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Be what you were born to be

Someone told me once: be what you were born to be…

Have you any idea what you were born to be? Some people do. Some are born knowing before they climb out of the cradle exactly what they are going to do. By the time they’re able to read and write, they’re already writing their life plans and reading up on how to get there. For some of them that works. I can’t imagine how it feels for those who know exactly what they were born to be and never waiver from it. I don’t want to imagine how it feels for those who know exactly what they were born to be but somehow never manage to make it happen.

Most of us don’t know what we were born to be…at least not for most of our lives. We just muddle through, getting the job done and the bills paid and the family raised (or not). We spend our lives exploring and studying and waiting for the blinding flash of inspiration from out of a burning bush (or not).

From a very early age I have known that there is a gypsy in my soul, a wanderer, a traveller. As a babe and beyond I slept easily in the car, on buses and trains. Waiting in railway stations never fazed me. Strong tea and baked beans in a transport café while learning to play a pinball machine I was barely tall enough to see the table of is one memory from childhood. Waiting for the bus station café to open at dawn in London is another…wondering exactly what the deliberation over whether to wait for the Reading B or head out for the Green Line actually meant. Lugging suitcases. Always using the facilities, because you didn’t know when there would be another chance. I loved camping, I loved staying with relatives, and in caravans and guest houses…but most of all I loved the actual travel, the anonymity of being on the move, the movement itself, the passing landscape.

I was brought up on tales of the sea. I was brought up with maps. The first family treasure my late father gave me was his second-hand, first world war, compass. “Learn how to use it.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have told just how lost I had managed to get that summer on my own in the Scottish Highlands, but there was no admonition…just the gift and the instruction and a knowing smile. He already knew that I could use it and read a map and that sometimes I simply chose not to…

I started to explore beyond our shores…and that’s still a work in progress.

And there is always much more to discover close to home…and that too is still a work in progress.

I always wept as a child as we arrived home. I’ve grown up since then. Now I tend to weep as I take my leave of whatever beautiful awesome scary amazing spiritual demented ancient new place it is I have found myself in. By the time I get home, home is a good place to be.

So is that it? An idle wanderer…is that what I was born to be?

Not quite idle to be fair. I did work in between to earn my keep and the wander-fund.

But somehow it did still feel like something around the margins. That my journeying was just play-time. Surely the thing you were born to be is more serious than that. Surely the thing you were born to be is about your life’s work, your legacy, your impact on the planet or its people or at least, perhaps, maybe on one person…

How many of us – other than the driven ones – even wonder about what it might be, that we were born to be, much less ponder on whether we are becoming it?

I started to wonder.

Then someone told me: “Be what you were born to be, a bard, an observer, and a keeper of the mysteries”.

I loved that so much. It sang to my inner hippy. I wrote it out in gold script on black card under a suitably misty picture of the Avebury circle and pinned it to my wall.

And there it sits…almost a decade on…reminding me. That I somehow wasn’t really honouring the injunction to be become what…well, yes, exactly, become what exactly?

A bard? I’m never going to sing for my supper. Not if I want to eat! You really don’t want to hear me sing….yet maybe I could still spin words into poetry.

An observer? Yes. I do that. I do watch. I read. I write. I think, I extrapolate, I write.

A keeper of the mysteries? That’s where I struggled. It sounded a bit “high priestess”, and I’m not. I believe in sacred spaces, I believe in the connectedness of everything, and I acknowledge that there’s a whole heap of stuff we don’t know and can’t explain. But I have no gods in the accepted sense and I hold to no religion.

So the slogan sat on my wall and I saw it in passing and now and again wondered about it.


The first draft of this piece continues “in exactly 8 weeks’ time I will be leaving my employer after 31 years”… and rambled on about how that might give me a bit more space to be what I was born to be.

I did leave on schedule, but life and death also intervened. My lover of even more years than that died 10 days before I shed the job-shackled life. Not on schedule. Not one that we knew about at any rate.

So now, as much as I lament what I have lost, I also realise what a gift I have been given. I have things to do, and chaos to clear, and sorrows to manage, but I have also been gifted this huge freedom to become whatever it is I was born to be. I choose to hope that the lady who called herself Elf Friend was near the mark in her estimation. I want to spin words into magic and memory, I want to watch and learn, and yes…I would be a keeper of the mysteries. A keeper not in the sense of a secreter, but in the sense of a protector and a sharer. I would keep alive whatever knowledge I stumble upon, and pass it forward.

And…well…we will see…

I have had a month or so of endings, rituals associated with farewells and closure. So now I'm looking for one that signals a new beginning, an opening, a doorway or gateway into whatever comes next. I'm taking some time out – some quiet time – and maybe it will be as simple as that.

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