Were I to answer that question today, I'd say "I don't know." A few weeks ago, I might have answered differently.
Then I saw "Who Does She Think She Is?"
This documentary about women artists compelled to create -- despite myriad obstacles -- moved me profoundly, awakening a piercing sense of loneliness and loss. In one way or another, I've been dealing with those feelings ever since.
Until a year and a half ago, I felt pretty secure about who I was and what I was doing with my life. I had a job I loved, one I'd created in large part to play to my strengths. I wasn't saving lives or creating works of art, but I felt a sense of purpose: I had a place in my community.
Then I took an early retirement package from the company I'd worked at for 33 years. Since then, I've been building a freelance career in fits and starts. It was an adjustment, sure, but one I thought I'd completed. It surprised me to feel afresh the intensity of loss for who I was, and the accompanying loneliness of wondering if I'd ever find that sense of purpose again.
Don't get me wrong -- there are things I treasure about this new life. At the top is the freedom that comes from making my own schedule. I like choosing when my work day begins and ends, and taking off on a weekday afternoon to see a movie or visit with friends.
But in that space of new awareness, I realized I no longer knew where I belonged: I'd lost the driving passion fueling my career focus. And it was apparent in everything I did, from Twitter (where I tell people I "haven't found my voice yet") to the postings on this blog (which are all over the map).
That led to noticing the ways I avoid doing those things that feed my creativity (like writing) or exorcise my demons (like exercise) -- in other words, the very things that would help me find my way.
It's a puzzle. One that I'm not rushing to solve, though -- another aspect of this time of reflection. Something interesting has happened to me in the process of growing older and wiser: I've learned a certain amount of patience with life's processes.
"If you let cloudy water settle, it will become clear. If you let your upset mind settle, your course will also become clear." So said Buddha.
I accept that this is a transition I can't rush. I can only follow the path of discovery I'm on, stopping to adjust course when the way ahead becomes clear.