Dungeon Prompts: The wrong path?


cooling tower and cooling water discharge of P...

Philippsburg nuclear power plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s Dungeon Prompt:

Share with us something that you worked hard for – put your heart and soul into – only realizing after achieving it that you wanted nothing to do with it. Don’t take this as a trot down memory lane. Rather let it be a learning experience for someone else that might not be aware of the full impact of such a decision.

I’m not sure that there’s anything I poured my heart and soul into that I’d say turned out to be a mistake.  The biggest sojourn down the “wrong” path for me is easy to name:  going to law school, hating it, finishing anyway, becoming a lawyer.  My heart and soul were never in it.   But I worked harder and at more cost to my health and spirit than any time before or since.  But not heart and soul.

I always wanted to be a musician.  One of the few times various members of my family agreed on what they wanted me to do:  no, no, no to musician.  So I went to Northwestern in liberal arts instead of the music school and majored in history with no particular intention or notion of what to do with it.

I entered college in 1970.  I didn’t much take to the Greeks but there was a big radical/hippie crowd there at the time and I landed in that group.  Became radicalized.  In those days, one of the paths for a radical became law; get in the system and use the law to create change.  I’d tried academia for a while, but short of my PhD couldn’t take it.  Flailing around for something to do that wouldn’t send my family into a tailspin, I landed on law.

The “change from within” spell in law was short-lived and pretty much over by the time I finished law school.  I loathed law school so much my friends were surprised when I showed up for the second year.  I managed to pick a particularly tough law school and they worked us about to death.  I didn’t like any of it, so the hard work and the tension of it all led to not sleeping and terrible migraines.

I have kind of a determined side and, since many of the professors were openly trying to break us, I became determined that they weren’t gonna break me.  So I graduated.  Found my way to a job in which most of my cases involved trying to stop nuclear power plants from being brought into the rate base of the utilities that built them.   A job like that was a pretty rare find at the time and initially I felt elated.

Over time, though, I realized the boring law of law school was still boring as a lawyer.  And you can’t imagine how deadly dull those cases are or how tough if you don’t have a background in nuclear engineering or econometric forecasting; thousands of pages of testimony to go over on those topics for every case.

Had a boss I really liked.  Was working for a cause that mattered to me.  We won a LOT.  The boss left, I got his position –for which I really wasn’t prepared — and the guy above him suddenly became my enemy and caused me all kinds of trouble.  I noticed each time the news came that we’d won a motion or a whole case I didn’t feel excited or even particularly care.  Eventually I started throwing up every day before work.

During the last couple of years as a lawyer, I was studying yoga and took a nine month teacher training class at the Temple of Kriya Yoga.  I found myself using lots of techniques I learned in yoga and meditation classes to stay calm in the midst of hating my work.  Eventually I realized I had to do breathing exercises or a centering practice or a short meditation multiple times a day because everything about the atmosphere around me drew me into the tension and adversity of the law.

I felt I couldn’t keep on and live.  So I gave notice.  Nothing about the path I’ve followed since then would be called a success by most of America.  When I took that leap of faith to leave and follow my heart, I never imagined how long the free fall would be.  Never dreamed of how many blocks and issues and health problems I’d have to release, overcome or transmute.  I’ve lived pretty close to the edge of financial disaster ever since I walked away from the decent-sized (by no means huge) paycheck of a public interest lawyer.

Following my heart has meant I’ve put my heart and soul into many projects.  Nothing has been a success as to the outward trappings most people value.  But I’ve never felt anything I tried was wrong or a misstep as long as I followed where spirit led.  I’ve worked hard at many projects I loved but it never felt hard because my heart and soul were in it.

I think the big mistake about law for me was that I cast about for something I could live with when I felt I couldn’t follow my bliss– traveling the road of the least bad option instead of listening to my heart has never turned out well.  Not that I’ve completely learned the lesson 🙂

I find myself wondering whether heart and soul are ever in it if something feels like hard work or a big struggle to achieve so I’m going to be interested to read other responses to this prompt.

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18 thoughts on “Dungeon Prompts: The wrong path?

  1. Interesting story Leigh, based on your own life experience. Indeed life is all about liking what one does, as if one’s heart is not on the work, it is better not to pursue it. Kahlil Gibran puts it very well when he says, ‘Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy’. Whereas in our workaday world, the reality is everyone is not able to pursue the vocation of their choice and so end up desperately as square pegs in round holes making a misery of their lives and others around…best wishes… Raj.

