What is ambition, really?

Have I ever really been ambitious or singular about one particular thing in my life? That’s the question I’m walking around with this morning. Also, what has been/is my ambition? And does it align at all to my place in a capitalistic society?

For years I was a teacher. While I would say I had an overall solid, formative experience, it is a profession that regularly takes advantage of the ambition and passion of well-meaning people. I think I feel a little burnt by that.

How, then, can I make decisions about the next step when I’m essentially living in a off-color version of fear? I want to be excited about the next step, and I want my desire to stand out to motivate me into action. But there in lies the rub.

Sometimes it feels like the only things worth doing are the things that make money, things that set the table with food. Things that pay the bills and pay for plane tickets to go on vacation. Vacation away from the results of the very ambition I’m talking about.

I’m not an entrepreneur by any means. I have no inkling or desire to build and run a business. I’ve always been a cog in a much larger, more established machine. Maybe this is the thing I need to break away from.

Starting something new is scary, and like my sister reminded me the other day, anxiety and excitement come from the same place. One day I’m feeling so excited and hopeful about the world and my place in it, and the next I’m scared I’ll never find my place. So which is it?

Know yourself to the core, and you will know everything there is worth knowing. Know yourself until there is nothing more to fear, or to hope. Know yourself, and since you’ll know your place in the world, you’ll become the world. Then ever if you lose your place in the world, you’ll still be of it. Even if your mind goes, you won’t go with it. And there is no distance for your soul to travel to find yourself.

Alexandra Fuller, Travel Light, Move Fast

In many ways I feel like I’ve circled back around to where I was when we first moved to the East Coast. I’m still a little torn up about leaving a job that I really enjoyed. The job I just left I fell into pretty much, and it turned out to be a good experience for me. I try to see it that way. But I’m still pretty upset about feeling like I needed to leave a profession I had wanted to stick with until retirement. Truly, I did.

The thing is, I have so much potential. Oh, growing up as a kid in the gifted/talented program made me resent that word. So I corralled any ambition I had in order to not have people use that word against me. But I am multi-talented. And the world tells me I should find a way to monetize that talent.

But what if I just want to explore and develop my talents for my own use and pleasure? And to share with others of my own accord, not according to a work schedule or pay check? Maybe I’m a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

I think, though, if I could time travel to future Elizabeth’s life and feelings about 60 years from now (if I’m blessed enough), I think that trying out many avenues and doing many things would be what she would be happy with.

I think for now, my ambition is to grow food and feed myself and my family, enjoy mornings I’m not running out the door, trying to get to work before the sun rises, write down my thoughts, fears, and ambitions even if it’s a little scary to sift through my own thoughts, read books and revel in the talent of others, and keep working towards the “next big thing,” step by step.

In this society, ambition can be realized as something that’s hard, tough, edgy, shiny, expensive. But I want to cultivate an ambition that’s steadfast, sturdy, loving, inclusive, and simple.

Staying the course is difficult. But I find that more than ever, it’s necessary. The world needs people who adhere to values that prioritize the earth, other humans, wildlife, diversity, wholeness, reconciliation, healing, mindfulness.

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