"Have I fulfilled my destiny?"
Have I met the promise of what others saw in me at an early age? For many, family and teachers are the first ones to see our talent, encourage us and see who we could become in the future--for example, a fine musician, a brilliant scientist or a gifted communicator. I see that with my own son, at college for the first time this fall. My husband and I have hopes and dreams for him. We know what he is capable of and where his gifts lie. We have told him as much. Photo by Casey David.
But how many of us take the time, decades later, to assess whether we lived up to our potential?
When I was in high school, I worked hard enough as a flutist to be in top youth orchestras and bands. Sometimes, people would ask me if I wanted to be a professional musician. I knew back then that music was not my destiny. I remember two girl flutists who were destined to be professional musicians. Amy and I took lessons from the same teacher and I would hear her playing as I arrived for a lesson. She had a sureness in her playing that seemed to spring from somewhere deep inside of her. Her fingers flew over the keys, never missing a note. The other flutist, Jane, was someone I met at a music camp. Jane had an ease and grace with the flute that I had never seen in someone our age. She was meant to play the flute. Music was her first language.
I went to college thinking my destiny was to be an engineer and solve hard problems. I didn't really know what it was like to be an engineer other than it required training in math and sciences. I did become an engineer, first a chemical engineer and then a software engineer. But I know now, that was not my destiny. Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives.
How did I know that? Not because I changed careers, but because it wasn't something I would have done for free. I didn't have the curiosity or the love. It was not my purpose in life to solve hard engineering problems. I know people who are like that, but that wasn't me.
It was my destiny to fulfill my immigrant parents' dream of having all their offspring graduate from college.
It was my destiny to get married to a wonderful man and raise children who are caring and capable and creative.
It was my destiny to go through experiences that taught me compassion, from developing a painful condition in my jaw over several years called TMJ, to taking care of two toddlers on my days off while my husband worked on weekends and holidays, to being laid off twice.
Although I wasn't conscious of it for many years, it was my destiny to speak about what I see and to be the scribe for the human experience. I write what is true for me, whether it's good times or bad. In doing so, I make the human condition more accessible, and honor it. The biggest bonus life has given me is the ability to help others through my writing. Photo by Metro Centric
It has been my destiny to uncover wisdom in unexpected places. In 2006, I started a project with a friend who was dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. We called the project, which turned into a podcast, Conscious Living, Conscious Leaving. I interviewed her during the last six months of her life, through 10 hours of phone calls and many emails. That work was the purest I've done, in that it was labor of love. I couldn't not do it.
It has been my destiny to continually find ways to learn what I wanted to know and in the process, create a structure for others to learn. In high school, I rallied fellow student council members around a mission--convincing administrators to set aside three days before spring break for an alternative schedule of classes for every single student and then making it happen. All 1600 students had four periods of new classes, taught by volunteer instructors. It was a student run, student organized effort called Unique Week. Students took classes in topics as diverse as CPR, cake decorating, fencing, and unicycling and took field trips to local businesses. Photo by matthewcornell
When I was going through coaching training, I created The Coaching Studio, a forum to hone my coaching skills and educate the public on coaching. The format consisted of three coaches, doing 12-minute coaching demonstrations with volunteers, followed by feedback from an audience. Over time, The Coaching Studio spread to coaches across the U.S.
I'm not sure I was destined to teach others how to network but it has been my destiny to show others how giving first comes back to you many times over.
It has been my destiny to become more of who I am throughout my lifetime. Not just an analytical engineer, but also an intuitive coach, a compassionate interviewer, a creative entrepreneur, a playful collaborator.
If I were to ask my teachers, childhood friends and family if I've lived up to the promise that they saw in me decades ago, my hope is that they would be surprised. I have not climbed to great heights in society. What I did do was this: I took my gifts and did something more meaningful and unique than they had ever imagined. One's destiny is much deeper and more magical than what can be grasped at the beginning of the journey. That is what awaits each of us.
"It is very easy to forget our divine origins. It is very easy to see ourselves as the products of our birth families, shaped and colored only by those transactions. We are much larger than that. We are each a soul, unique and distinctive, bringing to bear on life a rich legacy of spiritual gifts if we but open ourselves to the possibility that we are not merely the products of our conditioning. We are spiritual beings with spiritual business to transact here on this earth. We have a destiny to fulfill."
Maybe the question to reflect on is not whether I've fulfilled my destiny, but how I am fulfilling my destiny. Instead of a yes or no declared through the logical mind, the heart is better equipped to answer this new question. It's a feeling thing, not a thinking thing.
How are you fulfilling your destiny? I'd love to hear from you.