Saturday, August 7, 2010

Living the life you like

"you can like the life you're livin' - you can live the life you like- you can even marry Harry and mess around with Ike" -Chicago

or something like that...

The lady in front of me shouts in delight for the taxi driver to turn up the music. She really likes the song, and is rockin' to the beats. She lifts her hands, bobs her head, clearly unconcerned what the rest of us passengers might be thinking. How unrepressed, how liberating, to witness such freedom of spirit!

To live the life you want takes a lot of courage. From a Western perspective, a person who is a product of social and educational systems designed for conformity and oppression, doing things out of the ordinary seems out of reach, or a goal to accomplish "someday," after going to college, finding a job and filling your mortgaged home with stuff, as the systems demand. It is amazing the repressive tone our culture takes on when compared to southern African culture, whether urban or rural. They encourage free expression where we stare and feel embarrassed if we see it out of context- at a music concert, for example, would be an appropriate place for expressing unabashed pleasure.

"Freedom from stuff" as a topic alone could fill pages; how fulfilling it is to have little, less to clean, less to move, and less to worry about people stealing. What I really want to talk about, though, is discovering my passions and purpose. I finally think I've done it.

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed art: drawing, painting, colors, shapes, light, both looking at and making it. Nature and I have always been close. I remember loving natural sciences and going to the zoo as a girl, and even entertained the idea of making a career as a marine biologist- that is, until I enrolled in my first biology course and quickly realized microsciences were not for me. Inheriting my mother's green thumb and joy for cultivating the earth, I guess I would consider myself more of a "naturalist" than a "scientist." In recent years, as an adult, I've developed a passion for food and cooking. Healthy, minimally processed, simple and delicious is the kind I love. There also exists my love for reading, quest for knowledge and understanding, and the career in library sciences. All these passions, so little time I have to pursue them; this was my dilemma before joining the Peace Corps.

The million dollar answer for the question, why did you not want to go job hunting after earning the masters' degree? is because information science is not msole passion. I do not desire to work in any library, no matter how great, for 40 hours of every precious week of my life. I have worked in kitchens, bakeries and restaurants and don't particularly want to do that again, either. Not all the time. I don't want to paint all the time either and try to earn my living selling my artwork. So, because I didn't know what to do, joining the Peace Corps seemed like a good idea. It was a vehicle to allow me the time to figure all this out; bide some time, let me travel, meet new people, challenge me in new ways. Little did I know that this experience would lead to me discovering my true purpose.

Amid the sea of self-help books about purpose, habits, missions and the like, this one washed up on my shore last week. I checked it out from the Kuruman public library after searching for books about business. I have been helping the youth in my village with their business ideas and was also considering learning more for my benefit. This little gem is called Authentic Business (2005), all about the integrity of purpose and passion you must have within your business. Not just acting ethically or how to write a business plan, but the author offers a paradigmatic shift when examining the discipline of businesses. The author, Neil Crofts, had dyslexia and never learned to write for content until after he left high school, which is amazing because he is a great writer. The book reminds me of another inspiring book I read called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, talking about overcoming your creative battles. The similarities are that both authors have their priorities in line with ethically sound, humanitarian, sensible but profound ideas. Profit is not an authentic motivator for neither art nor business. Somewhat surprising to see printed in black and white on the page in front of me, but quite refreshing, nonetheless. One passage in particular had (has) me grinning from ear to ear, ready to shout with joy: (pp 29-30)

"What is your non-negotiable dream? So precious that, so far, you have told no one for fear of it being compromised. What is the purpose to which you would commit body and soul if only you were allowed? What is your purpose that is profound for you and positive for life on Earth?

Say it.

Write it down.

Discuss it with people. If your regular friends won't discuss it with you, find other friends to discuss it with you."

He has simply articulated, or more aptly, abstracted, what I have been unconsciously doing during the last year; asking and mulling over these questions. After one year of "new"s: continent, languages, places, faces, names, goals and dreams, I am ready to answer these questions!
When I am honest, as I must be, I do not want what I thought I did even 2 months ago, 6 months, or twelve. My life looks very different. I am excited to see where it leads.


  1. Hi Jenneffer,

    Such a great post! Hope you don't mind me sharing it with our incoming students to remind them it's really about *their* dreams, not mine!

    Doc Martens

  2. Sure thing, doc martens! On a side note, i am pleasently surprised that you still read my blog :-)

  3. your posts are delightful morsels J6! i know i didn't have anything to do with your decision to go to PC, but somehow, i get so much satisfaction & feel so much pride, to read of your experience. i feel like i knew all along that you would be the quintessential PCV. i am overwhelmingly happy that you have embraced this one-of-a-kind adventure & are squeezing all the juicy-ness out of it. you are awesome. i love you.

  4. I am interested to hear more ;)