I have loved elephants my entire life but about two years ago, my love for them escalated to deep concern about them. I was starting to hear stories of how the African elephant was on a fast track toward extinction, being poached for their ivory tusks. I began reading everything I could about what was going on in Africa, who was responsible for the poaching, where the ivory was going, and what was being done about it. I signed up for Google alerts and received an email every time the word “elephant” appeared anywhere on the Web. I thus found myself inundated with emails and story after horrifying story. Every elephant that died was taking a piece of me with it. I cried every time I read of another elephant that had been killed, and felt truly powerless to do anything about it.
I became aware of many organizations doing amazing work on behalf of the elephants and started donating as much money as I could to them. I started talking about elephants on Facebook and on Twitter and initiated conversations with anyone who would listen, trying to reach as many people as I could to raise awareness.
But I still wasn’t satisfied. I felt like I needed to do more. I wanted to work with elephants hands-on. Mind you, I have no animal keeping experience, other than my own pets, and I didn’t go to school and I’m not a zoologist or a biologist or any other kind of -gist for that matter. Nonetheless, I was obsessed. I believed that if I wanted something badly enough, the Universe would conspire to give it to me, if it was in my best interests. And of course I felt that obviously it had to be in my best interests because my passion for elephants is so great. But the dream itself was rather lofty, even by my standards: How could I craft a new career as an elephant keeper out of a desk job?
So for two years I’ve been driving myself crazy, trying to figure a way in to the world of elephants. I dreamed of sitting in a jeep under a gigantic acacia tree in the middle of the savannah in Kenya, observing herds of elephants by day and compiling data about them by night. I wrote email after email to people “in the know,” and I did countless hours of Internet research trying to find classes or courses in elephant husbandry, and I kept running into dead end after dead end. The message I kept receiving (and flat out ignoring) was that the best thing I could do to help the elephants would be to keep doing what I was doing and let the people doing what I want to do, that are trained to do it, keep doing it. In other words, unless I intended to go back to school and become a -gist of some kind, my prospects for becoming an elephant keeper were very, very slim.
The last “rejection” email I received was the last straw. I was down in the dumps about it for a few days as I came to grips with the reality that I was never going to be an elephant keeper. I had lived (or, rather, suffered) for two years fighting a battle I wasn’t going to win. Not engaging in the battle meant my dream to work with elephants was never going to be realized, which to me felt life-ending. If I couldn’t be an elephant keeper, what in the world was I going to do? I had desperately wanted out of my lifelong career as an executive assistant and I just knew a career as an elephant keeper was in my future. Now I had to change course and I had no idea what I was going to do next.
And then I read something on The Daily Love blog. It asked,
“What are you asking for on the surface for today? AND – what do you REALLY WANT? What feeling will this ‘thing’ you want give you? Are you sure the thing you think you want is the best way to get the feeling or outcome that you want? Can you be open to other ways?”
As I worked my way through that exercise I discovered that what I actually wanted was far different than “being an elephant keeper.” In the final analysis, what I really wanted was to be free from a desk job, do a bunch of traveling, and write. The feelings or outcome I wanted from those things were freedom, adventure, and joy. I had been dead set on an idea I had fashioned in my head because of my deep love for elephants, but I had not been at all open to any other outcome.
It dawned on me that while yes, if I could do everything all over again, it would have been awesome to have a career working with elephants. But there was another way of going about living my passion without actually doing my passion. I can still go and spend time in a jeep under an acacia tree in the Kenyan savannah if I want to, and I can write about that experience and in doing that I can spread even more awareness of elephants and that’s how I can use my God-given talent to help them. In fact, in less than two months I am going to Africa to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary for two weeks. My dream to work hands-on with elephants is going to happen after all, just not at all the way I had envisioned it.
I had obsessed too much, clung too hard, instead of letting nature take its own course and show me the way. I know from experience that when you set your mind on something, you lose the connection with the Universe that allows it to perform its magic in your life. It’s like the Universe just sits back and says “Okay, I have no choice but to let you run around like a chicken with your head cut off because you are leaving no room for me to help you.” I had unintentionally limited myself by not exploring different outcomes.
It’s not that setting your mind on something is a bad thing. It’s when you think you know exactly what it is you want and won’t settle for anything less that is the problem. Just exactly as I had done.
I have come far in the few weeks it has taken me to realize all that I have and all that I can achieve. I had a an idea in my head, and the Universe DID conspire to give it to me. But I’m human, and as such I made mistakes along the way. I now know that I can imagine what I want my life to be like, but I then have to let it go and let the Universe do its thing. I have to keep watching for signs and when I see one, I need to follow it. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not. If I’m feeling frustrated and angry and unsatisfied, I’m following the wrong lead. I need to follow the lead that feels good and not worry about what happens next or where I go from here. I trust that things will come to me in their own time and in their own way, exactly when and how I need them.
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