I've been dispensing advice lately to 20-somethings (much to their chagrin), warning them about the frantic tempo time takes on after a certain age. We all think time goes far too fast at any age, but, I warn them, just wait! And then I launch into the topic of lost opportunities.
I've been sharing about how, over the years and along the way, we get certain nudgings which, while we tend to think of them as nonsensical fairy thoughts that got lost in the ozone and somehow re-sent back to the wrong noggin, should actually be given full attention. (Who knows from where they come~~ that's another ginormous topic in itself that I-no-touch-here.)
Looking patient but not quite sure how to sit with this, one 20-something said to me, “I can't act on every little whim my mind comes up with. I'd never do anything else.”
But let me assure, I'm not talking about every little whim. I'm talking about those themes that come up over and over. The kind where you hear yourself thinking, “Funny, someone just told me...Oh yeah, I told myself that just last spring.”
Through the years, I've been nudged to take a grant writing class. But that nudge never made sense to me. Why?, I always thought to myself. I can't see any direct or timely reason I should do that right now sooo... I think not.
I've had the thought at least 20 times in my life (that may be a conservative number) that I should study and work in film. And that is one of my big regrets in life, every single time I sit in front of the big screen and watch the credits and opening music roll. As soon as that music starts, my entire core expands, leaving me with goosebumps and I have to take a deep breath.
Less dramatic (sorry) was Non-Profit Charities. That idea~never to see the light of day.
I've been nudged many times to learn sign language. I learned the basic alphabet when I was a teenager but then didn't have a direct use for it so never went beyond that. I continued hearing the occasional nudgings though it's been many years since that particular feather tickled my brain. And again, never did anything about it.
Those are just a few examples~ but I have found too many times that, while looking through the Classified Ads, a particular job would have been open to me if I had only taken the class I was nudged to take earlier in life. A particular opportunity would have been available to me if I'd just followed the intuition that tried, over and over, to reach me. When it didn't make sense. And now, ten years or even 20 years later, it makes sense.
So my advice to these young people has been to pay attention to themes that keep coming up. When you hear that voice or feeling that urges you to learn something but you can't quite find the sense in it, do anything that furthers you on that particular path. Read a book about it. Research it. Take a class. I'm not advocating dropping everything and changing your major, your state, your entire life (unless of course that feels right). Just start in some way toward it. You may not understand it now but you very well may later. This little piece of advice could save you decades. Right now, roughly the span of your whole life.
The other evening as I was taking a break from my Critique Group, strolling through the aisles of the bookstore where we meet, I came upon a used book written by a woman whose other books had great meaning for me in my life during a difficult time. “Love and Power” by Lynn Andrews is about how to create both loving relationships and our very own personal acts of power in our life.
I picked up her book, admired the cover, took it back to my seat and held it in my lap while I perused a few pages on the break. I carried it to the counter and set it face up before the bookstore owner, handed him the money and took it back to my seat. I set it on the table in front of me while we finished our critique session and then carried it home where I proceeded to read the introduction. It sat by my bedside for days and I read a few more pages of it as I could.
Then one day, I set it on the top part of my rolltop desk which is just about eye level when seated in my chair. I looked up and there, on the front page of this book, were the scrawled words of a previous owner. “Learn Sign Language”, someone had written in dark-blue ink across the light purple cover. Plain as day. Right there, halfway below the title and the bottom of the book. But I never saw it. In all those encounters with the book, I never saw those words until weeks after buying it. It was as if someone had written them on the book while I was out to lunch.
During one of these recent conversations, I told the 20-something another thing I learned a long time ago--when feeling the need to give advice, it usually means we need to take it ourselves.
Lately, the urge for me has been to research Venice. I've been there a few times and have a few photos but now it's time to read more about the history. Luckily I know what this is about and why I need it. But where I'll be signing, I have no way of knowing, yet. But signing I will be!
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen