Gift Giving

It’s the holiday season, and I’m sure most of us have spent the last few weeks scouring shops and websites in hopes of finding the perfect present that will undoubtedly light up the face of a loved one come Christmas Day. Gifts of all sizes are wrapped in pretty paper and adorned with ribbons and bows, and tucked under a warmly glowing tree for safe keeping, until the day arrives when they get to do their job: make someone’s day. Gift-giving has undoubtedly been on many minds these last few weeks, and I’ve seen no shortage of wishlists floating around the blogosphere – but today, I want to address something else related to gifts: those which were given to us at birth.

In some way or another, we are all gifted. Some of us are fantastic listeners, great writers, artists, or musicians. Some of us understand chemicals and equations, or the inner workings of technology, and some of us are born to sing or spread a message throughout the world. Some of us are born to be on the stage, and some of us allow our imaginations to soar onto the pages of books published by the million, working their way into the hearts of a generation. Let’s think about that for a second – because there are so many of us out there who’ve written about hopes and dreams and secret passions, yet used fear and excuses to not explore and develop them. “But what if I’m not good enough?” has become something of a mantra throughout the collective consciousness, resulting in thousands of potential gifts being locked up and hidden away, quashing any potential in the slightest they could have to make this world or someone’s life that little bit better.

I received an e-mail recently from a man whose story I was lucky enough to hear last summer, Patrick Combs. He had an interesting point about worldwide phenomenon Stephenie Meyer*, the biggest selling author of the last two years: she almost didn’t submit Twilight to publishers because she thought her writing wasn’t good enough. [Pause.] Potential irony aside, clearly by taking a leap of faith in offering her gift to the world, she found her calling, made millions, and won over the teenage masses with tales of angst fantasy, romance and adventure. What if dear old J.K. had never allowed Harry Potter to see the light of day? What if she continued to write on trains and in coffee shops, and kept the stories bound in paper journals, only ever given to her children and perhaps a few friends? By choosing to give her gift to the world, she helped a generation move away from their Playstations and fall in love with reading all over again. Patrick had further interesting points:

Five years ago I had a strong sense that I wanted to be a speaker and I became one. But now I’m back to wondering what I should TRULY be doing with my life, and now the ‘What to do with my life?’ question seems more important than ever. First off, the panic I’ve felt this week stems from a deep seated fear: Fear of missing my calling.

Wouldn’t it be awful to miss your calling? What could be worse? Also, I’m certain that “success” isn’t what I’m after. Simply reaching the top is not what I’m out to do. I’m out to give the gift I was meant to give – whether doing so ultimately makes me rich, middle class, or poor. Famous, notable, or unknown. Getting to the top of your field can’t be as important as becoming what you were put on the planet to become. Fulfilling your calling has to be the peak of the pyramid. Giving your gift – the one gift you can and were born to give – must be the ticket.

via carolineeez.tumblr.com

I’ve seen countless people going through their lives – myself very much included – being held back by feelings of inadequacy. I believe we were all given gifts the day we were born, and we are all drawn toward certain interests, hobbies and passions so we can tap into them, open them up, and give them to the world. Yet so often, they are held hostage, hidden away untouched and unused, and never given the opportunity to shine.

As I’d mentioned, I’ve seen a lot of wishlists floating around in the last few weeks leading up to Christmas. TV boxsets, makeup, gadgets, and mp3 players may result in a smile for a few days, but they are all temporal. Why not choose ones that could last a lifetime? We’ve all had great Christmas presents, and we’ve all had one or two pretty rubbish ones. Why is it that when it comes to a naff Christmas gift, we don’t hesitate in going straight back to Best Buy on Boxing Day to exchange it for something better, yet when it comes to the gifts we’re given in our very souls, we’re perfectly content to accept the useless (fear, anxiety, and self-doubt), and refuse to enjoy the brilliant?  On my wishlist this year, I want to open the great gifts. The ones I want to someday offer to the world through compassion, song, speech and written word. I want to make the choice to accept and recognize them instead of settling for a cheap, half-hearted knock-off tainted by what I’ve settled for for so long.

This Christmas, in the spirit of gift-giving, ask yourself if you’re ready to give yours. Follow those passions and release those fears, do what feels comes naturally, and go after what makes you bubble with enthusiasm. Cultivate your talents, listen to your dreams, and follow your heart. You never know whose Christmas you might end up making the best yet.