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  3. That sounds like an amazing amount of work to put into something you were not interested in. But, maybe it made you stronger for the path that you are on now. At least it gave you a chance to practice your breathing and meditation techniques in a stressful environment.

    • You remind me it’s been a LONG time since I posted about how I see many threads from the past weaving themselves into the tapestry that’s beginning to show it’s design. Hmmm.. have some new posting to do…

  4. We are always on the right path. And as Sreejit Poole said above, that journey has probably prepared you…to find you!
    My journey was also with no heart (what I would call a misery), but in being in that place I can now understand compassion, kindness and love because I HAVE been in the opposite.
    We must know one to know the other, and balance that understanding within.
    As spirit said to me…I can explain all day what it is to get burnt by a flame, but it is not until you do actually get burnt that you understand the truth of what it is. Our journey is to feel, understand and become the wisdom that this life imparts.
    You have since looked within BECAUSE it did not feel heartfelt back then. You have become closer to the beauty inside that is you, and now appreciate much more of what you have become.
    If you had the chance to go back to that time….would you? I think not, because you now have much more wisdom and love for who you are, and what that means to you, in how you now wish to give out to the world.
    And you give to the world nicely, and in a much more powerful way, because you now stand in that truth in what you are sharing on here and to others within your life.
    That is worth so much more than doing something that is expected by everyone else. That is their truth, yours is in following your heart, not theirs. The day that you release that and not take on the guilt of expectations and more than likely the fears that they project, is the day that you are free, and your heart will sing because you have been unconditional to yourself.

    • No, I wouldn’t go back, but there are definitely signs that the training and experiences have a place in what is unfolding. If nothing else, when I have all those book and workshop contracts to sign, I’ll know what to look for 🙂

  5. I agree with the others who’ve said we’re always on the right path. This *was* your path, that got you to where you are now. I’m reminded of a friend who’s an engineer and does technical writing to make money. She is also a highly trained and gifted energy healer. She’s said to me more than once that the technical writing is not her path, until one day I suggested it was her path or she wouldn’t be doing it.
    I too lived years on or below the poverty line, scraping by, because following my heart was the inner healing/spiritual path, about as far from a conventional life as you can get – and the income to go with it lol. Sometimes blogging feels like really hard work, and a struggle for me, but I rarely doubt that my heart and soul are in it.
    Alison ❤

    • That’s interesting that you feel both heart and struggle. I guess I’d say, for me it’s not that the work of my heart never feels hard but it never feels like a struggle to me in the same painful way I forced myself to stick with law… But yes, even the law background has a place in the unfolding new life I’m creating.

  6. For me this says it all: “I’ve worked hard at many projects I loved but it never felt hard because my heart and soul were in it.” Thank you for sharing your journey, Leigh. I can relate to it on my levels as I’ve also pursued jobs/trainings that I thought I ‘should’, but they never really resonated or panned out in remotely fulfilling ways. Yet, it all leads us to where we are, and clarifies our truth. So of course it’s all perfect!

    Law was something I always thought about studying; I was very drawn to the field but, having worked with lawyers as a legal secretary years ago, it seemed to be an all-or-nothing profession. And I’m too much of a gypsy for that! ❤ Thank you for mentioning Kriya yoga too; as you know I am pondering pursuing this path more deeply and I'm glad there are friends and WP'ers out there who've feel that call too. Namaste, Aleya

    • I think a lot of us have spent too much of our lives trying to please others by following calls that are not our own.
      I’d personally advise anyone away from law — especially for a gypsy soul! — but that might just be me 🙂

  7. Ah so much time and energy invested in something your heart was not into. I don’t believe any experience is lost. I worked for a corporate lawyer as well as CEO for a while and hated it…so I paid my way “slowly” back to university for another career in social work…my heart was in it alright since I did it for free until I got my degree. I find my past experience made me more real…understanding of other careers and the real world. I just discovered Kriya Yoga a few days ago…Your post is very thought provoking. Following your heart as you get older seems easier….when we are younger we struggled with so many choices and lifestyles. Thank you for sharing. Namaste, Oliana

    • I hadn’t thought about the getting older angle, but I can see for me it took some years to move away from the need to please my parents and to grow up enough to care less what other people think or to have concern about whether I’m doing something “approved” by my peers…

  8. So interesting to read your story. I had no idea about your lawyer past. But, I am sure that all of those years have helped to create who you are today. As I often say, it’s all a part of the journey. 😉 Thank you so much for sharing! Love and light to you.

  9. Pingback: Dungeon Prompts: Humbling Ourselves | The Seeker's Dungeon

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