My first task on this planet was to take a breath, and then another. And then, to fill my lungs with life and shout into the void my purpose for existing. I have not stopped since.
My second task on this planet was to obey. Mightily, I struggled with this task; heavy chains rattling a song of resistance as I fought tooth and nail against the oppressive directives of “Don’t Touch That” and “Eat Your Vegetables.” Mightily, I rebelled against the later executive orders of “Clean Your Room” and “Don’t Talk Back To Me” and “Be Back In This House One Minute Before Your Curfew.” And then, much later, from the distance of new adulthood and the separation of three hundred cell phone towers, “Be Safe And Make Good Choices.” This task has a limited shelf life, diminishing in value as the years pass, and attached is the critical conditional clause: “Unless When Confronted With Oppression Or Injustice.”
My third task on this planet was to be kind. To lift up the fallen and heal the wounded with words of strength and actions of support. The third task is the most difficult of all the tasks at times, when you are the one licking your own wounds, when you must pick yourself up after a tumble. But this task eventually takes a form much like the first. When you hold the hand of a bullied schoolmate, or sit next to the woman wearing a headscarf on the bus to shield her from verbal shrapnel, to perform this task carries the weight of indrawn oxygen.
My fourth task on this planet is to see. To open my eyes and keep them wide open. To witness the life experiences of others through a lens that does not belong to me. To stare at the bright glare of the truth, no matter how it burns through the safe protective shield of my own life experience. No matter how it hurts.
My fifth task on this planet is to listen. If you listen hard enough, you can hear music in the strangest of places. If you listen hard enough, you can hear the whispers of your childhood dreams in dark corners, revealing themselves to you again and again. If you listen hard enough, you can hear what people mean to say, even when they don’t speak out. Or even when they shout.
My sixth task on this planet is to be present. To pay attention to what is happening now, even while remembering what happened a long time ago, while imagining the happenings to come. To stand in one place, unafraid and undaunted, and be here, and belong.
My seventh task on this planet is to create. To fill the void with something other than my shouted purpose. To take beautiful things and ugly things and painful things, and forge the spark that lodges and burns recognition into someone else’s soul. To pull stories from the ether and scorch them into words onto the kindling of my notebooks. To obey the Muse. To lift up the voices, the stories, of the oppressed. To tell the truth. To hear the dreams of my own childhood whispering to me in echoes.
This résumé will not land me a job; not in the traditional, societal sense. This particular curriculum vitae will not earn me tenure in the career field called Life; none of us live forever. But I have to wonder… in this cosmic karma machine of birth and death, work and play, waiting and doing, creating and destroying, seeking and finding, living and dying… I have to wonder if I’m hired.
Author’s Note: This piece originated from a writing prompt “My First Job” for the Waconia Writer’s Group, 2/12/17. (You can see how well I adhere to the concept of literalism.)