“Not All Those Who Wander are Lost” — JRR Tolkien
On the other hand, some of us are — lost, that is. Oh, I don’t mean that we don’t know where we are in the world, it’s just that we don’t know where we are in the grand scheme of things. But then, maybe there’s a very good reason for that.
Not long ago, in a random conversation, a friend mentioned the name of a race car driver—I have no recollection of why we were discussing race car drivers—but he felt this particular driver was a natural. “He was born to drive race cars.”
You hear this expression all the time. “He was born to be a blogger.” “She was born to climb mountains.” Or sing arias, or be a politician, or be an engineer… The expression indicates the perfect convergence of inborn skills and inclination, with a challenging task or a creative endeavor. When you’re “born to do something” the least encouragement will launch you on a lifelong mission to gather the necessary skills, to make the contacts, and to meet the mentors who will help you along the way to becoming a master of your craft. It’s synchronicity in action, and a glorious thing to witness.
But when my friend mentioned this man who was born to drive race cars, I found myself replying, “It’s lucky for him he wasn’t born in, say, 1602.” Which led me to wonder: What if the race car driver had been born in 1602? Then he never would have found his ideal life’s task. What would he have done instead? What do all those people do who just happen to not be born at the right time (or the right place or in the right circumstances) to discover and find fulfillment in their ideal life’s task?
At a guess I’d say a lot of them wander through life trying their hand at different things without ever truly meshing with any of them. Do you know any people like that? Are you someone like that? Hesitantly, I raise my own hand.
All through college I thought I wanted to be a wildlife biologist, then I wanted to be a writer, then I spent nine years as a programmer. Now I’m a writer again, but I’m also a publisher, and this combination makes me feel like I’m as close as I’ve ever come to the thing I was “born to do.” And still…I can’t escape a nagging suspicion that there is or was or will be something else for which I would be ideally suited—or maybe some of us are just never satisfied?
As for those of you who know why you’re here, realize that we envy you. And please don’t take it the wrong way when we wander around in middle age saying things like “Someday I’ll grow up and figure out what I really want to be.” We’re not trying to be annoying; it’s just that we really don’t know.
Linda Nagata is the Locus and Nebula award winning author of The Bohr Maker, Vast, and Memory, all available at Book View Cafe. Her latest book The Dread Hammer, is a fast-paced mythic fantasy of love, war, murder, marriage, and fate.