The Best Advice I've Ever Received.
Read time: 5 minutes
We were sitting outside on a Sunday night, sharing stories of the time my grandma was in the hospital for two months and nearly died. It sounds morbid, but we were just reflecting on the goodness of family, on miracles, on the people that come into your life in the worst of times.
My grandpa spoke of the woman that probably saved my grandma’s life, Dr. Bryan. She was an exceptional doctor and person, always spending time with us in the waiting room, getting to know us. My grandpa starting talking about one night in particular, when she planted herself in a chair to chat with our family.
He looked over at me. “Do you remember what she said to you?”
I knew exactly what she had said to me. I’ve thought about it often in the 11 years since she said it. My mom quotes it back to me from time to time. I wrote her words in my books of quotes that I’ve been gathering for years.
“Do something that gets you up in the morning.”
I was in college at the time. With my grandma in ICU for three weeks, I’d finish classes and take all of my homework to the hospital every night. Dr. Bryan had asked what I was studying when she began to speak these words over me.
“You’ll blink twice and you’re forty. Don’t waste a second of it. I cannot stress that enough. Do something that gets you up in the morning. Don’t try to make others happy. Don’t worry if you can live doing what you choose because if you love it, it will open up all kind of opportunities.”
I’ve never wanted what’s normal. I’m a free spirit, an artist a heart. In the years following college, I was determined to make the artist life work. I was a photographer, or at least trying to be, and I was content to work for myself, doing the unconventional thing.
For me, the 9-to-5 desk job was my worst-case scenario. I despised the thought of selling out and settling for a desk job that didn’t mean much to me. In my heart, I always fought for doing the thing you love, even if no one understood it.
Somewhere along the way, I took a part-time desk job, to make a little money on the side. It wasn’t terrible. It gave me a small steady income. When one of my coworkers’s suddenly quit, I was thrown into a role I never signed up for, one that required more of my time and attention.
I always told myself that it was temporary. I told myself that I was just going to help them out for a while, since they needed it. That steady paycheck was nice though, and I got into a rhythm, working four, and eventually 5, days a week. My side projects were still there, the photography, the writing. But one night, while editing photos at 1 am, I realized that I was running myself into the ground.
The pace wasn’t working. The pace was wearing me out. I was so tired that none of it was fun.
And somehow, I choose to keep working at that day job. I prioritized security over my passion.
I kept trying to create good art, but I think deep down I felt like a hypocrite. I’d always wrote about following your dreams. All I wanted to do was encourage people to do what they loved.
Yet I’d settled for the paycheck instead of the passion.
Maybe that’s why it’s been hard to show up in my art. Because I feel like a sellout.
The past few years have been increasingly hard. I’ve keep trying to restart the parts of my life that I’ve let fade, but nothing sticks.
I daydream about finally letting go of the day job, of somehow lassoing that wild thing that’s bucking around like a bronco inside of me and let it take me wherever it wants.
People wonder why I would ever leave, why I might hitch my life to something unpredictable. They tell me how great I am at my job. They remind me to be responsible, to think about all the important things an adult should think about.
And the only thing going through my head is, “Life is too short to do something that doesn’t get you up in the morning.”
I’ve been walking through this life like a zombie. I’ve become a robot trained to make all the right moves.
I want to wake up. I want to live fully alive and fully awake to the dreams inside of me that only I can accomplish. I don’t want to keep selling them off in exchange for a job because that’s what I feel like I should do.
I want back in the game. I don’t want this sideline living anymore.
I keep waiting. Waiting for what? The right time? The coach to finally put me in?
I keep trying to qualify myself, to convince myself and others that I’m worthy of taking a chance on my own dreams. I keep looking for permission. I want my heart and intentions to be understood. I want my pursuits to be supported.
I keep trying to remind myself of what the real me would say to any one of you, if you were to come to me in the same situation.
I imagine I'd say words very similar to the words Dr. Bryan spoke to me years ago.
Run. Go. Life is precious and time is short. Stop wasting it doing anything other than that thing that moves your core, that thing that scares you, lights you up, brings you to your knees. If you feel a little foolish, remember that you're most responsible for the potential and calling inside of you that can't be measured. Maybe it won't work out. Maybe we're not all in a place to run after wild things. But dammit, I think we have an obligation to at least try.