I was talking to a priest the other day.
Oh, you can relax; this isn't about religion!
You see, when I first met Paul, he wasn't a priest; he was a scientist. And a musician. Well, a drummer in a heavy metal band, which some people would tell you isn't a musician at all! He would call himself a percussionist now (which apparently is) and these days he tends to play more folk music than heavy metal.
But I digress. Last year I attended his 50th birthday party. I wrote about it (Almost Heaven – 17th February 2016). This year it was his wife (the singer and harpist) who reached that milestone, and celebrated with a Mediaeval costume party! Typical really.
It wasn't until I left, that I had a chance to really speak with them. As Paul looked down at me with all that love and softness and compassion in his eyes I realised something. "You've always been a priest," I said. "I can remember coming to you twenty years ago and pouring out my heart. You listened and gave wise counsel, you were a priest even then."
"Yes," he replied. "I still can't believe I get paid for what I am; for what I've always been."
Another of my friends did it the other way around. He very nearly became a priest, but then opted for chemical physics. He too says, "I can't believe they pay me for doing what I love." He works every day, just because he loves it. He spent his last summer holidays working out a problem nobody had been able to solve for twenty years. And yes – he managed it: I got an exultant phone call at midnight to tell me.
I've seen that too in my own life. I trained as a chartered accountant and spent fifteen years in finance; always struggling, never performing satisfactorily, always getting sick with migraines – in addition to the long unexplained illnesses which I now recognise as the depressive part of my bipolar cycle. It was a miserable time. I felt a failure, and was always conscious of letting people down.
Because I wasn't an accountant – I was just doing the job of an accountant. The woman who now does my books: now she is an accountant. She loves numbers and putting them in order. She gets excited about tax to the point where she jumps up and down as she's explaining it.
It's an interesting distinction, isn't it? I do love my job as an image consultant. I love working with people to improve their self-confidence, to enable them to express themselves with their physical appearance. But I'm not an image consultant right down to the bone; I'm a writer.
I've always been a writer: from the moment I learned that words made up stories, that words could transport you to another world.
And I'll be a writer until I die.
So, my question for you is, what are you?
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