Dec 12, 2009

The importance of limitlessness

I came across an article on SparkPeople today that points out something that's been a personal peeve of mine for years — since before it even applied to me, even. I've seen adults doing it since before I officially counted as one, and it bothered me as much then as now: We encourage kids' seemingly limitless potential but neglect to recognize our own. It's as if we believe that as we get closer to dying, we become narrower people. (That's a funny thing to believe simultaneously to "The older I get, the wiser I am than those kids are" alongside "Kids have innate wisdom," but humans are nothing if not contradictory ... Anyway, I digress.)

Dickinson writes in her article that one possible reason behind this self-limiting attitude is our corner-of-the-eye awareness that we have responsibilities and duties — which kids don't have yet, so they're free to dream of anything while we're shackled to reality. Sound familiar? It should, because I hear it all the time, from virtually everyone, mid-life crisis sufferers excepted: You gotta do what you gotta do. If I didn't have a wife and kids, I'd be out there following my dreams. Today the money has to go to bills; maybe tomorrow there will be some for living.

It's the creed of the modern adult, although some people manage to escape it.

And that's what ties this all in to creativity and small business. I started Star and Crossbones, I even named it for pirates and an age-old symbol of dreams-as-in-goals, as a way to remind myself that I am in control of my own destiny, that I have the potential to do anything I choose to do, that I shouldn't let myself be shackled by the weight of responsibility and duty and social or moral expectation. No, I never meant "Screw ethics and morals, I'll do what I want." A pirate can follow his own moral code; but he writes it for himself, and be damned to anyone who doesn't understand it or see it. No one else has to see it for it to be real.

That's what I've been missing for the past two years — or few years; I may even have been missing it from the moment I chose to go to the college my father wanted me to go to, the moment I chose to stay close to home rather than leap into the risky unknown (unknown except that even my father knew the far-away place was perfect for me. I wonder, if I had gotten into Yale, would he have said that, too, was too expensive?). Maybe I was even missing it before then, too; but I remember having it at some point — the feeling that I have potential and it's not just my right but my primary duty to chase that potential down. For the past few years, but especially in the two that I let myself be chained to a soul-eatingly irrational office job, I've been missing that feeling, that I can do things greater than what I'm doing now, and that in those things lies the ultimate pursuit of happiness.

I've even been missing it in the past few months, since I quit the aforementioned ill-fated office job. I left that place with the intention of seeking out and finding all the spirit I'd lost, and life has done its darnedest to throw negativity and obstacles in my way — emotional ones rather than monetary ones so far, but the dreams I'm really chasing in this return-to-self/return-to-creativity business are emotional, not financial or physical. And I've let those obstacles drag me back down into the feeling that I have to deal with my responsibilities first, even if it means once more delaying my happiness and fire-hearted dream-chasing.

What a shame and a waste! writes Dickinson.

Yes. It is a shame and waste.

And I am not, of all things, built to be either shamed or wasteful.

If we were limited to the gifts and talents we developed as children, many of us would never discover the wonderful things in store for us, Dickinson continues. During the next few weeks I challenge you to break that pattern of self-destruction.

I can't, as she suggests, use my children as inspiration; I don't have any. But I want to take her up on her challenge — I need to meet it. I need to break my own self-imposed limits. I need to explore the world again, and feel like my exploration matters for the sheer positivity that exploration embodies. And I need to start as soon as I can — no waiting for the mythical "right moment," no waiting for just a little more inspiration to hit.

So. If I go crazy, if I throw out erratic, creative, artistic, non-businesslike ideas and run around like a chicken with a paintbrush, if I disappear for weeks on end and then re-emerge with a fully-grown, certifiably gargantuan project in my hands, and ignore all my carefully-laid business plans for the sake of being me again and learning to dream again, recognize that for what it is, and maybe take a little of the crazy home to roost with you.

Because even if it's unbusinesslike, my personal creed and the force that drove me to start this business in the first place both demand that I take the time to be a little nuts — or a lot nuts. An elephant-sized mound of nuts. Because when it comes down to it, if in the end I fail — at making a living, at having a successful business, at becoming rich and famous, at being financially solvent and having a big house with a room for every craft — I'd rather fail because I was busy following my heart than fail because I was too miserably busy to listen to it.

Get this ship ready to sail; we're going a-pirating.
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