Life isn’t necessarily meant to be a neat and orderly affair. Sometimes you set off down one path, only to find yourself drawn to some irresistible wilderness where your true life is meant to be lived. Or you walk the straight and narrow, only to find yourself adrift and out to sea after taking the company buy-out package, getting laid off, or retiring from the job that once kept you anchored close to shore.
I’m from the off into the wilderness tribe. I was supposed to be a big law firm lawyer. Instead, I went off to pursue my dreams, a decision that would set me off on a path I could not imagine, one that ultimately led me home to my true self (which, in the end, is the only destination worth walking toward). I have friends and family members from the straight and narrow tribe and many of them have, in the end, taken a journey that, in its broad strokes at least, resembles mine. By dent of circumstance, they found themselves facing the possibility, or necessity, of reinvention, even though they’d taken fewer risks, and hewed more closely to the traditional path. There’s the friend with the MBA who took a buy-out package after fifteen years in marketing at a major consumer goods company who, after an unsatisfying stint in entertainment, and after a tremendous amount of networking and interviewing, finally landed her dream job in the branded author universe that didn’t even exist two years ago. Or my mother, who retired in her seventies only to discover that the fat lady hadn’t even begun to sing. She promptly went back to work, taking a professorship in a new town before winding her way back to the town and university where she had long lived and made her career. Or the friend of a family member of mine who was lucky enough to retire in his 50’s from a fancy job he never really loved, only to find himself so far from his original creative self that he can’t find his compass, let alone his way back home. I imagine it’s a stressful and disheartening time for him, but I also know that it’s a time of tremendous possibility — whether or not he can feel it right now.
Whenever the life we’ve known falls away (and this can happen for many reasons, personal and professional), we find ourselves in the uncomfortable place of new beginnings. The more attached we are — consciously or unconsciously — to the form of our former life, the more difficult this time will be. But if we can muster the courage, and plumb our own depths, and finally shape a vision of who we are, and who we were always meant to be, our new beginnings, whether we’ve chosen them or had them foisted upon us, can be the gateway to what I like to call “the field of grand possibility.”
The field of grand possibility is the place where we get to discover who we really are and where we get to build the lives we were born for, the lives that, in one way or another, our whole lives have prepared us for. Exhibit A: Al Gore, Jr., whose life in politics — and having the presidency (of the United States!) wrenched from his hands by, thieves — was arguably just prologue for his true calling as the Nobel Prize winning voice of the movement to stem the tide of global warming.
Here’s what you need to know about the field of grand possibility. It’s a wilderness. It’s a place where, like the hero in The Grail Legend, we must risk getting lost (something I talked about in our Inaugural Letter From The Editor), so that we can finally be found.
The thing about each of our lives is that they are one of a kind. There’s no pre-packaged life that you can step into and be fulfilled. If fulfillment is what you want, you’re going to have to work for it. Even if you pick, and are suited for, say, a conventional career, you’re still going to have to figure out exactly what that looks like for you. And if you were born to some wilder tribe, the kind that has to set out into unknown territory because setting out is in your bones, you’ll have to go that one better, and craft every corner of your life — career, family, the whole shebang — from scratch and from the inside out.
Most of us will face new beginnings in our lives. Very few of us know the purpose of our lives in our late teens or early twenties, the time we’re expected to plan and embark upon our lives. We embark anyway. What else really are we to do? The problem is, most of us stick with whatever career path we picked when we were young, long after it’s outlived it’s usefulness for us. If we’re lucky (and it’s a double-edged luck, I’ll admit), our worn out life is snatched from us so that we can begin again.
This month at Revel In It Mag, we’ll explore this theme of new beginnings by delving into the lives of a few people who’ve forged new beginnings in recent years, like the actress cum movie star Jessica Chastain, who stampeded onto the scene last year, with star making turns in film after film after film, the most notable being The Help, Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life, and indie darling Take Shelter.
We’ll also take the theme of new beginnings head on with our post “How To New Begin” and our posts on calling and ambition, which we believe are central to the enterprise of crafting the lives we were born to live.
Finally, we’ll celebrate — as we do every month — the work and lives of the people we admire, people whom, I’ve noticed, live at the intersection of authenticity and ambition, a place we should all seek to occupy, whether we’re ambitions for a grand life on the world stage, or a grand life that affects only the people in our immediate universe.
If you haven’t found your true ambition yet (the one that fills you with a sense of purpose, personal and/or professional) we hope you’ll begin looking for it this month. It’s the month of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, with the least amount of sunlight, which the ancients marked as the end of the Sun’s ebbing, and the start of the year reborn. We human beings carry the memory of the Solstice in our cellular memory. It’s a reminder that we can always begin again.
PHOTOGRAPHY via Tiny White Daisies
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.