The first step to finding your path and your voice

Alternate title: There’s more to this blogging thing than my corny jokes. Really, there is.

Last Thursday, I attended TECHmunchNYC with fellow blogger Maggy Anderson of ThreeManyCooks. I have to mention her because if not for her prompting, my dorky intimidated-by-strangers self likely wouldn’t have gone. And I’m so glad I did. It was a day packed with panels that had me scribbling down notes, trying to get as much as I could from the day-long event.

I was also trying not to think about the cupcakes in the snack room.

There was so much information to digest, from SEO tips to food trends to building relationships with traditional media and other brands. There was also a 5-minute segment by Cathy Brooks on “Storytelling: Connecting the Who with the What,” and at the end, one person asked a question that made me sit up even more attentively, awaiting the answer.

The question asked was this: If you have varied interests and many different passions, how do you blog about them without giving the perception that you’re all over the place? Cathy’s answer: Make a list. Write down all your interests and passions, and the reason each one is listed. She said that, often, a theme becomes immediately apparent, and it is that theme that will help you find your focus and be able to write about your different passions in a consistent voice.

The Ivory Hut: The First Step to Finding Your Path and Your Voice

On the ride home, I thought about my list, and my reasons. I thought about my interest in food. Photography. Travel. Writing. Music. And wouldn’t you know it, an underlying theme emerged: they’ve been my passions from a very young age. None of them are new interests, nothing I picked up later in life. These are all childhood passions that I put on hold as I got older and went about the business of becoming a “responsible adult” and pursuing education (medicine first, because I had no interest in business, computers, or technology) and a career in more traditional fields. Creative passions that I thought I had tamed and put to rest.

But dormancy and extinction are not the same. They may appear to be identical, and to someone thousands of miles away, the difference may not matter. But to the one who lives in the village at the foot of the volcano, the rumblings matter. Oh, do they matter. And only a fool would go about her business as if nothing happened, as if the mountain wasn’t starting to wake up.

Blogging turned out to be my mountain’s alarm clock. As I read some of my oldest posts, I can see just when the realization started sinking in. In 2006, after three weeks in the Philippines to end a 13-year-long absence, I sensed the re-awakening, but apparently chose to hit the snooze button. Many months later, I wrote a post about writing, still battling feelings of inadequacy and misplaced guilt (because writing somehow felt like a selfish pursuit, purely for my own enjoyment).

Now I think I’ve finally worn down that snooze button. I feel like the past year has been the world’s longest wakeup. I’ve started writing more. Photographing more. Cooking more. I’ve even begun writing music again. For me, it’s an important first step to recognize that this is what’s right for me, and allow myself to continue. I feel like a child again, simply because these are the same things I loved as a child. Yet it is this conscious choice to shake the dust off my childhood dreams that actually makes me quite the grown up. And I am laughing at the irony of it all, how I entered college as a pre-med student, convinced I wanted nothing to do with business or computers or technology. Now, all these years later, because of my computer, I’m finally doing all the things I’ve dreamed of but never gave myself permission to do.

And I finally made sense of it all at a technology conference. Go figure.

Wait. Maybe self-contradiction is an underlying theme of mine, too.

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” (Joseph Campbell)


10 thoughts on “The first step to finding your path and your voice”

  1. Erika, this is such a wonderful post. And I really loved the quote at the end. How true! So many people never bother to “wake up to life” as one of our favorite guru’s Anthony de Mello says. They just stay asleep, doing things they don’t love, that don’t inspire them – just stumbling through life on a pre-made path. I’m so glad you’ve found your passion and shared them with us all in the form of this blog. What an inspiration. Glad I’m along for the ride. And yes, I think Cathy’s short presentation was one of the best of the day. Yes, increasing traffic is important and yes, I should probably figure out what the heck SEO is all about – but really, that’s what’s important – What do you love? What is important to you? Thanks for this reminder!

  2. This has to be one of the best posts I have read so far. Thank you so very much for your honesty, insightful view points and inspiration to keep walking along the abundantly filled uncharted path. I too am all over the map but how else do we sample all of our joys if we don’t take a nibble of this and that along the way :)
    PS: I adore that quote!

  3. This post was very inspiring. Thanks for writing it. As a beginning blogger, sometimes I wonder why I do it. Sure, I think its fun, but often I think, will it matter to anyone? I do enjoy the interaction with the few commenters that I get, but most importantly, it is a great way to inspire staying in touch with our passions – which as you said, so many of us lose touch with them as we go on with our daily grind.

  4. Tears are dripping down my cheeks. Very well said and scarily poignant for me this evening. Your realizations were lovely and touched me deeply. The quote spoke volumes to me and already has a special place on my desk. I can’t wait to continue taking each step…

  5. I’ve been thinking about this very thing for a while. I still feel like I’m all over the place. “Find your niche!” (or neesh, or neeshay) seems to be the mantra of the day. Maybe I won’t ever find my niche. But at least I know that my own path is mine. And somehow, someday I hope I’ll be okay with that.

    I told someone (actually tweeted it, I think) that maybe my niche is that I don’t have a niche.


    I could certainly think of worse things.

  6. Your post absolutely resonates with me. I particularly liked the part of wearing down the snooze button during the world’s longest wakeup…I, too, had that kind of reawakening. I realized that the last several years I had been blindly driving towards building a dream, instead of living the dream today. I, too, have had some of the same passions and interests since childhood that have persisted and, in most cases, grown stronger through a lifetime of learning and reaffirmation. In my case, it’s agriculture, the ocean, sustainability, my home of Hawaii and everything about our culture here…but whatever your passion, it is inspiring to see people pursue it with your whole heart.

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