One of my favorite things to do is watch someone in their element, doing what they love most to do.
I had a dog whose element was swimming. She would swim for up to an hour at a time. On a few occasions I worried that she’d cross the small lake we frequented, come out on the other side and wonder where I was! She was happy though, oblivious to the family she left on the shore, and content to paddle along without any direction in mind. I couldn’t help but marvel as I watched her in her element, doing what she obviously enjoyed most.
I have a son whose element is on the gridiron. Since he was eight, something happened whenever he put on his pads and helmet and stepped on the green field. The gentle boy with a wont to please disappeared; replaced by a fierce competitor that took this mother a couple of years to get to know. He’s a junior in high school this fall, playing starting defense and his passion has only increased. Over the years I’ve watched him discipline himself to go on early morning runs, hit the gym in the off season and during summer break, and absorb the stories of his heroes on “A Football Life.” Tonight we kickoff the season with the traditional scrimmage and as I sit in the stands and watch him play, I’ll do so knowing he’s happy to finally be competing, content in the challenge to do his best and lead his team. Completely in his element.
For some of us, writing is our element. Tucked away from the world in order to create an imaginary world for others, we spend countless moments absorbed in a thesaurus or staring out the window in search of just the right words and phrase. As grueling and demanding as the process of editing is, we find immense satisfaction in the activity of creating the perfect sentence (I am thankful to live in the computer age. There’s something seductive about highlighting a group of words, capturing them with my mouse, and moving them. Poof! Magically the sentence I struggled with now reads and flows with elegance. It’s like Lego’s with words!). We writers are never happier than when we are agonizing over vocabulary or the structure of our next work, because we are in our element.
But what if you aren’t in your element? What if you aren’t doing what you love to do and what you are passionate about? Then I challenge you to make a change. Life’s too short kids!