Written by Camille Michelle Gray
I am on the heels of releasing my debut EP ‘Street Cinema.’ Here is my shameless plug: go to www.camillemichellegray.com to download the EP for free and to watch the two music videos I put out in support of it.
I promise that has something to do with the rest of this post.
Yesterday I had an invigorating debate with a friend on the topic of a selfless career. We careened intelligently back and forth about our goals, dreams, and dispositions towards a fulfilling life in the snappy and excitable way that twenty-somethings often do. We both agreed that we want our careers and ultimately our lives to make the world a better place once we’re gone. It’s a very lofty goal. I know you may be thinking Yeah, yeah that sounds nice but that’s just something people say. Surely it may seem grandiose to want your presence here on the Earth to contribute to its arc towards love, positivity, happiness, and all things lovely and fluffy. And it’s trendy to be cynical about the future and rebuff gentle sentiments like the one stated above as delusional dreams of the dangerously optimistic. You may be thinking Whatever. I just want to do ______ for a living. I’m not out here to change the world. I’m just one person anyway. But oh, dear hardened reader, you CAN make the world a better place from you having been here, and it’s deliriously simple to do.
When you go after that which makes your heart sing, which gives you joy, which leaves you satisfied and contented, you show up brighter in the world. When you show up brighter and live from this energizing space, you subconsciously give others permission to do the same. People yearn to be around those who are chasing their dreams. There is something spiritually seductive about a person who owns their passion, and continuously shows up for it. Those stymied and frustrated souls look upon those who have the gusto to go for their goals and unconsciously or consciously feel invigorated to do the same. And should we all have the guts to go after that which makes our hearts sing, the world sings. Therein lies the secret to changing the world.
You may think that having a selfless career means you have to be doing something to help others in a very tangible way like build schools or nurse premature infants. And while these professions are needed and do indeed increase the quality of life and the quality of the world, so do simple things like writing a book, being an engaged customer service agent, singing a song, or cooking a dish.
There is a woman who always passes out newspapers at the metro station in the morning, who greets people with a jovial GOOD MORNING or HOW YA DOIN BABY, who appears to be so completely enthralled and in love with the task of getting to speak to people. She always has a huge smile on her face, and often engages in quite hilarious rapport with her coworkers or those walking by. It’s such a delight to witness, and in the course of several seconds, whatever dim emotions I was allowing to swell up in my bones before dissipates and I offer my own smile and my own well wishes to her. The entire arc of my day changes in that instant. Perhaps without her sunny smile and willingness to engage hurried strangers I would have carried those unruly emotions with me into my day. But there is a sweet oneness in interacting with someone who so enjoys their work. It penetrates my nervous system and allows me to show up brighter than I would have. Worldly eyes would look upon her job as menial and meaningless, but showing up passionately for the task at hand creates visceral ripples. And so it is that any job, any creation, any task holds within it the maximal potential to affect the world around it. And in turn, the world changes.
When I talked about this with my pal, it was suggested that this outlook on your career is perhaps arrogant. To go into your career with the hopes of changing a life or producing inspiration perhaps could be seen as a delusion of grandeur. Like How dare I think I can change the world. I’m not God. But this is incorrect thinking. To intend to change a life, create a smile or a laugh, make someone think differently, or make someone happier all because of your solo efforts is not arrogant, it’s selfless. When you show up for your career hoping to inspire or change, you are living from a space of service. You are looking at your talents and competencies as things to be shared for mutual enlightenment and enjoyment.
Many people do the opposite thing. They go into a job, a career, a profession from a stand point of what can I get out of this? They design their dreams around what will give THEM the most happiness, joy, love, comfort, money, self-esteem, et cetera and everyone else plays second fiddle to this drama. THIS is arrogance. A singer who sings so they can get a record contract and a yacht does not show up brightly at all. In fact their energy is desperate, and their capacity to change the world favorably is diminished no matter how many dollars they earn, no matter how much they may be using their given talents. It’s arrogant to think your actions, your career somehow happens in a vacuum, like you’re in this world alone and don’t affect anyone or anything. Like your feelings and security are the only things of import.
I am certainly not saying that every corner of this world is a safe place to speak your truth, and that you should proclaim loudly all over the place: I’M GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD! No. Rather, adopt a quiet and centered place within yourself where you know that this is your intention. And that silent conviction will carry you, and remind you gently on those bad days that you’re in this for real, and owe it to the world to play big. Humility is gorgeous, but when used to shrink down, play small, and think things like Who am I to think I can do this, can be fatal and unproductive. A healthy sense of self and purpose is composed of both humility and grandiosity in equal measure. Too much of either distorts the dream.
And so I have released my first EP with all of this in mind. It’s human to feel afraid of going for your goals, and to let people in on that process. I exhausted myself trying to get the songs perfect, and envisioned nightmarish outcomes of people hating it publicly. But fear is never in alignment with your highest truth. And so on the eve of my EP’s release I remembered why it is I’m doing this. I reminded myself that should this EP, or even one song on the EP, reach just one person in a real way and make them smile, ponder, nod their head, or just generally release themselves from those things that bog us down in everyday life for even four minutes, then that will be enough, and the effort will be worth it. No job is too small to the powers that be. Of course this doesn’t mean I should just settle and sing for an audience of one my whole life and then die in poverty. Rather, it’s an invitation to remember why I’m here and to respect the process. Living abundantly, giving freely of my talents with the highest of intentions, and being grateful for every listening ear opens me up to receive even more. The world always mirrors back to you what you give it, and should we show up bright in whatever it is we do, then we can live with the conviction that our wildest successes will be held in trust for us, waiting to be downloaded at the right time.
A song can lift a spirit. A meal can deliver satisfaction. A dress design can bolster self-esteem. A photograph can inspire wonder. A movie can produce catharsis. A building can create a home. A speech can energize an audience. An intention can change a heart. And if you know what changes a heart, you know what changes the world.