* While we’re on the subject of Twilight… (I’m sorry :))
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41 comments

  1. This may be my favorite thing that I’ve read since I sat on a plane and read through Hannah’s entire blog. Every part of this made me nod along with your words. It is something I wished I could express as lovely as you did. A week ago, I took the little boy I babysit for a walk–and he said “What do you want for Christmas” My response was: “Happiness” and “My dreams” and he looked at me –of course without understanding, at only 5, and said “but what do you WANT.” and I laughed to myself thinking, one day he will understand. Gosh if only Santa could put illusionary things under our tree. And I don’t think you’ve missed your calling…I think you’ve got a lot of great things ahead.

  2. Beautiful message, Em, thanks for the reminder especially in this time where everyone is thinking about material gifts. And I laughed out loud at the Twilight Video!

  3. What a beautiful post and a good reminder that we should be using the gifts we have been given. I think we all get so caught up in the physical gifts of the season, there are a lot of other ways we could lift others spirits if we used our God-given gifts.

  4. Oh this is so touching! I absolutely agree with you on this. There is absolutely no reason for us to be held back because the truth is this: no one is holding us back but ourselves!! It’s so simple and brilliant. Ah. This has pretty much been my motto this year: there’s no such this as a mold you have to fit into, and if someone tries to put you in one, break it!! Fear will get you no where in life and chances are, those moments when you are afraid are a sign that something spectacular is right around the corner. Fear is the hint that you are on to something! When you overcome it, and press on to see what’s on the other side, you’ll realize there was never anything to fear at all and you’ll just keep getting stronger and stronger. ❤ Love this post, thank you!

    1. I love your motto from this year, and fear IS a sign that something is just around the corner if you can only take the leap of faith rather than running out the nearest window 🙂

  5. Kind of along the same lines, it’s amazing how often we will let other people close to us make mistakes and we forgive them, but we don’t give ourself that same space.

    Great post.

  6. hahaha!!! that video is awesome. not gonna lie, i really enjoyed the series while i was reading it. i allowed myself to get past the cheesiness of it all and enjoy it, even though it was pretty darn ridiculous. i think this guy really gets twilight. haha.

    on a more serious note, yeah. great post. i have seen a friend backpedal into nothingness at the sign of challenge and having to work hard. i have seen a friend coast along in a sea of… complacency because they finally got to where they wanted to be (which really was a job and husband, but mostly a husband). i see no drive for her to change any part of herself anymore. how sad!

    life is about constantly changing, striving to be better, to be something more – even when you’ve found your passion (especially when?). i can’t imagine not trying to be a better person all the time, to find what i’m meant to do and then to do it to my absolute best ability. it’s all about evolution – evolving ourselves and our minds to something a little more, experience a little more, live a little more. and then allow ourselves to make mistakes, to learn. it’s how we grow.

    1. So very well said. I don’t think anyone should ever stop trying to be more, or be better. Even if your goal is to have the right job or the right husband or whatever, if there’s nothing left to strive for then the rest of your life is going to be spent just… coasting.

  7. I don’t think I’ve ever been scared of missing my calling, but I do know I’ve been afraid to use it. For example, I like to think I’m a good writer but I’m more into fiction than the journalism stuff I’ve been studying for the past 2 years. Next semester, I’m taking a creative writing class and I’m so afraid I’m going to find out I’m not good enough and I’m just fooling myself with this dream.

    Using our gifts can be so nerve-wracking because it’s our passion! It’s what we love! Shouldn’t we automatically be GREAT at it? The truth is, it takes hard work to actually be successful at using our talents.

    Awesome post, Emily! I love how you always make me think!

    1. Thanks! You have an interesting point – maybe why we’re so often afraid of pursuing the things we’re passionate about is because we SHOULD be automatically good, and that makes the fear of failure that much bigger. I’m really excited for you to take your creative writing class – I bet you’ll find it’s exactly what you’re meant to be doing 🙂

  8. Your ability to see the potential in everyone gives me hope. Thanks for such an enlightening post to warm me up and remind me that everyone has talents and gifts and by keeping them hidden, we are doing the world a terrible disservice. (One of) your gift(s) is obviously pin-pointing some small and seemingly insignificant detail or lesson and turning it into something big that we can all relate to. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and thanks for reminding me just how important JK Rowling’s bravery in continuing to submit her manuscript was to bringing reading back into our world. We wouldn’t be the same without Harry Potter.

  9. Yes your decisional balance worked wonderfully! When I put it all together, I discovered all that I was going back home for was little tiny weights that, together, didn’t add up to the demands of keeping my life in China. I’m keeping that thing with me.

    anyhoo…. this post gave me a lot to think about.

