the person I’ve always thought I was (or felt I should be). I think I’ve been acting as Person A, when quite possibly, I’m Person B — Or maybe I’m person AB. Let me explain:

Let’s say “A” is this: a person who cares about the world and wants to do something to make it slightly better than they found it.

And, let’s say “B” is this: a person who is creative, fiercely independent, and determined to live a life of passion and joy.

I believe, for a long time, I’ve been primarily trying to act as Person A — when maybe I’m more of Person B. Or maybe I’m both (again, I’m experiencing an early-life crisis here) — But while I’ve acted primarily as Person A, person B has been growing restless and agitated, until they exploded into a fit of job-quitting and plane-ticket buying.

Because lately, I’ve began to wonder if I might not be ultimately more productive as a person if I allow myself to be both “A” and “B…” Because by solely being “A,” out of a conflicted sense of what’s right and what I ‘should’ do, I failed, a bit, at being such. My heart has only partly been in A’s court these last 10 years.

What if Joseph Campbell was right when he said to “follow our bliss?” What if he was right when he said that we as humans are most successful in the world when we follow that which truly speaks to us, that which calls to us at the very deepest reaches of our hearts?

I don’t know the answer yet – but I know the only way to find out is to try, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I recently watched JK Rowling’s Harvard Commencement speech, where she talks about failure and imagination. It’s a brilliant, moving speech — one that encourages us to try, to fail, and to be honest with ourselves about who we really are:

If you don’t get through it, I believe one of the most compelling statements in the speech is this: “It is impossible to live without failing at something.”

Maybe this is my chance for spectacular failure – or maybe, just maybe, it’s my chance at doing something truly great – at finding the medium between the different parts of myself, parts A and B, and figuring out how to operate well and decently in this world while being both of these things. So here’s to trying, to potentially failing, and to being better for it.

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