Every so often I take stock of where I am in my life, take a look at what I’m up to and think about whether or not it’s still working for me. I check in with myself to see how I’m doing. I assume that I’ve pretty much been on the right track because this has never resulted in my changing course dramatically. But, from time to time, I have taken some detours along the way as a result of these explorations.
I’m only mentioning it because, in her most recent Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver wrote about the importance of knowing our “why” — understanding why we do what we do, what brings meaning to our lives.
Despite it being a long weekend in Canada, I was chained to my computer the whole time, working on a project which, happily, was immensely satisfying and gratifying. But by late morning on Sunday my brain, my back, my neck, my fingers and wrists were ready for a break and her newsletter — and the question she posed — was the perfect diversion for me.
So I saved my document, went to another room (a change of scenery can be as good as a rest) and thought about it for a little while. It was interesting, to say the least.
As a freelancer, which I’ve been since 2009, a pretty significant portion of the assignments I get are not the typical jobs ad agency writers and creative directors usually work on. I’ve written white papers and strategic documents that have nothing to do with creative or advertising, for that matter. I even worked with a professor — organizing, editing and doing enough additional writing to turn the findings of his research study into a story that he presented, in book form, at a conference.
While I have had typical ad agency projects — like branding and videos and websites and social media campaigns — which I do still enjoy after all these years — I’ve also had the chance to do some writing for magazines. There have been “think” pieces on animal rights and on aging and ageism, and there’s been many an essay on the state of US politics in the time of Trump.
Speaking out and sharing my opinion is something I’ve never been shy about — like you didn’t already know that. But as I thought about what my “why” might be, I realized it’s something I’ve been doing my whole life. Even as a youngster, long before I started to work, I could often be found speaking out on behalf of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak for themselves. After my reflections the other day I realized that’s been the lure of writing the magazine articles.
And there it is. My “why.” Standing up for my beliefs, being a voice, getting involved, championing causes I care about. That’s what I love to do. It satisfies me. It fulfills me. It makes me happy. It brings meaning to my life. It allows me to use whatever talent I might have, all the lessons I’ve learned and all the experience I’ve garnered in a meaningful and worthwhile way — to put it to good use. In the hopes of making even the smallest difference.
What’s your “why?”