What Are You Supposed to Be? (Hint: There May Not Be a Word for It)

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In “The Great Work of Your Life” – a book about dharma, author Stephen Cope explains that Walt Whitman was 47 years old when he found the “true calling” he had been preparing for all his life. When I first read that, a spark of hope went through me. Until that moment, I’d thought I was hopelessly past the age at which such a thing could happen. And here’s the real surprise. Whitman’s calling was not writing; it was nursing!

It can take a lifetime.

When I read Cope’s book a few years ago, I’d begun to wonder if all the seemingly disconnected wanderings from “calling” to “calling” that I’d been through in my own life were actually leading me to something specific – something that I could call my dharma. I hoped they were and that the “something” would make clear to me why my path was so disjointed and convoluted. I wanted – and still want – to cement the connection between writing, teaching, psychology and nutrition – the disciplines I’ve studied and worked in without ever really crystalizing a specific goal. I can see that there’s a connection. I’m just not sure what to name it or whether it even has a name at all.

Don’t do what you’re not supposed to do.

Surely I’m not the only person on a path that often doesn’t seem to make sense. I’m not sure I know what I’m supposed to do. I only know what I’m not supposed to do. I usually figure that out shortly after I start doing a particular thing – like studying to be a dietitian instead of a holistic nutritionist or taking a job as a financial aid representative when I really want to be a student counselor. But I continue to hope that all of those starts and detours have happened for a reason.

This very topic came up the other day in a yoga class, of course (funny, how that works). The teacher actually said out loud (though maybe not in these exact words) that the best way to figure out what you’re supposed to do is to figure out what you’re not supposed to do. So there you have it.

I’m a writer.

I’m not a physicist (and have never even considered the possibility that I should be). I’m no longer a financial aid representative, and I now know that I’m not meant to be a clinical dietitian. What I am supposed to be is a writer.

The written word has been a part of my life (and my dharma) for a very long time. The kind of writer (and editor) I am now has been shaped by all the things I’ve done or attempted to do before – including certain types of writing. In college, I wrote fiction. Just after that, I did a lot of journal writing that in an odd, Zen-like way, I destroyed in the early 2000’s in order to detach from the stories they told. I wrote journal entries as if I was writing fiction. More recently my writing ranges from technical to creative nonfiction.

No doubt there’s a reason it took me almost 20 years to return to writing after teaching and flirting with the idea of becoming a psychologist and then a nutritionist. I’ve written a lot about psychology and nutrition (and, of course yoga) in the last ten years. And while there may not be a formal title for what I am, I’m pretty sure that, for now at least, it is what I’m supposed to be.

What about you?

Do you know what you’re supposed to be? Have you found your dharma, and if you have, does it have a name? If you’re still not sure despite years of searching, remember this (which I’m paraphrasing from a quote I saw posted on Facebook recently): It takes a seedling many years to become a mighty oak. Loosely translated: Dharma is a journey, not a destination.

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Maria Kuzmiak, M.A. is a health and well-being writer with a background in nutrition, psychology and education and a passion for yoga. She has written hundreds of articles, blogs and newsletters for clients in health-related fields, particularly those specializing in yoga, natural medicine, nutrition, and spiritual health and healing. Maria has also worked as a nutritionist, teacher and technical editor. Learn more about her writing at www.wellbeingwriter.net.

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