In the last twenty-four hours I have spoken to two Dark Angels ‘graduates’ who both, independently of one another and unprompted by me, said in so many words: ‘the main thing that I got out of coming on the course was the realisation that the thing I love can also be the thing I do to earn a living.’ They were not, as you might expect, both talking about writing. One of them is a writer who works in the world of branding, but the other works in the hotel business and is an entrepreneur.
Along with a little glow of proprietorial pride came the unspoken thought: so why would one not do the thing one loved for a living? Then I caught myself, remembering that for many, if not most, people it’s not nearly so simple. Even loving the thing you do, which doesn’t presuppose that the loving came first, can be difficult, let alone doing the thing you love.
I know it well. For a long time I thought that the thing I loved was writing fiction, while the thing I did most of, writing for businesses, was simply to pay the bills. But the effect of compartmentalising the activities in that way was to cause me a great deal of conflict: the bread-and-butter work that was supposed to buy me a small amount of time each day to write fiction left me too depleted to write well, so I ended up resenting it deeply while also struggling with the books. For quite a few years I neither loved the thing I did, nor did with any satisfaction the thing I thought I loved.
Happily there came a turning point, a combination of people and ideas that appeared in my life, along with a wonderfully supportive wife who effectively bought me a year of what I think of, in agricultural terms, as ‘set-aside’ – during which I did not much of anything while my creative soil replenished itself. And now I do what I really love, which is to communicate what I believe in any way available to me, through writing or teaching or making music. But it took me half a century, a good deal of heartache, and I had to let go of some extremely powerful conditioning along the way.
So when I hear that our work with Dark Angels has helped people to that critical understanding, that moment when it becomes clear that there is really only one thing they’re here to do, I raise a silent cheer. And today I would without hesitation say to anyone what I said to my second daughter a couple of years ago when she was wrestling with difficult career decisions, which was: don’t play safe, be brave, look into your heart and see where your passion really lies, then put your trust in the universe and follow that passion. She did. And I don’t think she’d chide me for saying that she hasn’t looked back.