Not long after I gave up a career in journalism in my 30s, I looked back and realized I had made very few close friends in the newsroom. The only real friends I made came at the very end of my career, and most of these were people who were giving up journalism just as I was.
After my journalism career, like many people, I wasn’t sure what my soul’s calling was. I knew I couldn’t work in a newsroom anymore, the toxicity of the violent stories was just too much. I had to leave journalism to survive. I knew I was called to do something big with my life, but could not figure out what it was. (I’m now a coach, and I can tell you many many people go through this phase of not knowing.)
It took me years of exploration. Finally, painfully, I started to realize my “bliss” was there all along in the symbols, situations and friends who surrounded me. I realized that all of my closest friends always had been artists of some type, writers, painters, dancers, musicians. I mean that realization alone should’ve made it all obvious to me, that I was an artist, but I resisted. Oh how I resisted.
At one point, wanting to celebrate my women friends and their gifts, I asked artist friends if I could take pictures of them with an old dented 35mm camera — you know the old kind that took rolls of film. I took a dancer friend to a park.
But did that mean I was a dancer? Then I took shots of a musician friend outside a shed at her Vashon Island home. Also, the one and only time I was married was to a musician, a saxophone player. Did that then mean I was a fiddler, or a player of wind instruments?
If you’re searching for your path, trying to find your “bliss”, the friends you’ve had all your life can be great mirrors. In them, you can begin to see what you truly and deeply love. What I started to notice in these photographic forays was that I just loved women being able to express their unique “voices”. I just loved the wildness of being outdoors. I loved the beauty of their expression.
I wanted to express myself. I wanted it to be wild and open. But still, what was the specific expression? It’s at this point that I advise clients to look to their earliest memories. What did you do as a child before you were told that it was wrong, or squeezed into a square box?
I loved to draw. I loved to read. I loved nature.
It took years, but finally I came to own myself as visual artist, novelist, book coach, and art activist for Mother Nature. Even when I took these photographs, I didn’t particularly think of myself as a visual artist/photographer type. I was just shooting some pics. Sometimes our bliss is smacking us in the face and we STILL can’t see it.
So, if you’re seeking your bliss, turn to your friends. Who have you loved from childhood. Who are they? What careers did they go into? Then look at what you loved to do as a child. Put on plays? Tinker with radios? Cook meals for your family? Were you the sibling who always had the box of crayons? Did you beat on pots and pans until it drove your parents crazy? In this way, you can put the puzzle pieces together and excavate your authentic self. After that is when the hard work of practicing your authentic self truly begins.
Today, I’m writing a series of four novels, Earth, Air, Fire, Water. It’s known as the Elemental Journey Series, and explores in fiction form one girl’s journey to finding her bliss and her love of Mother Earth. To read more go to carolineallen.com.