Most artists self-identify by what they do well. For most of my life—if not my entire life, my identity was cemented in my talent as a vocalist. I self-identified solely as a jazz artist. Everything in my life revolved around my ability: My hopes. My decisions. My thoughts. My plans. My language. My passion. My self-worth. But what happens when life happens, and you’re no longer able to do that one thing you’ve built your life around due to a major life event, physical disability or trauma that limits or ends your ability to perform your talent?
Over the last three years, I have had to detangle myself mentally, physically and spiritually from a mass of malignancy stemming from a series of negative life events in the hopes of finding a new source of motivation--a life purpose in which I can replant my talents. I am still searching for what that purpose is. I have flashes of ideas at times of what my life could look like with a solid foundation of purpose underneath—which is partly why I started this blog, in an effort to dig down to find a place where I can unpack and start over. Most days, I feel as though I am staring at a blank screen watching the swirl on the monitor turn over on itself, in anticipation of the new three-sentence summary of my life to show. I remember what my life used to be like before the chaos I encountered and the old appendages of expectation. Life was easy because it was simple. My end goals were material. I didn’t have to guess about life or what I wanted because I could see my talent. I held it in my hand. I was in control of it. I knew its capacity. Nothing in my life required more of me, beyond living out my preconceived identity. I had settled on a limited vision of life, even though there was no purpose beyond my own satisfaction and sense of achievement beneath it to hold it in place.
You hear so much about purpose and the importance of finding it. It sounds magical when you hear about it from people who have found theirs. The knowing. The clarity. The sense of fulfillment and focus. Purpose is defined on Google as the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists; a motivation or cause. From observation, it appears that purpose requires a certain level of faith and belief as well. You have to believe in the cause or motivation you’ve found and the meaningfulness of it, regardless of circumstances or environment. I also imagine that it also has to be based in a cause that extends beyond yourself—one that is worthy and connects you as a human being to the larger world of creation that you originate from: a calling to serve the betterment of others and the world around you. This cause maybe holds an element of justice or righteousness, or an element of verity that offsets the forces of ego, keeping you grounded in the strength of humility.
There are perks in discovering your purpose. One of the added bonuses is being freed from the limitation of your expectations. The human mind is limited by a finite perspective, but when identity takes root in purpose, it opens the door of evolution towards multiple expressions of creativity. You’re no longer fixated on recreating one expression of your talent. When your creative goals are rooted in a deeper cause, a whole new department of wardrobe opens up in your creative life. You gain the freedom to try on different styles and genres to compare and contrast how they serve your purpose. You lose your vanity. You gain the freedom to explore.
As I continue my search for purpose, I believe the key to finding it is to continue walking out what you know versus waiting for that perfect moment of epiphany and understanding to arrive. There will be times when you will be disgusted, angry, disillusioned, or maybe even bored, as you search. But even if you don’t feel the importance or urgency in practicing your craft, continue walking forward in it. I have personally and am currently struggling with this reality, walking forward with nothing in view ahead. This week, the scriptural parallel from Christ’s metaphor of his relationship to humanity came to me: Apart from purpose, our creativity holds no real power or life changing properties. If you disconnect now from the vine of practicing your craft and gift, your talent will dry and fade. Faith doesn’t necessitate or guarantee your understanding or joy in the walking out of your gifts. Sometimes you will find yourself working in darkness with the small light of creation burning through what you do. It is a small light, but it will light the way to the fulfillment and freedom you are searching for.
Keep doing what you do. Take a rest when you need to and keep walking.