This Is What ‘Follow Your Bliss’ Actually Means

Milwaukee man with tattoos wearing wristwatch writing in journal while sitting at cafe
Eric Didier / Unsplash

I have this little notebook — one of those impulse purchases from Marshall’s or TJMaxx, one of their cute and quirky notebooks the aisle over from the cute and quirky household goods — with the words Follow Your Bliss on the front. I can’t tell you exactly when I got it; only that it was sometime close to when I started getting comfortable teaching yoga, when I started teaching more specialty classes and workshops, and I wanted a notebook to devote to the cause.

The pages are already half-filled with notes. Little pink post-it flags delineate the different topics, and over time the stickies have folded in on themselves. Notes for potential workshops, revised notes for workshops I’m able to do multiple times — and redundant notes, for workshops that could never get off the ground. In between all this is a small smattering of poetry that I must’ve written when other notebooks weren’t around, poetry that just makes me sad when I stumble across them in the present day.

I used the notebook yesterday as I led another weekend workshop. I finished the two-hour class simultaneously drained and full, exhausted and energized, already knowing what I’d change in my notes for future versions of the workshop. I closed the notebook and put my slightly sweaty hand over the cover and smirked at its stock photo and clichéd words.

It was sometime last year that I realized how funny it was to use a Follow Your Bliss notebook in such a fashion — fittingly, it was after leading a workshop when I had this realization. I had most likely bought the notebook at a time when my soul was superficially stuffed with affirmations and platitudes and other feel good sayings that lacked depth and understanding. But I had put that notebook and its little saying to use, making it the perfect tableau to the actual idea of following your bliss.

Because amidst the Pinterests repins and Twitter retweets and Facebook shares, no one really talks about the inner workings of what following your bliss actually means. That following your bliss definitely doesn’t mean sharing some text graphic and hoping for the best. They don’t tell you that following your bliss is involved and complex.

They don’t tell you that following your bliss takes work. A lot of work. That following your bliss means creating plans of action and revising them a thousand times. It means contacting people and sending out emails and feeling like every moment of genuine free time has been sucked away from you. They don’t tell you that following your bliss throws you clear out of your comfort zone with no hope of return.

They don’t tell you that following your bliss sometimes has a really shitty ROI. They don’t tell you that following your bliss means knowing the rules of the game and knowing that you won’t be the exception to the rule, but still hoping somehow you still will be. Following your bliss means taking rejection on the chin and marching forward and doing your best not to touch the fresh bruise.

They don’t tell you that sometimes you think you’re following your bliss when you’re actually following false promises, or a temporary high, or a bandage to the things that are ailing you. They don’t tell you that, while following your bliss, you have to keep a keen eye out for those who might take advantage of your trusting, adventurous heart; that you have to be discerning, that you have to recognize when there’s a snake oil salesman in front of you, that you must follow your bliss the way a knight follows a dragon, with shield in hand and sword drawn and ready.

They don’t tell you that sometimes following your bliss doesn’t feel blissful at all. That it sometimes feels the opposite of anything positive and you wonder why in the hell you are doing it in the first place. They don’t tell you that the path to following your bliss could meander and backtrack and have roadblocks — that the path can be dark and gritty, and there are not enough pretty text graphics in the world to sugar coat it. They don’t tell you that, on the road to bliss, you’ll have to quell the voice that says that no one wants what you have to offer and you’re better off dropping your aspirations and finding something sensible to do with your time instead. That, on the road to following your bliss, you’ll meet enough demons to make you wonder if you’ve been damning yourself the entire time.

I get the feeling that, if they tried to convey that, the notebook cover wouldn’t be of beachside cliffs and sunshine, but of a sinister forest with gnarled trees and only the slightest glint of light in the far background.

There is another notebook I have on hand. Another impulse buy, a cute & quirky notebook that I got at a TJMaxx in Ohio this past Christmas. I got it as I started to feel the rumblings of a new book idea, and I wanted something to jot down notes for it — a wide open space reserved just for that book and all of its possible, redundant, outlandish, unusable, brilliant ideas. There is no platitude on this notebook — just a mockup of an old, Parisian magazine cover in watercolors and minimalist lines.

I’ll be releasing a book soon — a book I wrote over five years ago, a book that got passed by countless agents and a few small print publishing houses. A book that tried its hand at a Kindle Scout campaign and a book I decided that I was going to release myself (even though I swore I was done with indie publishing). A book that needed a little extra time in incubation so it could be what it is today.

It certainly doesn’t feel blissful to read my book over and over again, reading it out loud because I fear my words will sound stupid to the woman who’ll be narrating the book, will read wrong to the readers and booksellers alike. It doesn’t feel blissful to research and send out queries & pitches like I’m trying to get a job interview. It certainly doesn’t feel blissful when websites glitch or a transaction doesn’t go through or I’m stuck on hold customer service for the fifth time this week because oh my god can anything go right?

But I keep at it, because I know how I’ll feel when the book is in my hands, when one fewer of my manuscripts has to wait in the shadows, when I’m reminded in ego-stroking ways that maybe what I have to say is worth at least a passing glance or two. Because I feel this in my bones and I’m spurred on by something otherworldly, something that prods at me when I want to slouch off. Something that reminds me that what awaits at the end might not necessarily be fame and fortune and a happily ever after, but at the very least the satisfaction that I gave what I could to the world, that I followed my trusting, adventurous, battered, resilient heart through the forest without once trying to turn back.

I am following my bliss, after all. TC mark

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