The Pearl, vol. 62: No need to be somebody

Dear Oysters, 

This is the first-ever edition of The Pearl sent from my new home of Washington, D.C. 

Did I even mention this move in one of my few-and-far-between letters this summer?! I was probably waxing poetic about our wedding instead. Welp, let me back up a little bit here: in June, Susan won an audition and became the Associate Librarian of the National Symphony Orchestra. We moved just before Labor Day, and for two weeks now, she's been working at the Kennedy Center. I gotta say, it's a pretty sweet feeling to watch your partner go to her dream job each morning. We even bought a new couch, whose corners we are currently protecting with aluminum foil so Namine doesn't scratch them to hell.
 


Moving, despite all its challenges and stresses, offers the gift of a fresh start. I've landed in a new city, with an opportunity to reshape my life. The delightful and bittersweet fact is that I'm not 23 anymore, as I was when I moved to Chicago and hurled myself at the dual mission of (a) paying my bills and (b) taking the world by storm. I've got eight years of self-knowledge and experience under my belt. I've seen death and divorce, therapists and meditation teachers, success and failure.

So what will be my next quest? Perhaps it will be to give up on "being somebody."

Let me explain. In August, I was fortunate to attend my third meditation retreat at IMS, and one of the things the teachers kept saying there was that external conditions cannot make you happy. Only internal conditions—mind, heart, attitude, understanding—can. They always say this. It's is a fundamental teaching of Buddhism, and while it seems intuitive, it also flies in the face of much of our cultural conditioning. I kept sitting on my meditation cushion going: But what about work? But what about work?! Isn't work the life-or-death question that will determine my happiness!?!  

My blind spot was showing.

So, even as I plunge into the vulnerability of meeting new people, and taking auditions, and networking, and trying new things, and teaching new students, I vow to remember that my work does not define me. I vow to try to relax and lighten up around the whole career thing. Instead of building my career here anxiously—driven by the fear of "getting left behind," being a "nobody" or a "failure"—I will try to remember that I am whole, worthy, and lovable without a single further career achievement. 

Because our culture constantly demands that we do something, that we become somebody, it takes courage to rest in the understanding that we already are enough. My sense is that the work we do from this place of wholeness is not a scramble to save ourselves, redeem ourselves, fix or prove ourselves. Rather, this kind of work is a natural expression of our creativity and our desire to serve. We reach as far as we can reach, knowing that we are already where we need to be. 

Sending a big hug.

Stay salty,
Ellen

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