This was posted on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page some time ago:
Dear Ones –
I found this picture today that my husband took of me in 2011, doing research for THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS. This photo captures exactly what I did for three straight years. I sat in a chair, reading books about botany, evolution, abolition, women’s history, missionaries, Dutch 18th century commerce, and more…in order to fill my brains (and index cards) with enough information to write that novel.
There is no situation in which I could possibly be happier than this — submerged in the vocation that I love, vanishing for hours a day into my work.
Un-showered, greasy hair, eyes tired, totally falling down the rabbit hole of research…this is me, living my dream.
I was thinking today about all the other paths that I did not take in life, no matter how shiny and appealing they may have looked. I’ve had the possibility of living so many different kinds of life that could have been a dream for somebody else. I never choose those lives. I’ve never lived the dreams that other people wanted for themselves — nor have I lived the dreams that other people may have wanted for me.
I never had children…because that’s somebody else’s dream.
I never took the opportunities that were offered to me after the success of EAT PRAY LOVE to have a TV show of my own…because that’s somebody else’s dream.
I never took a good steady job teaching writing at a nice college…because that’s somebody else’s dream.
I didn’t remain in Bali or Rome, gorgeous as those places are…because that’s somebody else’s dream.
I turn down 99% of the invitations I get to attend to fancy parties and stellar gatherings…because that’s somebody else’s dream.
I sold my big beautiful house with its fabulous gardens and lovely library…because one day I looked around at that gorgeous home
and realized: “This is somebody else’s dream.” (Happily, I sold the house to the family whose dream it actually was. So we all win.)
I never hired a team of personal assistants and staff and consultants to help me “grow my brand”…because that’s somebody else’s dream.
I know what makes me come to life — working on my books — and this picture tells the whole story. Knowing what makes me come to life has helped me to distinguish between my dreams and the dreams of others.
What makes you come to life?
Ask yourself this question, whenever you are given any choice or opportunity. Ask: “Will saying YES to this path bring me closer to the source that brings me to life? Or will it take me further away?”
No matter how alluring, no matter how beautiful, no matter how sparkling and fancy and delicious — do not say YES to other people’s dreams.
Do your own thing. Live in your own waking dream. Stubbornly.
Even if it means not washing your hair for a week. (ESPECIALLY if it means that!)