“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.”
What is your favorite feeling in the world?
Perhaps it’s the butterfly flutters of a fresh romance, those skipped heartbeats that come standard issue with a hopeful, sky’s-the-limit new love.
Or maybe it’s simple, quiet security. The comfort found in a safe home, knowing your needs are met, that your family is there for you and your life is just…stable.
Maybe you live for adrenaline-pumping thrills and have never felt more alive than when you’re risking your safety and giving your parents near heart attacks as you catapult out of a plane or volunteer in the Middle East.
Your favorite feeling could be wonder. It’s the reason people stop to watch sunsets, flock to the ocean, or lie under the stars. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that this life, and this world….are so much vaster than our own.
Freedom. Adventure. Devotion. Connection. Compassion. Pay attention to the feelings that make you come alive – they’re trying to tell you something.
I’ve known for years that MY favorite feeling – better than any drug or high or great romance or crazy adventure – is to feel truly, madly inspired.
I can single out a number of precise moments in my life that left me floored with this feeling. It has nothing to do with being practical or logical or having a plan – following your passion is about knowing that you can’t not respond to how something makes you feel.
Movies like The Blind Side and Precious have left me deeply moved, determined to walk through life with my eyes open to people who need help, compassion, encouragement, love… They haven’t led me to adopt a child or become a teacher, but my heart is more open to the endless ways each of us has the ability to help others, thanks to their stories.
There have been books I’ve read that have shaken and stirred me, that have engulfed me in their worlds so deeply I never wanted to emerge. These books make me want live a fuller, more aware life.
Now let’s talk about a feeling that we’re taught is bad, but can actually be good… to an extent.
I can’t remember what I was reading recently – it might have been The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown – but it spoke about jealousy not always being necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it can lead to bitterness and be destructive if allowed to fester, but the mere acknowledgement of our own envy, can actually be quite instructive in telling us something about ourselves and what we want (or want more of) in life.
I know what some of these moments have been for me.
There was a Christmas, maybe three or four years ago, where I distinctly recall standing in my parents’ kitchen, watching my sister-in-law tend to her daughter (my niece, and the first baby in my side of the family). It was a moment most would have observed as nothing more than mundane – walking to the kitchen sink with a baby on her hip or something like that. But I was so envious that she got to spend her days with this baby – that that was her life’s work. It wasn’t an “I hate you” jealousy at all (as toxic jealousy can become…) – it was an admirable, awestruck, “I hope that’s me someday” envy.
And today, after years of hoping and dreaming and planning – it is me! Imagine that! I would never change my decision to stay home full time with Anderson… maybe my division of time will morph over the years, but I will forever be imprinted by this season of staying home with him. That envy was telling me of a deep desire, and I didn’t ignore it – I’m living that desire today.
My latest subject of envy is the author Jojo Moyes, because I am still so freshly enamored by her profoundly moving book, Me Before You (I can’t even begin to do justice to a plot here – you simply have to experience it). Reading that book captured me in so many ways. As a reader (I devoured that book faster than I’ve gotten through a novel in recent memory. I felt like I was living in the same world – in the same home – as these characters). As a writer (I furiously scribbled pages of journal notes on insights gleamed from how Jojo Moyes structured this story and the writing tricks she employed that made it “work”). As a human (this story moved me to ponder love and life and death and so many possibilities in between…it was a reminder we only have one life…are we living safely in our comfort zone, or truly taking flight?).
So I envy her, because what I most want to do, outside of being a wife and a mother and a homemaker and a friend, is I want to write. It is what makes me feel most alive, and what makes me feel like I might have something to offer to the world, to myself, to my dreams.
I envy that this woman – this unbelievable story teller – gets to have a family, and also gets to make her living from writing books that change people’s lives and ways of thinking. I’m jealous that her husband brings her coffee and her laptop, and she begins to write, blurry-eyed, each morning from bed. Because it’s what she loves, she makes it a priority. And because her husband loves her, he does, too.
And now her book is selling millions of copies worldwide and being made into a movie.
As Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s father taught him to say, “Why not me?”
Why not Jojo Moyes? Why not Jodi Picoult? Why not me?
Within hours of finishing Me Before You, I wrote to Jojo Moyes. It went like this:
I’m sure you get thousands of emails and don’t expect a reply.. but I just finished Me Before You last night, and I don’t have the words to express how deeply it impacted me. I basically cried in the fetal position and couldn’t talk to anyone after it ended. I will treasure that story forever. (I think it has officially de-throned my previous favorite book of all time.)You are an amazingly gifted writer. If I could ever write something that touched others the way your book touched me, my life would be complete. Keep doing what you’re doing – you are a gift.
And then she wrote me back. It went like this:
Thank you for your email and your kind words.
I am so glad you enjoyed Me Before You as much as you did and I hope if you read any of my other books, you enjoy those too.
With all best wishes,
So that was cool. And a reminder that she’s just a person – a brilliant, busy, professional writer person – but still just a person who writes in pajamas and responds to emails. So why shouldn’t she respond to me? Why not me?
So I want to write more.
I can’t say I don’t feel the least bit self-conscious by proclaiming my desire to write. Honestly, it feels like a luxury to be able to have a lifestyle and a space and a schedule and a husband that allows for me (encourages me! He would even bring me coffee!) to do that. I get that, and I am really, truly grateful. I am not entitled, but I’m also not apologetic, because more people need to do these things when they get the chance. Agreed?
Because I believe that if you have the chance to go for your dreams, you should. And how can I raise my child to believe that, if I don’t first believe that about myself?
So I will write. It may take me a few months, or a few years, or (hopefully not) a few decades, but one day you just might see my name on a shelf in a store.
Because really, why not? Why not me? Why not you? What makes you feel so inspired, so alive, so driven, that you can’t stand to merely sit in the feeling of it and not do something about it?
Go after your favorite feeling. Turn it into your reality. Because no one else will do it for you, and what the world needs most is people who have come alive.