I’m hardly unique in my desire to be known, to be seen, and to be remembered. I think so many of us in our teens, twenties, and maybe even into our thirties imagine these desires will best be realized if we achieve some measure of fame–if not People-magazine-cover fame, at least a level of recognition by those we see regularly, be that in our personal or professional lives.
My initial thoughts on how I would impact the world always flowed from my writing. If I could turn a phrase especially well, perhaps my writing would earn me recognition and the ability to impact the lives of others in positive ways. Maybe that would be in novels (my friend Edward continues to ask after my first book, long loosely titled Conversations with Myself), or maybe I’d write a particularly accessible explanation of how American government works (the aspiration of May/June 2016), or maybe I’d just blog myself to fame.
Earlier this week, I finally let go of these notions of achieving fame as a measure of my impact on the world.
I remember the moment it happened. I was teaching a yoga class to some coworkers, and one of them suggested I might come do a workshop in their division in the new year: “maybe as part of a self-care unit? Work-life balance? That sort of thing?”
And it clicked for me: My calling in this life isn’t to write the Great American Novel or the narrative version of my college class introducing people to the machinations of the American political system. I may still attempt to do those things, but they’re not where my strengths lie right now. Instead, I see so clearly that my immediate place in this world is to help the people who are around me right now, those who may not orbit in the same social network spheres as I do, who may not be aware that there is this fantastic, growing movement of women who are challenging the age-old norms about what women are and are not supposed to look like / act like / be like / feel like.
When I have even one single person come to a yoga class I’m teaching and leave feeling more in tune with her body, I have made a difference.
When I can show someone who’s been afraid of trying yoga for 40+ years that her body can, in fact, stretch in ways that feel nurturing and kind, I have made a difference.
When I welcome someone full of anxiety into a space that is warm, accepting, and supportive, I have made a difference.
Armed with this new mindset, I spent the balance of my week observing all the many ways I can make a difference on a daily basis. A kind remark, a warm smile, an invitation to be present … these are all gifts we give one another. They say, “I accept you. I welcome you. You are enough.”
Imagine the change we could see in this world if more people genuinely felt accepted, welcomed, and like they were enough.
For now, this is my mission: Spread the love, spread the kindness, spread the presence. The other stuff — the writing, etc. — it can come later. For now, this work is just too important. There are too many people in our bubbles who need it.
Hmm. After rereading this draft, it occurred to me that this post screams, “I’m so amazing! Tell me how awesome I am!” Haha. That’s not at all why I wrote this.
Rather, I think we each have the ability to make a huge impact on other people, one person at a time. I hope you will look for ways your presence and whole-heartedness can similar find those who need a message of love and kindness in this difficult time. If the very essence of being human is hoping to belong, to finding our tribe, to feeling accepted, we are living in an era that promotes the very opposite. We divide ourselves into groups and fight endless battles with those who identify differently. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to fight for what you believe in. Yet, when those battles obscure the humanity of our opponents, we have gone down a dark and dangerous path. We must recognize the humanity of all, to let them know that intelligent, kind, generous people can disagree and not hate one another.
Ultimately, this message of reaching out to others, one person at a time, is what animates everything I do in my life: My teaching, my yoga practice, my yoga teaching practice, and my relationships all center on how I can be present for others. When I stopped to think about what an incredible blessing it is to be that presence to those I love, I realized that no fame or fortune can replace the simple act of loving another.