Before I was born, my parents – both Canadian born – decided that they would not teach their children to speak Chinese. Times were different. They had grown up when Canadian society was less tolerant. There were few Chinese in Burnaby, and there didn’t seem to be much value in mastering a foreign language.
They wanted us to speak perfect English. So we never learned Chinese. Though I’ve been called a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) by Chinese-speaking Chinese and I can’t order much beyond Combo Meal A in a Chinese restaurant, my brother, sister and I learned to express ourselves, our thoughts and our feelings.
Our home was filled with books and magazines. Eventually, I read every book in the house including every volume of the World Book encyclopedia.
Once I had exhausted our home library, I started cycling to the Burnaby Public Library. Like my mom, I would reach my card’s borrowing limit each week. I learned how to juggle, perform classical magic tricks, tie knots, do calligraphy, draw anything I saw and do mental calculations.
But the books that had the greatest impact on prepubescent me were books on philosophy and the great works of fiction. These were filled with perspective-shifting, life-changing words. Once you see through a new lens, you and the world never look the same.
I was inspired by great writers, and I hoped one day I could write words that would open minds, lift spirits and inspire.
One writer whose books had the greatest impact on me was Joseph Campbell, the mythologist featured in Bill Moyers’ PBS television series, “The Power of Myth.” Campbell highlighted the common themes in the myths and legends of all human cultures and how they really speak to our personal journeys through life.
Joseph Campbell’s famous commandment to each of us was “Follow your bliss.”
Your happiness exercise: What does it mean to follow your bliss? To discover that which gives you your greatest joy, deepest meaning and enduring happiness. It is what you were meant to do. It is your mission in life. It is the point of the story of your life.
Reflect on your life so far and your world today. At what times were you most engaged? What are your greatest talents? What does our world need?
If nothing occurs to you immediately, don’t fret. You have a lifetime to discover your life’s purpose, and we have different priorities, responsibilities and a unique calling at each stage of our lives.
If you already know your purpose, are you attending to it? Are you consumed each day with that which engages your spirit?
Coming up: Answering the call.