I’ve been on a terrible night schedule as of late. Not long ago I caught a glimpse of a bumper sticker that read “My Sleep Schedule is Fu****” of course it wasn’t censored, but you get the idea, that sticker really resonated with my current situation. I sit wide awake at 3 AM emailing clients, some that share my owl-like schedule actually email back right away, which kind of frightens me more than the thought of doing work that late at night.
Always one to try to pull some good out of the odd, bad, and strange in life, I started to look at what’s good about staying up really late. For one it’s quiet, though I live on a quiet street to begin with, which makes the late night so quiet I can almost hear that portly old squirrel stretching out on a branch in my backyard, or that pesky ladybug as it summits my glass-enclosed porch door, and kicks it’s six legs up to relax atop the metal frame.
When not focused on the bustling nature preserve that is my back yard, I start to listen in to questions that feel appropriate for the time of night. Why do I carry a cell phone when I hardly get any calls? Or how being 31 feels better than being 11, but not as good as 21, why is that? Or how I used to think I’d get my PhD and spend my days encouraging young dreamers not to stop, instead of helping businesses improve their bottom line with ninja-like internet marketing tactics, what happened? My pondering often leads to more serious thoughts, like how those tornadoes just devastated a community in Alabama not so different than my own in Columbia. What if it had hit Columbia, what if I died in that tornado? Am I called to do more with my life? Is that permissible?
The thoughts one has when it comes to deeper meaning and life’s calling are, what I like to title them as, 9/11 moments. A lot of people will tell you, especially in the NY/NJ area that after 9/11 their priorities shifted. The tragedy was so massive, that even in a city as populous as New York, its ripples could be felt by nearly everyone that lived there. If someone we know wasn’t killed in the attack, we certainly knew someone that knew someone that was. Having a 9/11 moment is like that great reality check, what are we called to do, let’s answer this now, because life is not eternal on this earth, our time is short. A lot of people doing all sorts of things will tell you they decided to take the plunge after 9/11, because it just seemed like they had to do it, because they didn’t know if they had time to wait anymore.
I’m not advocating for you to quit your job or school tomorrow and go to India to save goats from slaughter, rather, I wonder if there is a balance, a way to listen to that little voice, while still staying true to the duties that life so blatantly requires of us. Can we do something special and fulfilling, and still work our job at the UPS store packaging people’s crap for storage and eBay deals? Can we still rock as an employee and at the same time become the boss of our own lives, delving into a sense of greater good, and thus the fulfillment that follows?
What does your little voice say to you when all the noise of life calms? If you were in a vaccumous state, say standing in a room alone with nothing to distract you, what is that little voice inside urging you to do, and why aren’t you listening to it? If life as you know it really isn’t here forever, what are you waiting for?
The above operates on the assumption that doing good feels good. If you don’t yet buy into such a conclusion, volunteer at your local pet shelter, or homeless facility, or take a few calls from domestic violence victims, give it everything you have and take note as to how you feel after. As someone that volunteers on occasion, I personally believe it’s the most rewarding, endearing, heaven-on-earth like feeling humans can have. But hey, maybe that’s just me.
We choose to accept mediocrity not out of fear or regret, but often out of the societal norms that tell us to just keep plugging along. The shows, movies, songs, and everything else that is our popular culture tells us to maintain the status quo, for that is acceptable. Being unacceptable creates unease, raises eyebrows, and can be polarizing. Understanding the above will ensure an easier transition, than trying to accommodate a self-interested material culture with your actions.
Greatness arises from personal conviction, that when tested, stands firm. I challenge myself, and you too, us all, to have that conviction not just when things are going great, but when they aren’t. To have the ability to do more with our lives, even when life, culture, and our world is so evidently ambiguous to such effort. Our time is now.