The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button. — Brené Brown
My latest wake-up call was brought to me by my almost 13-year-old nephew when he visited with his mom and sister last week. I’ll call him W. W is vibrant. He writes stories. He modifies Nerf guns. He creates role-playing games. Concepts for inventions fill his mind. He speaks with excitement and enthusiasm. He asks insightful questions. He is brilliantly alive. Watching him and listening to him were lessons in the joy to be found when you spend your time doing what makes your heart and imagination come alive. More than a few times, I wondered if he didn’t hold more wisdom about how to live a fulfilling life than most of the self-help books on my shelves possess. Watching him, I found myself wishing to live my life with the exuberance and inventiveness he brings to his own. He inspired me.
I recently made a list of activities which do not nurture my joy or passion and it bore a disconcerting resemblance to a list of how I spend much of my time. I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the vague discontentment I’ve been feeling of late, but I was. Writing it down made it impossible to deny. Out of laziness, fear, lack of knowledge, or some amalgamation of the three, I spend entirely too many of my limited hours on activities which do not fulfill me or result in any meaningful experience or accomplishment. Instead of using my imagination as often as inspiration strikes, I often drown out the whispers of my wonder with obligations (real and imagined) and busy work. Stifled and grumpy, I end the day feeling like I’ve missed something terribly important and go about the next day in exactly the same way as the day before with the same results until something shakes me out of my slightly disgruntled stupor and I’m reminded yet again of the brilliant life I could lead if I made different choices.
Children can teach us more than we realize if we are willing to learn from them. They have wisdom many adults have forgotten in our haste to grow up and fit in. We just have to pay attention. W’s zest for life and adventure was just the wake-up call I needed. He inspired me to dig through the clutter of expectations, obligations, procrastination, fear, and stagnation in search of the vibrant joy and extravagant passion I have buried somewhere within me. My next adventure, my next creation, my next sigh of contentment after engaging in truly fulfilling work will be inspired by an almost 13-year-old kid who has the audacity to do whatever it is that brings joy to him. Thanks, W. I owe you.