I am transitioning from a steady, reliable job at Atlanta Public Schools into a more fluid freelance life. There are several things that make me anxious about this choice. The main one is I am very afraid of losing all my money.
I used to have similar fears of losing my health. I kept track of every little symptom, and I tried all sorts of ways to “be well,” never feeling like I ever made it. Then, while I was taking my Feldenkais training, one of the trainers told me, “Health is not a place.”
I didn’t really understand what that meant until I heard a Fresh Air interview with Methodist Minister Huston Smith about his experiences with Zen. He relayed how his explorations of the koans had made him physically sick. When he was at his wit’s end, his roshi told him, “What is sickness? What is health? Both are distractions. Put them both aside and go forward.”
I started to get the idea that with my health I was looking for a destination that wasn’t there because I was already carrying it with me. It’s like when you can’t find your glasses because they’re on your head. It occurred to me that maybe my ideas about health were so skewed that I had made it impossible for myself to ever feel well.
So back to money.
A friend of mine just clued me into the blogs of James Altucher. He’s a blogger who’s been rich, poor, married, divorced, up and down, and writes about it. In general, his blogs terrify me for their untethered nature, but I read one thing that resonated with me at this money-insecure time in my life.
He said that he’d interviewed a lot of his heroes, many of whom were very successful. He said they all had one thing in common. They were constantly reinventing themselves.
They don’t become successful and stay that way. Once they succeed, if they try to just cruise, they often end up losing everything. Then they have to reinvent themselves anyway.
So what if getting rich and successful is not a final destination? What if you can only get rich and successful if you are free to move in every direction including being poor and a failure? I am having a hard time with that concept.
Still, I’m getting the idea that, in terms of who I am and who I want to be, there is no destination. Even if I get what I think I want, I won’t be able to stay there. So it behooves me instead to focus on the work I’m doing, even if the work is designed to move me in a particular direction of success, fame or wealth.
I always thought the goal was to become the person I had the potential to be. I don’t think that’s true anymore. I am not becoming who I am.
I am who I am becoming. What I do every day is who I get to be, and if I stop doing it, I’ll stop being it. So how do you parse all this?