I just finished Rose Montague's first foray into the world of YA paranormal fantasy, Norma Jean’s School of Witchery, Book I, Jewel. which I thoroughly enjoyed. There were many elements of the book that I liked and that may very well provide blog fodder in the future, but for today I want to focus on a small piece of the story where Jewel, the heroine who lends her name to the title, reads a book that helps her to understand her magic. In the story, Jewel comments that the book she is reading was written by an author who dedicated his life to the topic at hand. In fact, the book represents his "Life's Work," which is pretty much what it sounds like. Jewel comments that not many people pursue a life's work these days. And that got me to thinking. Uh, oh.
I think Jewel is right (or at least Rose Montague is). I think there are fewer and fewer people who take up a life's work. And I think the reason is manifold. First of all, life is work, and I think many of us are too busy trying to live it and that is the sum total of their Life's Work. And that is OK, at least from my perspective, because for a lot of us, life really is hard.
On the other hand, for others, we make life harder than it has to be, and then we don't have room for anything else. I know a lot of people, myself included sometimes, who make first-world problems, like choosing which camps to send their kids to or which color tile to choose for the guest bathroom, into major freaking productions. When everything is a big deal requiring major effort, there is very little time or space for a Life's Work among all the other work of life.
And then there is the modern attention problem, again, something I can relate to more than I care to admit. I watch my children as they negotiate two or three screens at a time. Even my husband works with somewhere between three and six screens going at any given time. We all have the attention spans of tsetse flies. How can the ADD generation focus on one subject long enough to make it a Life's Work? We don't even hold jobs for more than two or three years at a time. Mid-life career shifts are common (again, guilty as charged) and choosing a major has become an exercise in serious angst because making one choice, by definition, eliminates alternative options as the realities of opportunity costs set in. And even in this age of uber-specialization, you don't hear a whole lot about life's work these days. Because who really wants to make their Life's Work all about such narrow subjects as animal husbandry in colonial Virginia among farmers with only pigs and chickens. Or cyber hacking into magnet school databases in New York City. Or the ever-popular micro-breweries in Idaho and Wyoming. We've gone so deep we can't climb out of the holes we've dug for ourselves.
So, to review, we're either hopelessly shallow or impossibly deep, thereby making it ever more difficult to focus on meaningful topics for a Life's Work. I'm more than halfway through my life (and that's if I live to a ripe old age) and I find I love the idea of a Life's Work. I want to make a significant contribution to a field of study or learning. I want to have original thoughts that inspire and inform and impact the world. I want to make a difference with my life and I want to leave a legacy of positive change.
But where to focus amongst all the distractions this world has to offer? Clearly, whatever my Life's Work entails it will involve words on a page or screen. And it will likely involve soapboxes--meaning my standing on one pontificating about how to live well or at least better. More authentically. More true to our true selves. Because you know I believe that is what life is all about. Is my Life's Work this blog? I don't think so. Is it the book I'm sort of working on (I am working on it, and even writing here and there, but it's still more of a gleam in my eye than a proper book or even a solid beginning)? Maybe I should switch to fiction, except I seem to have absolutely zero imagination when it comes to that, to my eternal sadness.
And, in the immortal words of Danielle LaPorte, if it hasn't happened by now, perhaps it's not meant to be. That is the thought that scares me most of all.
But, in the other immortal words of one of my all-time heroes, Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never give up." So I won't. My life isn't over, so there is still time for my Life's Work to unfold.
In the meantime, I will continue to read great paranormal and urban fantasy and write this blog, which brings me so much pleasure. Thanks to Rose Montague and her fellow authors for their Life's Work in entertaining us all.