As I’m away from home delivering my daughter to college this weekend, I’ve decided to offer an essay I wrote years ago as a letter to both my daughters.
All worthy efforts in life require dedication. Anything that can be considered soul work, or art, or creativity, all require our attention and focus. Yet more mundane things in life require dedication too. Whether it’s household chores or a job that pays the bills, or adopting a pet, we must commit to the task.
When I was in the depths of my graduate work, and essentially miserable about it, I worked with a therapist to try to get to the roots of my unhappiness. In truth, looking back, I see that my feelings arose because I was doing the work I thought I should, rather than the work my soul called out for me to do. But at the time I couldn’t see that, and I couldn’t walk away from years of schooling and the money already spent on tuition. The therapist told me, “Some things in life require dedication and deep commitment, like raising children, but graduate school is not that kind of commitment.” She glimpsed what I didn’t, that the work wasn’t really mine, and so was harder to do.
When I decided to write every day, whether fiction, autobiography, or journal, I made a commitment to my soul’s purpose. Because my soul knew what it wanted, the emotional rewards for doing my own work were much greater that the payoff for researching and writing my thesis. So it has been much easier to stick to that commitment, though from the outside it may look like enormous dedication.
Becoming a parent is another kettle of fish entirely. There’s no backing away once you have kids. Though no one can fully prepare you for parenthood, there are things you must know. It’s a 24/7 job, at least for the early years, and sometimes even as kids get older. It’s exhausting, exhilarating, joyous, and frustrating. As your father says, it provides endless opportunities for personal growth. I believe it should only be undertaken as sacred soul work.
Dedicating one’s life and purpose to any task or work brings enormous reward. The keystone is that it feeds your soul. Though inspiration may elude you, sitting down to the task (at least metaphorically) honors the soul and allows it expression. Daily attention to soul work digs the riverbed that allows the flow of inspiration to come.
Following your heart leads you to joy. It’s not hard to dedicate yourself to that.