Anna Maria Locke

Your life is a body of work

April 2015Anna Locke1 Comment
Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.
— Paulo Coelho, "The Alchemist"

The last couple of weeks have been surreal. So many full circle moments, so many hours and months and years of work and searching and struggling are coming together in a powerful wave. In Cancun I saw a glimpse of my future, and then as soon as we flew home I was plunged into a blast from the past. The Association of American Geographers (AAG) Conference is hosted in Chicago this week, so all my old friends and colleagues from Penn State are in town. On top of that, my two best friends from childhood are coming this weekend to celebrate our 28th birthdays!

My future, my past, my present. All that matters is the last one, the here and now, but it’s weird when you actually pause and look UP from the daily grind to recognize and acknowledge how far you've come.

Last night I found myself in a crowded room on the 43rd floor of the Swisshotel overlooking the lights of Navy Pier at a PSU Geography “Alumni and Friends” reception, explaining to all my old colleagues and my advisor that I’ve jumped ship on academia to become an online health and fitness coach and creative entrepreneur. I haven’t seen most of these people in four years, since I graduated and left Happy Valley in 2011. Everyone looks a few years older, but still the same, but I was struck the most by how much I have changed.

Maybe not changed, but I've grown up and developed a lot of perspective and self confidence. When I entered my masters program I was only 22, fresh out of college with no clue what I wanted to do when I grew up. That’s when I started this blog!  Oh how far I've come.

I used to count tree rings, analyze historical photographs, make maps, and hike in the mountains for a living. It was fun, it was meaningful, and it was two of the best years of my life.

I loved it because I love trees, learning how humans have impacted the environment, making a bigger difference, and being part of a tight knit community like my lab group. I like to know that I’m making a bigger difference in the world by being myself and sharing my skills and knowledge.

Even though I’m not directly using my science degrees right now, I am the sum of all my experiences and I wouldn’t be here, now, in this present moment, without my past. In grad school I learned what mattered to me, I learned how to push myself and expand my comfort zone. I learned that I'm happiest when I'm in the mountains surrounded by big trees, and that having people in my life who "get me" is incredibly important. I made lifelong friends, dabbled in the ivory tower world of academic conferences and thought sharing, fell in love with field work, and published a paper.

After I graduated I spent four years trying to figure out my “path.” Well, after a lot of experimentation, stress, failure, success, sacrifice, fun jobs, WHY MEEEE moments, and meeting a lot more interesting and inspiring people along the way, I’ve finally accepted that I don’t have one true calling. I want to be free do it all, or at least be free to incorporate everything I love into my life and career. I know that we can't do everything all at once, but I'm happy to make the most of the present moment and immerse myself fully into the stage of life I'm in without worrying about what it means, or what the future holds.

Because the fact is, every random side job, hobby, degree, career path, relationship, and phase of life combines into who you are.

Have you ever felt stuck in a job, but were afraid to leave it because it’s what you went to school for, what you went into debt for, what you invested years of your life for, what your family expects you to do? I want to challenge you to start shifting your mindset and start thinking about what REALLY matters to you. No experience is ever wasted because it’s either a stepping stone, a learning experience, or both. Everything you’ve ever done is a chapter of your legacy, your body of work.

Marie Forleo calls it being multipassionate, and Pamela Slim describes it as being a multipotentialite. The labels and words don't matter, but it's a concept that no one has ever offered me before, an opportunity to give myself permission to be myself, to stop feeling inadequate or worthless because I don't have it all figured out.

“You’ve spent your whole life flitting from interest to interest, maybe pursuing a handful of projects at any one time. All of this jumping around has felt amazing. But if you stop to ponder your path for too long, it starts to worry you...And then you discover that you are a multipotentialite. Suddenly it all makes sense. You realize that you are not broken or noncommittal or afraid of your own don’t have a singular calling, you have many. The zigzagging, the sporadic obsessions, the weird interdisciplinary projects, they all now fit.” (Pamela Slim, Body of Work)

I read that passage on the beach in Cancun, alone in my thoughts with the waves crashing in the distance, and it was one of the biggest “aha” breakthrough moments of my life. So I am going to keep running with it, keep exploring, keep challenging my limits, and most of all keep chasing the people, experiences, and opportunities that make me feel like myself.

Everything I know I’ve learned through my journey, and the story is still unfolding each and every day.

xo Anna