Charles Starrett

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Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.

The internal compass

When we feel that the life we’re living and the work we’re doing is not really ours, it can be like a shirt we’ve outgrown and has some holes, but we’ve gotten used to wearing. We have to face the question of, “If not this shirt, then what?”

The devil we know can be better than the devil we don’t.

And to find a new shirt that fits who we are, both inside and outside, we need to have a sense of how we would feel in that kind of shirt, and we have to go out and look for it.

Similarly, there are two parts to finding the work and life which is ours. One is that we have to go out and experiment so we have a chance to encounter something that fits us better, and the other is that we have to have the ability recognize what fits.

(Having the courage to take the leap of enacting the change is for another post. This is just about the search.)

There are a lot of opportunities through volunteer work, social events, as well as books, blogs, podcasts, and videos, to experience directly, or through others, all manner of work and ways of living.

The more difficult part is knowing: “What is mine to do?”

After spending a lifetime (so far) being and working as someone who is not quite ourselves, it can be hard to discern what really resonates with our core, and what doesn’t. In order to survive in a world that expects us, and rewards us, to be who they want us to be, rather than who we are, many of us shut off that part of us that yearns for a life and work which is ours. We had to ignore that calling so that we could keep doing what we were expected to do. And now we’ve forgotten what that call sounds like.

The ability to re-cognize, or know again, that which is ours is still within us, but we’re out of practice, and maybe we also feel a bit uncertain whether it’s safe to start using it again. Just as after being bedridden with illness, we need to rebuild the strength, coordination, and confidence to walk again, re-membering that part of us which once knew what was ours requires gentle practice.

Noticing what draws our attention and then pausing to ask ourselves, is that attraction coming from me, or is it something someone told me I should like? When I notice a particular feeling, or impulse, asking myself where that is coming from? Is it a habit I learned in order to comply, or is it coming from somewhere deeper in me?

And if I don’t know the answer, that’s okay. What’s important is that I take the time, each time, to ask the question. To start to shed the wants and ways of being that I learned from elsewhere, so that I can see the source more clearly, of who I am, and what is my work.

Take your time. Be gentle. Celebrate the small wins. Fix your gaze on living a life which is yours. And keep going.

4 June 2022

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