I had been doing classes for many years before I got a call from a parent hoping to dislodge one of their children from their home. Now I get them regularly. (It’s okay, the kids end up doing fine.)
These were never unloving calls. Far from kicking the kid out in anger or disappointment, the parent was concerned that they had somehow failed to help the child discover an inspiring life.
On top of that the parents were very naturally starting to feel resentful about being taken advantage of by another adult, and they did not want that feeling to grow with a child they loved.
That really is loving on the part of the parent because the issue is not really their fault. It’s actually no one’s ‘fault,’ it’s just a step in some people’s journey.
No one eats for us, no one sleeps for us, no one spiritually awakens for us, and we are the only ones that can find our calling. Our problem is that we often mistake a ‘dream job’ for ‘a calling.’ The former is about superficial success with largely no effort, but the latter is about how we can mysteriously work our butts off on things that matter to us. (Check out the video of the Japanese toymaker here for an example.)
In truth, ‘our calling’ will evolve throughout life, and even when we believe we are ‘off target,’ the perspective of age exposes that even our mistakes end up being key parts of our journey through life. We make more sense than we think we do.
Even those that feel they know what they want to do and are highly motivated are rarely actually picking a career –although that is more likely in the professions. More often we are only possibly choosing a field of work, because as we learn about any job we will tend to find things out about it that we like and don’t like, and that is likely to change the course of what we do.
Too many people want to start off inspired when it works the other way around –we find inspiration by doing. For that reason, in the end it may be that viewing any job unrealistically is really a blessing. They need to look shiny and exciting for us to pursue them, because they will all be hard in some way –hence the pay. But work is interestingly a spiritual aspect of our lives in a roundabout modern way.
Work is good for us for one simple reason: it’s the verb of us contributing to those around us. In hunter-gatherer times, we shared the food we picked or caught. Today we all have jobs and there’s a big system, but it’s really the same thing, just scaled to almost 8 billion people. Not contributing to that can eat someone up from the inside because it’s unnatural for us.
This represents the most dangerous downside for the person lodged in the figurative basement: the longer they stay there they more they will begin to ruminate on why they are not creating value within their life. And rumination is ego and that soon will turn ugly.
Creating is natural, so denying our drive to contribute places pressure on us to create an excuse. And that excuse –framed as self-talk with our ego– is either that society isn’t worth it, or we aren’t. Neither idea is healthy to dwell on.
Every ‘basement dweller’ I’ve worked with was a person with folded wings. They weren’t broken, sick, incapable or fearful. They were simply so interior –so wrapped up in their own thoughts– that they couldn’t see the world. And if we can’t see the world, we can’t find our way in. Our thoughts can prevent us from spotting our inspiration.
Whether it’s our families, our jobs, or in nature, when we’re clear-headed the world appears to us like an amazing party, filled with people we are fascinated in. Our problem shouldn’t be finding excitement within us, it should be trying to decide which spectacular thing to pursue.
Kids don’t get jobs and leave basements because they are guilted out, or angered out. Those things eventually lead to being kicked out and that’s a hard route for all parties involved. But people will happily leave their parent’s basements when they see themselves more clearly. Rumination keeps us trapped. Inspiration spreads our wings.
No one eats for us, no one sleeps for us, no one spiritually awakens for us, and we are the only ones that can find our calling.
Once people see themselves and the world without their habitual cloud of thought, they dislike the idea that they would waste their precious, limited time on Earth being static. Wasting their creativity and enthusiasm simply seems wrong to them in a profound way. And as any mature person knows, it doesn’t really matter where any person starts, it’s the starting itself that is the life skill.
I once worked with a secret musician who was living uninspired. By feeling better about herself, she felt more self respect and ended up getting a starter job on a car lot. And despite learning a lot and liking the people, the downsides of that job highly motivated her to work harder on her music.
She still has a straight job that she likes better than the car lot, but music would never would have become a part of her income if she hadn’t first recognized its value by comparing it to something worse. And music is where she met her fiance.
Therein lies the weird beneficial paradox of health. Over time and in looking back, we come to learn that even when we believe we’ve made bad choices, they inevitably take us forward.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.