    “Wouldn’t it be awful to miss your calling?”
    YES. Yes it would. But you know, I don’t even know what my calling is. I used to think I know, but I don’t anymore. I’ve changed so much in the past year since I stopped taking adderall everyday, and the person I’ve become is so incredibly different. I don’t know me anymore. I don’t even know if I like me. I feel like the life I live now is one embedded in the past, in regrets. Caught up in fears, consumed by sadness, and lost in a country where I can hardly speak to anyone. I hardly ever think about my potential anymore. What I could be, who I could become. But you know, I can’t say I’m “perfectly content” to live in this fear, anxiety, and self doubt, as you say. Believe me, if letting go was easy, I would be skipping down the street in bursts of joy months ago. Sometimes, I feel I just don’t know how to. As I said in my blog, how do I keep that joy and optimism I felt in my dream? Give me the secret, please.

    1. I’m so glad the DB was helpful! I think (for me anyway, this is by no means expert advice) that once you recognise the discrepancy between where you are and where you want to be – how you think and how you want to be thinking – what you focus on and what you want to focus on – then that can be the fuel for living differently. It’s hard, when it’s almost habitual to live in a manner you don’t want to be living. I can see there IS discrepancy – you say “I can’t say I’m perfectly content to live with fear, etc.” – so allow that to be the fuel for change.

      You know where to reach me if you want to talk more 🙂

  10. I love your encouragement, thanks for sharing such a lovely message during a time when the focus might not be on matters of the heart. Beautifully written!

    and I LOVED the Twilight video. Seriously. I enjoyed the books but identified the same elements that this video did (just not in such an amusing way).

    I really like you and I really like your blog 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  11. Hi Emily,

    I feel that this is an important post that many people need to read. You have nailed all the reasons that people have for not sharing their gifts, utilizing their fullest potential or fulfilling their destinies. I too have experienced the feelings of inadequacy which has held me back in the past.

    You are perfectly right. Each of us has our own unique role to play here on Earth. We are all like vital parts of the huge organism called life. If one part were missing or faulty, it could upset the delicate balance around us. I am reminded of Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” which I feel illustrates this point perfectly.

    Only when we overcome our fears and grow can we hope to fulfil the roles that our destinies have laid out for us. In doing so, we will touch the world in ways that we could never have imagined.

    And thanks for the vid of Stephanie Myer’s Twilight. It was hilarious! 😀

    Irving aka the Vizier

  12. If my eyes only rest on one piece of good reading this holiday season, let it be this post. Phenomenal. This is exactly the message that I needed to read. Thank you so much for writing this, it is as if you crawled into my heart and strung my soul in your every sentence. LOve Love. Love.

  13. Oh gosh Emily, this post is giving me chills. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of editing the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo and submitting it to publishers. I am absolutely petrified. But… what if? And I don’t want to spend my life wondering if maybe someone would see something special in my work and want to publish it for others to read.

    Maybe 2011 I’ll bite the bullet.

    1. You have to! There was a reason you wrote that novel and I don’t think you have anything to lose by not letting the world see it. Go for it… I have every faith in you!!

  14. I have been thinking about this very thing a lot lately. I feel as old as dirt and very tired, but still feel that my purpose is still hidden from me. My mission is to find it and soon.

    Good post.

    1. Thank you, and I appreciate you stopping by 🙂 I think in some way, everyone is still searching for their purpose… but we’re all given clues along the way in the form of our interests and passions, and what we’re naturally good at… in cultivating what we’re naturally gifted with we can turn those into gifts for others 🙂

  15. Yes, I need to train my brain everyday not to think this way, like I’m somehow not good enough. Where does this stem from?!?

    haha.

    Anyway, all this talk of Harry Potter and Twilight reminded me of this:

    http://widget.nbc.com/videos/nbcshort_at.swf?CXNID=1000004.10045NXC&widID=4727a250e66f9723&clipID=1142239&showID=243&configXML=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbc.com%2Fservice%2Fvideowidget%2Fparams%2FdmlkZW9faWQ9MTE0MjIzOQ%3D%3D%2F&initXML=http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com%2Fvideo%2Fepisodes%2Finit.xml?videoId=1142239

    check it out when you’re bored 🙂

  16. Really good post. I always like to talk about vision. We should all have a vision for our lives, and we should live from that vision and not from our circumstances. Our talents are some of the tools we have to manifest our vision. Feeling inadequate is a way of focusing inward and is a waste of who we are. Instead, we should focus out. We should look at how we impact on others’ lives. Invariable, we will see that we have a huge influence on others. That is our greatest value.

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