When you were young, doing the same thing every day sounded boring — and perhaps rightly so. It makes sense to move rapidly from one thing to another when you are still discovering yourself, uncovering different aspects of the world, and choosing an identity. But at some point (hopefully sooner rather than later), a person must settle into a chosen path. For me, defining that path has taken a long time, because I have chosen to build a very customized identity. I could have gone to the identity shop and picked one right off of the shelf — 9 to 5er, Rebel Without a Cause, Football Guy, etc. — and there would have been nothing wrong with that. In fact, the smooth socio-economic functioning of our world totally depends upon most people choosing a ready-made identity by the time they finish high school. If a person can be happy by adopting a ready-made identity, they probably should, so long as the identity they adopt is not evil, unkind, or otherwise antisocial. But I decided to do things the hard way — or maybe I didn’t have a choice. I had uncommon interests and proclivities right from the cradle, and I was not good at (nor interested in) much else besides. I tried a bunch of things, one right after the other, found a few that I really liked, and found it difficult to choose just one. It has taken me half my life just to realize that I don’t necessarily have to choose.
I can create. But the more ambitious the project, the more the project requires sustained, consistent, incremental effort. There is no way to build my “self” into a full-fledged “writer, entertainer, educator, and musician” without being all of four of those things every single working day of my life. I also have very important avocational goals that require just as much effort and consistency: physical fitness, learnedness, peace of mind, friendship. I can’t let up on any of this. That is where ritual comes in. Life needs variety — that much is true — but an accomplished life needs twice as much consistency. I am thankful that my circumstances allow me the opportunity to create myself more or less from scratch. I’ve spent a long time laying the groundwork, one piece at a time. Learning to play a musical instrument, performing magic and mentalism in front of one audience after another, private study, living abroad, earning a master’s degree so I can (try to) teach what I learn, and building a resumé as a writer — all of this is a prelude to the second half of my life.
What happens from here comes down to daily rituals.
• As the Nike ads say, “Just do it.” That is good advice, as well as probably the best ad campaign slogan ever devised. Nonetheless, I prefer a slightly modified version of that famous slogan:
“Just be it.” Whatever you say you are, be that. Be it every single working day of your life. • If you say you are a magician, but you are not magicshing in front of an audience on a regular basis, then you are a liar.
• If you say you are a musician, but you don’t play in an ensemble or make any recordings, then you are full of it.
• If you say you are an educator, but you don’t read, write, or teach except when you are forced to, you need to stop kidding yourself.
• And if you say you are a writer, but you don’t ever write anything worth reading, then you may as well put down the pen and take a nap. Just be it. Be it every single working day of your life — and by the end of even one of those days, you will already be a genuine success, regardless of who pays you, who appreciates you, who doesn't, and to what degree.