It’s a pretty simple statement. I dream of fulfillment. Maybe it’s not on everyone’s mind when they get up in the morning, but it’s on mine. Every—single—morning. That fulfillment is derived from story, of course. Be it drafting, revising, or even making a needed map. It doesn’t matter. If it brings a story to life it brings me to life.
It has always been that way, except, well, when it wasn’t. Between the brainwashing and pressures of society, and then me doing the same to myself, I was long convinced that I was supposed to fill a mechanical, uninspired slot where creativity was checked at the door. Purpose equaled money.
Looking back at my childhood, it’s odd to note that the lone voice of opposition to that path was my father. In the midst of all the abuse that led to PTSD there was the one, single piece of life advice that he gave me. If you’re a creative, don’t be pulled into a conventional job.
It was kind of a brief pause in the midst of all the chaos, and a desperate cry from the man who’d been a drummer, but had opted for that conventional job. He prospered and made good money. He also added fuel to his mental illness until it was out of control by the time I reached my teens.
I found myself in a strange place during those years. Heartbroken. Sympathetic. Terrified. He needed help. I needed protection. Society was proud of his accomplishments.
Then, there was my guidance counselor, the same genius who’d wanted to have a heart-to-heart with my father about the abuse that must be a misunderstanding. Yes, that guy. He took a glance at my grades and decided I should be an accountant.
My grades in a couple of business classes were excellent. Keep in mind that I’m talking about high school. I had a knack for filling out neat forms correctly. On the basis of that and a little more, he concluded I should be an accountant. Why? The number of available jobs, of course. Forget about my extraordinary grades in History. Let’s ignore the fact I’d been moved up to Honors English and would stay up all night to write.
In the end, it didn’t matter. My father retired at forty-five and I didn’t attend a university for another decade. Brainwashed, I earned a BS in Business. Meanwhile, every billboard on the road to my degree screamed that I was making a mistake.
As it turned out, a HUGE mistake.
Every English, Literature, and Communications class I took that I adored was another warning cry. I ignored them, yet every elective I took wasn’t a Business class. My subconscious knew the truth. In the background, it was hard at work constructing what would become Ontyre.
After graduating, I was miserable, except when writing. Between 2000-03 I penned an unbelievably massive first fantasy novel (more like four novels in one) and two other unrelated novels. Then, life promptly fell apart. Otherwise known as a nervous breakdown. It was followed by a cascade of major, stress-inducing life events that ended with contacting an illness in 2009 that stole seven years of my life.
In 2015 I gave into the truth of who I was and began reimagining Ontyre. After my recovery a couple of years later I redefined prolific.
Then, I went back to work part-time. It was a blinding lightbulb moment. I gained even greater clarity. All around were unhappy people fulfilling someone else’s purpose while destroying their bodies via repetition and conditioning their minds to endure. Of course, I recognized their reasoning. Health insurance (mine had long ago betrayed me). Money. Not knowing what else to do.
I appreciated the people and enjoyed our talks, but the work was miserable. Awarded considerable flexibility, I had 20 hrs/week available to me (later 22). My last 3-4 months there I averaged 16 hrs/week. I was struggling to put in 3.2 hrs/day, 5 days/week. My work performance was considered excellent, but I was struggling.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my salvation was the pandemic. I adapted to my new normal in July 2020 when I accepted myself and my purpose. Writing. I embraced it as my passion and suddenly any number of hours weren’t enough. That’s fulfillment!
Through the first three months of 2021 I averaged 8 hrs/day, 7 days/week. Yes, 56 hrs/week (since, my numbers have been skewed with drafting and rewriting that I don’t count as editing). I’ve had people who’ve asked me, “How can you stand to put in so many hours?”
It’s quite simply, really. I love what I’m doing. Purpose = fulfillment.
There are videos about I don’t dream of labor floating around YouTube these days. The perspectives vary. My view is that your definition of labor matters. Your personal investment in that labor matters. I don’t view what I do as labor. It’s my purpose and purpose equals fulfillment.
In my case, story is my purpose. Writing first, then sharing and compensation. That’s my personal order. The order isn’t as important as knowing my order. Once I knew what should be at the top I was overjoyed to put in the time and make sacrifices. Everything serves the purpose. Whether it’s walking, yoga, meditation for my mental health, or even household chores, it doesn’t matter.
Even the pain of my past now serves the purpose. See how that works? Everything changed when each day was structured around my purpose—not someone else’s purpose.
Again, it’s really that simple. Business would call it job satisfaction or empowerment, but if it isn’t your purpose a catchy phrase really doesn’t matter. If it is your purpose, if you want to perform a job each day for someone else’s purpose, then fine. If you’re unhappy, though, you might want to rethink.
Purpose equals fulfillment. Deep down, my father knew and it tore him apart. Yes, he retired early, and with a lot of money. He did some drumming in those later years, but mostly climbed mountains. It was what he’d worked all those years to insure he’d be able to do. The problem was, by then the mental illness he’d denied was taking him.
If you have a purpose, fight for it. I’m fighting to hold onto mine.