I had an email exchange over the weekend with a writing challenge participant from Chicago. It emerged that we’re probably related. My great great grandmother came from a tiny island off the coast of Donegal with a population that now tallies about 36. His grandmother emigrated to America from that same tiny island and had the same surname.
The revelation prompted me to do a few online searches to confirm that the info I’d absorbed about my family over the years was correct. Looking at census records and marriage certificates the word ‘Fisherman’ came up over and over again. That I am descended from fishermen and island dwellers is something I’ve known but not really thought about before. It’s no wonder I get antsy if I haven’t caught sight of the sea in a while.
When I was in Dunfanaghy last week I walked through the bay when the tide was out. One moment the sea is right there, full and lapping at the edge of the town square. A few hours later it’s gone completely. Golden sand in its wake. The following day I walked to a beach where the water is fierce, and I had to run as the Atlantic hurled waves at me much faster than I anticipated. At a human scale the sea is a wild and ever-changing creature. But when you see it at a larger scale – when you look out the window of a plane or see satellite imagery the sea is there, still, immovable. Confident, safe and certain.
Your real work is like that too. On a grand scale, over years and decades, it is certain and rooted. But on a human scale, day-to-day, it’s uncertain and constantly in flux.
There are many different kinds of work you will do in your lifetime. When I talk about your real work, I’m talking about the work your most authentic self does. It’s about more than pay cheques, status or recognition. It’s an expression of who you are. Work that you alone are uniquely placed to do.
Your real work and the sea. At once certain and uncertain. Immovable and precarious. If you’re able to make friends with that reality and keep moving forward with an open heart and fierce gentleness then you’re more than half way there.