I get it. I get the feelings of emptiness, the feeling of pointlessness, even the hell of having given it your all and failed.
I get the unhappiness, the self-recrimination, the fear, the frustration, the confusion, and the sick irony that you know you would be amazing if the world made even just a little sense.
Because it’s not that you don’t have ambitions, goals, and dreams; those dreams just haven’t fit into the slots and boxes of old systems and preconceived notions.
You don’t even consider yourself a maverick in any kind of way. What kind of narcissistic fool actively thinks of themselves as a maverick? But, well, the world attaches a lot of silly stuff to ambitions, goals, and dreams.
You’re supposed to be type-A go-getter material! On the job, on the climb, networking, branching and leaning in and synergizing and earning plaudits before eventually winding up on the lecture circuit telling others in your field how they, too, can follow your path.
You’re supposed to reach for the moon, grab it, sell condos on it, then off to Venus for the next round of real estate.
But what if your ambition is simply to live? And by live, I mean experience each moment by being inside each moment, not with an eye for future benefits.
My guess is you’ve heard a variation of the “If he’d only apply himself, he could be a star” speech of concern from family and friends, which assumes that money and stature are your goals.
And because you’re not seeking those out, you’re circling the slow drain of impending failure, yes?
Listen to me now and hear me later: if you’re able to live without being a financial or emotional burden on others, you’re already doing something right. Hell, that counts as a huge win in a world which seems intent on grinding 99% of us into usable dust.
On the outside, it might look like you’ve given up, but on the inside there’s a full-on war. Your mental forces would put Legolas at the battle of Helms Deep to shame.
And don’t act like you haven’t seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Samwise’s speech to the battered and exhausted Frodo has kept you going many a night:
It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
What looks like no ambition, goals, or dreams to the outside world is a battle to assert and hold on to your place in it.
So don’t give up.
Please don’t give up.
Ambition. Ambition has to come from inside you. It’s not poured into you, it’s not taught by a wise elder. It’s the answer to the question: What are you doing with life itself today?
Only Y-O-U make the effort to bridge the answer to that question outward. If you’ve momentarily forgotten that effort, let me ask this: What do you enjoy? Not just what do you enjoy doing, what do you enjoy, period?
Because whatever that is, it means you want to see more of that in the world. You want people to enjoy it just as much as you.
Somehow, what is inside you has to connect with that increase to make it out into the world.
The cliché is “sharing is caring,” but you do, you freaking care. You want to give people the moon, not for condos, but for the best walk of their lives.
The best ambition in the world is to somehow want to present the world to others in better shape than most find it.
Do you see now that your ambitions are about as awesome as awesome can get? Ennui is temporary; passion, that deep, soul passion, is not.
Some part of you wants to bring about that shared awesomeness. How do we do this? Surefire way: fuse that feeling that you’re gonna burst to an adaptive and flowing plan of action.
Goals are attainable. Don’t let anyone tell you they aren’t. Don’t buy into the noise of hardship, disappointment, and failure.
The noise is hypnotic; it mires you to stopping points and unfocuses your eyes. The noise is an active deterrent; hardship, disappointment, and failure, however, are not.
There is no way to escape hardship, disappointment, and failure. No running from them. Not for anyone. No matter how well you’ve stretched, how tightly you’ve tied your shoelaces, and how well you know the landscape, you’ll trip.
So how about another cliché? Do you get up?
And after you get up, do you keep going or do you shuffle off to the side so that other runners can get by?
Do you feel foolish for ever having thought you could run?
Doubts. We all have a few. A lot. Guess what? I’m doubting myself right now. I don’t know that I have the tools, know how, or depth of compassion to reach you… but I won’t stop trying. I haven’t given up on trying.
I suspect neither have you. People looking at you might think you’ve given up, but they don’t see the wheels turning a thousand miles a minute in your head, trying to figure a way out of a maze of external expectations.
Maybe they’ve forgotten how much it hurts to fall while running, and forgotten that healing takes some time. Maybe they need a reminder that nothing’s over till it’s over. Maybe they need a hundred different comfortable clichés to use as elbow and knee pads next time out.
Maybe you do too.
Or maybe you want to think about who you are, where you want to be, and how to get there. It’s not impossible to do either one of those. You think about it every night. It’s called dreaming. When they say “We have a dream,” it’s just projecting our lives onto a bigger screen.
Basically: Who you gonna be, where you gonna be, and out of all those chances you’ve had to turn back, are you gonna hold on to one and say, “This is now me”?
A Hobbit sitting on the side of the road?
I think not.
That’s not you.
Not when you know there’s a magic inside you.
Not when you know you’re a warrior.
Not when you know you have the potential to quest for things barely dreamed of.
Not when you know that if you’re smart enough to rest, you can run any distance ever thought of, and that if you’re honest enough to know that you’re hurting, you take the necessary actions to heal.
Samwise didn’t give that speech to Frodo because he had some keen interest in danger and long, arduous journeys. His eyes were on the goal after the danger: home.
“Home” is wherever your sense of possibility and creation waits for you to settle down and dream.
So the question you have to ask yourself is, where do you live?