As the new year is approaching I find myself reflecting on this year and the ones before. I find myself preparing for a new year, another year of following my bliss.
There’s a quote by Epictetus that I’ve always loved. It says:
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
I’ve made foolish and stupid decisions (by the opinions of others) for 13 years to follow my bliss and do it my way as Sinatra sang. (One of my favorite songs by the way).
I’m not a rebel by any means. I was an A+ student in school and always wanted to fit in and be liked. It so happens that it was hard for me to fit in. I could get along with anyone, but didn’t belong to any one group. Anyways, that’s beside the point.
I’m not a rebel, but it’s almost as if I can’t do anything else now but follow my bliss. Be careful with the first decision to follow your bliss because you almost can’t go back. One blissful step leads to the next and to the next until 13 years later you’re so blissed out you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.
13 years ago when I separated from my ex-husband he said I was the type of person that would never be happy. (A lot of men have said a lot of dumb things to me over the years.) At the time I thought he could be right. After all, I had been very unhappy for the eight years we were together. Depressed, lonely, unfulfilled, and without a purpose for my future. And although I was making this choice to change my life and go to art school I didn’t know if it would make me happy.
But it was my first step to follow my bliss (a word not even in my vocabulary at the time). I’d discover Joseph Campbell a year later and fall in love with his philosophy and writing. Somehow though I knew that I was making the right choice for myself even amidst the uncertainty and naysaying of my ex and others.
I’ve foolishly followed my bliss countless times since then. And guess what? I’m happy! I’m blissfully happy! So what’s bliss anyway? There’s this idea that bliss is like skipping around, whistling, flowers in your hair, not a care in the world state of being. Hey, that’s great too. But I see bliss as that internal knowing. That the choice you’re about to make is the right one for you even if it’s scary or risky.
There can be a lot of interruptions or detours to our bliss even after we’re on the path.
The rules of the game
Security and stability
Our own fears and insecurities
To name a few. Here are some detours I avoided to follow my bliss:
Got the divorce anyway
Lived out of someone’s garage with a microwave and mini-fridge and space heater so I could afford to go to art school
Lost a teaching gig because I didn’t want to be an overpriced babysitter to a kid who wanted to make fart noises all day just to get a little money
Lost a teaching gig because an art association refused to pay me and yet still wanted me to show up and teach
Said no to a museum job because I really just wanted to paint – even though I needed money
Sold paintings galore in a Christmas student art show amidst “salesy” criticisms from other students
Refused to stop painting “antiquated” still life’s for teachers approval at art school
Left gallery representation to sell my own work online
Stopped participating in a “prestigious” western show because it was a total drag full of negativity
Following your bliss doesn’t mean there won’t be hard work, hard days. There’s plenty. It doesn’t mean there won’t be disappointments, criticisms, rejections. There’s plenty.
It does mean though that there will be rewards, fulfillment, satisfaction, and achievement. It also means impacting far more people than you ever could by NOT following your bliss, your inner knowing, your true path. People will always give you their opinion. Most of them care about you and don’t want you to get hurt. Others don’t want their ideologies challenged and they don’t want to get hurt by your success.
So be foolish and look stupid to others if it means that you’re following your bliss. Don’t be stupid for no reason, that’s just stupid. (*although, hey it happens.)
I can tell you after 13 years of following my bliss foolishly, even stupidly, that I can’t believe what I’ve been able to achieve. And yes I’m very happy now.
2021 is fast approaching. What’s the next choice you need to make to follow your bliss?