I didn’t set out to be writer slash doctor.
In fact, for the longest time, I didn’t tell anybody I was a writer. It was awkward. A little weird. Kind of personal. Plus, I wasn’t very good. If you’re going to tell people you’re a writer, you probably shouldn’t suck at it.
But recently, after a lot of hard work and good fortune, my cover has been blown. And these days, some colleagues and patients who have become aware of my double life, will kindly inquire about my writing. I tell them what I’m working on, thank them for their interest, and then they say, some of them, with nothing but the best of intentions, well, it’s nice to have a hobby.
And I say, A HOBBY??? I did not invest 20 years and 10,000 hours of my life learning the craft, for a hobby. I do not spend 15 hours every week staring at a computer, forehead bleeding, heart racing, for a hobby. I do not skip my kids’ field trips, or have a laughable golf handicap, because of a hobby. Writing is not a hobby! Actually, what I say to people is, thanks, yes, it is nice to have a hobby.
Got me thinking though. What is writing to me? It feels more than a hobby. But honestly, is it a job? Is it a career? Can I call it a career if I would be on welfare without another job? What exactly was I doing with this writing… thing? So I did what I always do whenever I have big unanswered questions. I turned to the three wise men…
Speilberg, Lucas, and Scorsese. And sure enough, the answer was revealed to me.
When I think about Star Wars, I know the plot well. Luke and Leia. Darth Vader. The Force. I get that. And similarly, in our life stories, each of us has a plot. The main story line…
- The Beginning (our birth, our childhood, our education)
- The Journey (our job, our career, our family, our friends, our partners, our homes)
- The Main Characters (partner, best friend, family, lovable neighbor, annoying co-worker)
- The Obstacles (finances, mortgage, rent, sickness, injury, nasty surprises)
- The Villains (evil bosses, crazy exes, mean coaches, destructive influences, drugs, alcohol, mothers-in-law)
- The Ending (happy, tragic, sudden, peaceful)
And of course, the Hero/Heroine. We are the protagonist of our own story. Without Luke Skywalker, there is no Star Wars. Without us, there is no story of us.
But what about R2D2? And C3P0. How do they fit in? With due respect to those lovable bickering Droids, they are, it turns out, a mere subplot. If you took them away, the story of Star Wars would remain largely intact. Luke would still go on his journey and the Death Star would still, happily, be blown to smithereens. (Sorry if I spoiled that for you…)
But would the movie be as good? Without R2D2 and C3P0, Star Wars would be lacking something. Maybe the humour. Maybe the humanity (if one can use that term when talking about Droids). Without that subplot, something would be missing.
The same thing applies to our stories. Our life stories.
So I ask the question, where are your Droids? Where is your subplot? If you took away all of the obligations, responsibilities, and obstacles in your life, if you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?
What is your passion?
I had an epiphany… writing was my subplot. As compelling and rewarding as I found it, if you took it away, I, too, would not cease to exist. But what was really fascinating is the more I thought about it and spoke with people, the more I realized there are many of us who are doing, or aspiring to do, the same thing. To write our subplots. And if you’re reading this blog, I suspect you may have similar goals and struggles. Whether it’s writing or swimming or starting a business or trying to save our planet, I know many of us have, or aspire to have, a subplot. A Subplot.
Which brings me to my kids, who are the reason I started this blog. Currently, they are ten and eight, that wonderful age where they are not yet too cool to hang out with their parents. Yet. Tick-tock.
My wife and I have had long, heavy, late-night discussions about what sort of future we imagine for our children. And what kind of advice we would give to them, knowing full well that our advice would almost certainly never be requested, let alone followed. But still. Knowing what we know now, what would we tell them?
On one hand, we would love for our kids to find, and then to follow, their passions. I mean, really, what more could anyone want for our kids? Well, it seems, upon reflection, we want a couple of more things for our kids. We’d like our kids to be happy. Not that this is any big revelation, but I had simply connected the two dots without really giving it much thought. If they followed their passion, then they would be happy. Right? Seems intuitive. Obvious. Only it turns out, research shows that’s not necessarily the case.
Other than happiness, it seems we also want our kids to be healthy, fulfilled, successful, respected, surrounded by loved ones, secure, and comfortable. That is, financially comfortable. Ideally, rich enough to be able to live amazing lives, buffered from the bad, unencumbered by the mundane. But, at the very least, comfortable. Food on the plate, jeans torn only by fashion. While financial security is not everything, it is, upon honest reflection, on the list of things I wish for our kids. Because those two dots are also connected, right? Financial security and happiness? Turns out that’s a tricky question. Let’s talk more about that later…
Kids aside, these days, with increasing grey hair and a half-empty hour-glass, I, like many, wrestle with my own mid-life questions. I believe it is natural for us look back at what we have accomplished, and what we have not. And in the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment and a regret-free deathbed, we create bucket lists. We attempt to carve time for personal fulfillment, despite a bigger bucket of obligations and responsibilities. We search for ways to rekindle, and to elevate, our passions.
And so I have found myself searching for answers to two questions…
- How should we, as adults, engage in our passions?
- What should we tell our kids?
These are the questions that prompted me to embark on this blog.
And after much contemplation and research, I have concluded the answer lies in the question…
What’s your Subplot?