Growing up, I was expected to eat whatever was put in front of me. Not only that, I was expected to say that I liked it so that our mother would feel good about herself.
The result was that as an adult, I didn’t have strong preferences for food. I could eat just about anything, and it all tasted “fine.” I couldn’t distinguish subtle flavors. An expensive restaurant was wasted on me. Food was food. It kept my body going.
When I hit a career crisis in my 30s, realizing that I could no longer lie to myself that I wanted a life as a professor, I started to explore the question of, “If not a professor, then what?”
I read books, worked with coaches, took courses, and tried my hand at technical writing, teaching piano, tutoring, coding, composing… I did everything I could think of to identify the work which I was meant to do. What was the path that I missed, and how could I get on it now?
What I didn’t realize is that just like with food, I also had no sense of “taste” when it came to the work I enjoyed. I had dulled my sense of likes and dislikes for so long that I could no longer feel what was meaningful to me and what wasn’t.
The step before the step of finding my work, was to stop and learn to listen to my self. To learn to sense and feel what really mattered to me. What I cared about. Where I could hear my inner voice answering the world’s call by saying, “I’ll do it!”
When I studied ethnomusicology, I had to train my ear to hear what was meaningful in musics that I didn’t grow up with: Hindustani raga, Korean sanjo, and Sephardic songs.
After leaving that field, I had to train my ear to hear what was meaningful to me. Random attempts at different careers did not help me find my work. What got me back on my path was a process of developing the skill and the capacity to be with myself as I am right now, let go of any ideas of what I should or should not care about, and learn to listen to what really matters to me right now.
I still have to practice listening, and some days I hear more clearly than others, but I’m grateful to be back on my path.7 August 2022