Living the Imperatives

“There is a force in me that is determined to honor the imperatives of my life.”

Ladies and gentlemen, there it is: the twists and turns of my life summed up in a few short words.

I read this statement in Gregg Levoy’s book, Callings (which, by the way, is a fantastic read), and felt its impact like a clanging bell.

Even as I stumbled through life searching for my place, I always felt–or perhaps hoped–that somewhere, on some mysterious and invisible plane, all of my experiences made sense. God knows that to the average onlooker, and even myself, the shape and pattern of my experiences induced perplexed head-scratching at best, and stern reprimanding at worst. But this statement offered another perspective, one that rang true for me and brought substance to a hopeful hunch.

Let me show you what I mean.

I am female, Black, 41 years old, a first-generation immigrant from a developing country. When we moved to the US, my first friends were Hispanic, Chinese and Indian. In fact, I didn’t have any close Black friends until college. I taught myself Spanish when I was about 13 years old and birthed a lifelong love of foreign languages in the process. I even attempted to teach myself Chinese, Greek and Korean, though with far less success. I learned to play the electric bass while in my church’s youth group band, and bought my own second-hand Ibanez bass, which I still have. I fell in love with baseball at age 15 and became a diehard New York Mets fan. To this day it remains my favorite sport to watch and discuss, and I love to trash talk about the Yankees. I had my first real kiss at 18, and first real boyfriend at 22. But I only “knew” a man in the full sense of the word at 33. Yes, 33. I got my driver’s license at 24, and my very first car at 32. I have lived in Guyana, New York City, Madison (yes, land of the Cheese-heads), Los Angeles, Monterey, and now Washington, DC. I have a BA in Television and Radio and two Master’s degrees: Theology, and Public Administration.

In my 20 or so years in the workforce, I’ve changed jobs frequently enough to give my mother an ulcer. But despite my grinding efforts to mold myself into a “conventional” career person, with the help of countless well-meaning friends, colleagues and supervisors, it just never seemed to take. I often chose to follow the beat of my own drum, to let my instinct and impulse guide me, for better or for worse.

I have embraced the fact that I will never fit into the “conventional” category when it comes to career matters. My path has always veered off the beaten track, and probably always will. But my meanderings have pushed me and challenged me to honor the imperatives of my life, to avoid taking the easy way out or accepting the status quo as the only available option. They have created and honed certain gifts and strengths of value that could not have developed in any other way. What I have to offer the world, then, is no less valid or meaningful for having gained it in an unconventional fashion.

There is a force in me that is determined to honor the imperatives of my life, carving out my place and my unique contribution to the world all the while.

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