“Follow your bliss.”
All great quotes follow a similar life cycle. They originate from the lips of exceptionally gifted leaders from long ago, but the significance of the words wanes over time, as they begin to feel like overused catchphrases–exploited, out of context, and relegated to the social media channels of fast ‘n easy cliches.
Millennials were sold an idea that we can change the world and find meaning in the process. We were told we should be passionate about what we do for a living. And we totally bought into it, ready to make a difference in our communities. Unfortunately, many of us have become disillusioned with student loan debt and under-paying jobs that make us feel like cogs in a wheel. The passion dissipated quickly.
I read a tech entrepreneurial book last year that singled out “follow your bliss” as poor advice for choosing a business idea. In the opinion of the author (who I presume doesn’t know the origin of this phrase), you should only pursue ideas which will bring immense wealth.
And I get it.
If you’re gonna invest the time, energy, and money into starting a business, it better be profitable.
I don’t wish to further fuel the idea that one must find fulfillment through their job. Do I believe it’s possible? Absolutely. People are doing it right fucking now. Will I pretend it’s the most important factor in choosing a career? Nope. Having working in higher education for over 7 years, what I really want to tell those college students is: go for a blue collar job! The training is cheaper, the programs are shorter, and you’ll make real money! And then, you can go pursue your honest passion elsewhere.
Higher ed nearly drained the chase-your-dreams worldview right outta me. Almost.
I chose International Studies and Japanese for my concentration in college. I pursued what interested me at the young age of 18. I developed into a well-rounded woman, living abroad, navigating unfamiliar places, learning to live on my own, and think for myself. Coming from a fundamentalist Christian upbringing that made me feel a lot of shame over my instincts and true nature, I found a way to free myself. Wanting to support other students on their own journey of studying abroad and developing key life skills, I did my part in helping hundreds of students travel all over the world. I have so much love for them and their passion for doing good in the world. I believe in them. But for many, many reasons, this work has stopped serving my greater needs and desires.
“What you are living is but a fractional inkling of what is really within you, what gives you life, breadth, and depth.”Joseph Campbell
A very spiritual man, Joseph Campbell believed our purpose is to experience life now on this earth, not in some afterlife. He taught me that “eternal” is a very misunderstood concept that actually refers to the now. After finishing university right as the U.S. entered the Great Depression and jobs disappeared, he discovered an opportunity to follow his own bliss, despite the circumstances. He stumbled upon the concept of bliss through the Sanskrit idea of ananda, which had a profound influence on him and his legacy.
I can’t help but find a parallel between Campbell’s experience of bliss—in a less than perfect setting—with my own life.
Here I am in the last week of my salaried university job with a 401(k) and health insurance. A career I earned a masters degree for that came with a student loan balance that never seems to budge. But somewhere between the soul-sucking burnout of 2019 and an injury from overworking in 2021, I outgrew this profession. It is simply no longer congruent with what I want in life. My body and my nervous system were sending me clear messages for a long time that I cannot muscle through desk work for eight hours a day anymore. Spiritually, mentally, physically, my career was out of alignment with what I needed and wanted.
So I gave notice last month.
As exciting as it is (WHICH IT FUCKING IS), I immediately knew that many other life changes would be necessary as I transition to the next big thing. Foregoing the income, it would no longer be feasible for me to stay in central coast California, one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. So I moved away to a small, quaint, conservative town in Northern California. I left behind my pole dancing community, my friends, and every nook and cranny that I loved so dearly in that magical ocean-meets-forest town that changed my life over the past five years.
Next week I will not have a job. I’ll take my dusty resume with service industry experience from 10+ years ago to go find a minimum wage job to pay the bills while I pursue my dream.
It already feels like bliss.
I will happily pour beer for thirsty customers and take my cash tips home to put into a jar.
Why? Because we’re plagued with endless “should” and “have to” messages from the outside world. No wonder we feel miserable half our lives because we worry we’re not doing what we’re supposed to. The conditioning has made us blind to what it is that we really want in this one and only marvelous life. I’m giving a big f-you to conventional wisdom.
I believe in pleasure. I believe in bliss. I believe in the power of my juicy, divine feminine. I believe in my feminine intuition that got me here. I believe in what this chaos has to teach me.