What if the answers to your prayers were right under your nose, waiting to be noticed?
Living in China for two years, I occasionally wished there was a way for me to practice Spanish regularly. I went about my days speaking English and Chinese in the various places I went and did things: language schools where I worked, parks where I received martial arts instruction, streets where I walked as I listened to self-help on my MP3 player, buses and subways where I read books.
There were plenty of people around all the time, including the parks where I practiced taichi. One day, our teacher told us that it was the last day we would see one of our classmates because he was going back to Spain. I enjoyed a nice conversation with him in Spanish as we walked out of the park after practice.
I had practiced near him for a year, but never got to know him. Other people were getting to know each other: it was a casual and conversational atmosphere… but I was too “focused” on my prescribed “purpose” for being at the class. In fact, I sometimes got annoyed with people who chatted too much and didn’t seem to practice so much. Had my attitude been more relaxed, open and interested in getting to know people, I would have noticed that the answer to my wish for opportunity to speak Spanish was right in front of me the whole time.
I had a similar epiphany on my birthday a couple days ago. For a while I’ve been writing, enjoying it, and thinking it would be great to become a professional writer. I’ve written a book that I haven’t published, written articles that I haven’t really been paid much for, so it probably counts as one of those things I’d do if I was a millionaire and didn’t need to get paid by anyone.
Meanwhile, before I signed a contract to go to Officer Candidate School for the National Guard, I was asked how I would feel about being assigned to a public affairs unit until I finished my training. I said sure without giving it much thought, because I wasn’t getting the impression that I would spend much time there at all. In fact, if I had finished OCS when I planned to, I might not have had any interaction with the public affairs unit at all.
Through twists of fate, I did not finish OCS when I had thought I would, but instead came back to Austin and got admitted in an OCS program that would start this coming March. Until then, the plan would be for me to attend drill weekends with the public affairs unit I had been assigned to, not because I was trained to do the work they do, but because I needed somewhere to drill.
I assumed that since I was basically a foster child at this unit, I would function like a bystander, observing how they did the necessary training to keep their public affairs skills up. As it turned out, they chose instead to throw me into the fire and flood me with information about their crafts. During my first drill, learned about creating news-releases by being assigned to teach a class on news-releases. My second drill, I was assigned to conduct interviews, take pictures and write a story relating to the day’s training exercise.
And then two things occurred to me:
First, I’m a professional writer. I get paid for drill weekends. Therefore, when I spend my weekends writing, I’m doing it as a profession, even if it is not with a large amount of pay, experience or expertise.
Second, here’s my opportunity to thrive as a professional writer. If I only stay with this unit for two more drills and then head off to OCS, at the very least, I get some training and experience as a writer in a professional context. On the other hand, if I decide that I am not in a rush to become an Officer, then I have the opportunity to get thoroughly trained as a military journalist and fill that role long-term.
I am still debating this idea in my mind. I am unsure about the course I should take when I think about what I will get: I am not yet sure that I will receive student loan repayment if defer OCS.
But when I think about what I would be giving, the answer is clear. In the short-term, I am more likely to find myself working within my dharma as a Public Affairs Soldier than as an Officer without a clear idea of what branch I would be assigned to.
What other answers are right below my nose? What else have I been missing because I have not been paying attention or too focused on the plan I already thought I had? What answers to your prayers are sitting below your nose?