On Being Gen X by Nathalie

I spent my childhood voraciously testing out various paths to Passion. In my teens I discovered photography. All the way to art school, I raced through life with a camera surgically attached to my face. I reveled in the idea of living behind the camera instead of in front, the jaded recovery of an only-child. Before the camera, in that stage between little girl and teenager, I painted. For years I painted on canvas, in school, on trips, on walls. One day I painted Kahlil Gibran’s words in my bedroom wall:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

As a little girl I spent my days climbing trees, roller skating and ripping apart clothing, skin and the dwindling patience of my family who came to call me “terremoto” (earthquake). Everyone disapproved. My parents were not raising a proper little girl. I talked too much and didn’t follow the multitude of protocols my family has spent generations fine-tuning. I didn’t do my first communion with everyone else, I never went to church (nor did my heathen parents) and I addressed my mother and father in the casual “tu,” instead of the mandated, formal and subservient “usted.” I moved quickly and abruptly, too quickly to care about the nicknames or reproach. My attention span was short and my extremities were clumsy. I dropped things. I spilled my drinks at meals, and I did talk too much, this was true. I often remember myself as a little girl with skinned joints and I reflect on my life today. How did I go from broken limbs and climbing trees to speed walking through international airports in stilettos? At 10 I could barely make my way through dinner without offending someone and now I get paid for bridging cross cultural divides.

Some of the clumsiness does remain. My last trip left me bruises, on my knees and less visibly, deep in that familiar spot in my chest. I still have the attention span of an insect, my family continues to disapprove (though they’re relieved I now dress like a girl), and I remain hesitant about churches. As a child my energy was raw and wild. Today I often feel satisfied to have a focus, to have found ways to channel the chaotic energy and not to have lost any enthusiasm in the process. Other times I lament the loss of the wildness, the reckless lack of purpose that guided me through those first years, the not caring. I found ways to focus because I figured I couldn’t skateboard my tomboy ass through life, because I felt a obliged to have a purpose; to produce art, money, a path, something.

For my birthday this year, someone dear to me gave me a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, not knowing about the painting, or that room from my childhood that’s been repainted a dozen times, always leaving the corner with the quote intact. My mother hated that thing. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to have your little girl write something on the wall saying she’s not yours. It was a beautiful birthday gift; a reminder that words are the one thing I’ve always had for myself, never out of obligation or rebellion, but out of real, wild passion.

These days, as we all race through life’s corridors overstimulated with stacks of self-help guides designed to help you find your ever-elusive Passion, I wonder how many real reminders go unnoticed? I know I miss them sometimes. As a result, I’ve made it a priority to find ways not to.

Your way might be different, but here’s my personal 10 step program for avoiding the need for buying the proverbial Idiot’s Guide to Finding Your Passion. You have my permission to borrow it while you figure out your own:

1. Listen
2. Look people in the eye
3. Take baths, light candles
4. Don’t “network”, CONNECT
5. Notice & appreciate (and look for the meaning in) the little things
6. Take a moment, say “˜thank you’, to EVERYONE who has ever helped/hurt you
7. Find a relaxing space before bed, spend 30 minutes meditating on your day
8. Forgive: don’t take things personally
9. Smile, even when no one’s looking
10. Dance, every chance you get

Peace.

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