A conversation that keeps playing out in my life is one that centers around passion and purpose. I’ve struggled to find my footing in our hustle culture society in large part to my complete disdain for hustle culture and all it represents. At its core, hustle culture is the commodifying of every facet of our existence. From work to hobbies and even rest, every aspect of who we are has a dollar sign placed on it and we are told if we hustle hard enough — don’t stop for anything- we too will be able to enjoy the stability and financial comfort of the generations before us. The reality is, the rope got cut by those that came before us so there is no pulling ourselves up. Each generation after boomers are starting at a deficit, where you intersect in the Venn diagram of class, race, gender, ability, etc. will determine the depth of the deficit you must overcome to simply breathe peacefully.
Every passion or purpose we have must be squeezed until it produces financial success, and tossed aside if it doesn’t, regardless of how much joy it brought us before capitalism snuffed it out. All of this takes place while we are fed a constant narrative of “find your purpose” and “monetize your passions so you never have to work a day in your life!”. It’s all frankly bullshit. Life requires constant work. What the systems in place have done is equated that work with a dollar amount and demonized the labor that doesn’t translate into dollar signs but does translate into individuals, families, and communities rich in the ways that make living worthwhile.
I’ve found that there isn’t a shortage of people who think they know what my passion or purpose should be. There are those who think I should monetize my hobbies — baking, crocheting/knitting, gardening-, and those who think I should monetize the anti-oppression and theology knowledge I have. In some settings, I understand the need to charge a fee because white people will white people no matter what and that labor needs to hit them in the pocketbook. In other settings, settings where I feel immense joy while partaking in whatever I’m doing, attaching a dollar amount to it feels offensive. An affront to those who toiled for hours and fought for generations in the hopes that one day the kin of their legacy would have moments of bliss. Despite this uneasiness with commodifying the areas that make living this life worthwhile I still have found myself wrestling with the question, where does passion and purpose intersect to generate wealth?
During one of my husband’s lovely, “We paid off your student loans so if you’d like to go back, you can” pushes, I had an epiphany. I don’t want to chase degrees. I’m well aware that I’m intellectually well-equipped. I could secure any degree I put my mind to. But I don’t want to. I love learning and I’ve found the way we do education in this country to be stifling. Even when it’s challenging us it’s still operating from a white supremacist lens that expects us all to fit into neat little boxes topped with bows of hubris that make us believe the degree somehow makes us better than others who followed a different path.
I don’t want that.
Saying no this year in ways I hadn’t in so long has been freeing. I don’t want to throw debt back on our backs in pursuit of a piece of paper that won’t guarantee me work at a wage I’m deserving of. I don’t want to hustle and grind my hobbies into dust. While I do enjoy writing, and there are countless worlds that live in my head, I’m not interested in making the personal sacrifices to be more than another voice in the ether of the internet. I enjoy anonymity more than I’ve ever enjoyed having all eyes on me. I don’t need to prove that I’m capable to a society that prejudged me before I even left the womb. If Trump can be president then bitch I can be whomever the hell I want to be and in a multitude of ways I’m already a whole hell of a lot and then some.
I’m a writer because I clack away at keys even if the words never leave the walls of my well-crafted circle. I’m a gardener because I have enough knowledge to feed small communities and make a point of feeding mine. I’m a fiber artist because I’ve invested time into the most ridiculous scarf/shawl that we’ve dubbed the Covid scarf because the goal was to work on it until the pandemic was over… and Covid isn’t over by my desire to keep hunting for the same yarn is. I’m a bibliophile because I’ve always found words on paper to be far more comforting than people. I’m a chef and a baker because I’ve been cooking and baking since I was 8 and I’m damn good at both of them too. I’m a leader. I’m politically and socially aware. I have spent large swaths of my life fighting for change and creating ripples as I move through each phase life bestows on me.
I could monetize all those things. I could turn my passions into a purpose and that purpose into a job and a career, and I could find the joy in it until the last embers of that joy are snuffed out and all that’s left is a quiet ache. Kind of like when the last truffula tree fell in the Lorax. A vast emptiness enters where the joy once lived when capitalism is at the center of our choices and desires. I don’t want that for myself.
So, what do I want? What is at the intersection of my passions and purpose? My answer was and still is my kids. More specifically, the act of mothering. When I said it out loud the husband nodded because it makes sense. When the motives for why I do the things I do are laid out they all follow the same path back to the same three people. The moment I said yes to motherhood I said yes to my purpose and passions. I didn’t know it at the time. My desire to be crafty while I was still a child made it easier to fall into all the hands-on crafty things I do in my version of motherhood — because not every version is the same and that’s ok-. Every batch of fresh baked goods, every plant tended to, it all comes back to mothering.
At the intersection of my passions and purpose is the all-consuming need to mother. Not everyone wants to mother, but I do. It’s an innate need that I can’t quiet. When I think about my purpose, my aspirations in life, my legacy it all comes back to mothering and being damn good at it.
To create spaces where people feel safe shedding the armor the world requires they wear. Where there is immense love, warmth, and a whole lot of accountability. For the healing and nurturing power of the energy that I possess to live not only within me but within the world and the spaces that I move through. This isn’t all sunshine and roses; no, mothering is uncomfortable hard truths, and painful growth as well. I want to embrace it all without feeling like it needs to have a dollar sign attached to it. Without feeling like I must do more for what I do to be valued in capitalistic terms.
My purpose is to unapologetically mother those who need and want to be mothered, without the expectation that I am not doing enough in the eyes of our white supremacist capitalist culture. I don’t want to hustle and grind. I want to nurture and grow.
Does this generate wealth? As I’ve found my groove in a position that isn’t in the realm of anything I enjoy but does allow me the tool, also known as money, that is needed to live a safe and secure life I’ve found myself reevaluating what I mean when I say wealth. Our society has equated the word wealth to mean an abundance of money. While I want enough money to ensure I can retire and leave a foundation for my children, I don’t agree with this push for the hoarding of money and calling that prosperity.
How can we call it prosperity when we have so much while others go hungry? How is that wealth for humanity? What does that do to our humanity as individuals when we put the accumulation of dollars over the care of our fellow humans?
For me, wealth is about so much more than money. It’s about an abundance of love and community. It’s about knowing that you’re going to be alright even when things feel like they’re all going so wrong. True wealth is deeper than pocketbooks. I don’t want to accrue so much money that I forget the wealth of my humanity. I want to have enough to know that I’ll be ok and use any excess for the betterment of the world into which I have been given the opportunity to exist.
So, does mothering generate wealth? Not in the ways in which society has established wealth and who is and isn’t wealthy. Beyond those limited walls though? Fuck yes, it does generate wealth and it sows the seeds that led to dismantling this oppressive system that seeks to steal our joy and our humanity.
That in itself is revolutionary and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rayven Holmes (c)2023
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