Tapping Your Past To Find Clues To Your Future

Jason and I are officially leaving our year-long home here in Poway this week to head up the coast to our new condo in Oceanside. We get the keys on Wednesday and we’ll be all moved in by Friday. Eep! 

I’ll definitely miss a lot of things about our setup here but I’ve always been the type to be energized by a new adventure and a new environment to adapt to, so I’m beyond excited! The anticipation has been killing me!

This week though, as much as I’m excited for all that’s ahead of me, I actually want to focus a bit on the opposite. I want to talk a little about the past. Namely, YOUR past.

To kick things off, I’m going to ask you to step back in time a little (or a lot, depending on how old you are !) I want you to try and think back to when you were a kid. Try to put yourself back in those (tinier) shoes.

Now ask yourself: How did you spend the majority of your time? What were your hobbies? When you weren’t playing with your friends or doing your homework, what did you gravitate towards that made you lose track of time?

Last week I shared with you my DIY approach to picking a path in life. Some of you hopefully found that method helpful, but I know there were others of you that may have thought to yourself: But what if I don’t yet have a vision for my future? What if I don’t KNOW what I want my DIY path to be?

That’s who I want to talk to specifically today, to those of you who still feel lost when it comes to finding that meaningful, whole-hearted work we all want to be filling our days with.

And my advice begins with a story…

Two weeks ago when I was on my hands and knees on the floor of my art studio hand-painting 100 envelopes for the Art Shop, I had this weird flashback to when I was a kid.

It was 5th grade and I told my mom I wanted something special to give my “best friends” on our last day of school since some of them wouldn’t be attending the same middle school as me.

At my insistence, she brought me to Michael’s where I picked out tiny wooden “jewelry boxes” in the shape of treasure chests, as well as a different color of craft paint to match the personality of each of my six best friends. Then, with newspaper sprawled out on the floor of our concrete carport, I hand-painted each personalized box and wrote a different custom word on the top of each jewelry box in metallic paint pen.

Something about being on the floor, completely obvious to the time passing, joyfully creating something that I knew would be personal and meaningful to the recipient... it transported me straight back to my 5th grade self.

The thought of this memory with its highly specific combination of art, hand-lettering, and meaningful messaging almost gives me chills with how closely it resembles exactly what I now call my everyday work. And I was doing it naturally at 10 years old!

The more I thought about what I loved doing as a kid, the more of these memories started to bubble up. More personalized arts and crafts projects, more newspaper sprawled out, more hours of creating. I can almost feel the mix of cold, shaded concrete still underneath me and the warm Saturday afternoon air creeping in from the driveway. Creating was so clearly what I always wanted to do.

And yet it almost didn’t happen.

I almost went a completely different path in my life — listening to what teachers and other adults were telling me, that my high performance in school is what made me special. That I was no doubt going to be “successful.” That I would “make a great doctor or lawyer someday.” Even from that young age, the message was clear: art is just a hobby, not something to aspire to.

Thank goodness that inner kid inside me spoke up when I felt myself headed down a road that wasn’t resonating in my heart early on in my advertising career. Thank goodness she said, “Wait, who cares about being “successful!” Do what brings you joy!”

My point is this:

Our childhood selves in many ways represent our purest selves.

In my TEDx talk, I spoke about this theory I have in my head that I like to picture sometimes. That we all arrive in this world with our own unique “color” — a completely one-of-a-kind hue that encompasses the truest mix of our human potential. Our gifts, our talents, our personalities, our spirits.

As we grow older, the expectations of the world can often dim that technicolor potential with things like fear and stress and quest for recognition. But it’s our job to find our way back to that original state — our brightest, most vibrant state.

And I think one way to do that is to dig into who we were when we were younger.

As Danielle LaPorte once said:

“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”

I know we didn’t all have happy childhoods, and I’m certainly not suggesting that we all need to revisit those years if they drudge up bad feelings.

BUT, I am suggesting that our early years can carry CLUES as to who and what we wanted to be before the expectations of the world came tumbling into the mix.

So my challenge to you this week is to answer those questions I started with:

How did you spend your time as a kid? What were your hobbies? When you weren’t playing with your friends or doing your homework, what did you gravitate towards that made you lose track of time? What did you want to be?

And more importantly, WHY did you want to be that?

I’m not necessarily recommending that if you wanted to be an astronaut that you should quit your job now and enroll in space camp (though if that really is you’re dream, I’m all for it!)

All I’m saying is that perhaps the memory of that childhood dream can remind you of your curiosity for the unknown or for understanding the universe or for connecting to something bigger than yourself. And, as my favorite Elizabeth Gilbert teaches us, you don’t have to follow your passion, you just have to follow your curiosity.

Sometimes, when you don’t know how to move forward, a moment spent looking backward can give you the clues you need to take the next step.

Wishing all of you a happy and productive week, and be on the lookout for Instagram photos of the new digs.

I’ve got my own dedicated studio in the new place whose floor is just begging to be used to paint envelopes!