Photo: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
We tend to think of revelations as monumental events, made for prophets and ancient oracles. The world goes silent, a golden beam of light descends from on high, and we're catapulted into sudden, deep and total understanding of a particular truth, like "My father was just afraid of BLANK"!" or "The reason I can't commit it is BLANK-BLANK!!" or "The evidence that proves leprechauns exists is BLANKITY-BLANK-BLANK!" That emotional or intellectual lightening bolt arrives—shazam—on its own schedule. Nothing can rush it, because it's born of years of experience and introspection, if not a nudge from the heavens.
But what if we had more faith in smaller, everyday eurekas? These ordinary-extraordinary moments are so much easier spot or even trigger, no beam of light or harp music needed. Here are a few epiphanies that might just be lying around your life, ready for you to recognize.
1. That Weird, Kooky Thing You Do Is Where Your Destiny Lies
So many of us agonize about finding our big, life-changing passion. We long for some totally reliable test that will affirm with atom-splitting precision: Yes! You're supposed to be an art director. Or, No! You're supposed to be an ultra-sound technician. Or No again! You're supposed to be an actress—what you've wanted to be since you were a kid. With all these conflicting signals, how are we supposed to know when we're doing what we're really supposed to be doing?
Enter the iced coffee lady, whom I met while surfing the Web last week. The iced-coffee lady takes 12 elaborate, meticulous, if not verging-on-the-obsessive steps to make one single iced coffee, all the while waxing philosophical on subjects like artificial sweeteners and the regrettable end of big glass bottles with metal tops. The creativity at work (she takes photographs), the thought (she has an excellent solution for how to get sugar to dissolve without having to make a syrup), the unfettered joy (the title of her post? "I Love Homemade Iced Coffee") were more than inspiring. It made me think of my mother ecstatically ironing underwear or my husband reading his seventh newspaper of the day, then placing it reverently in his towering teetering stack of finished "special" periodicals.
Those arenas where each of us appears slightly compulsive or even a little kooky is right where we've already found our passion. It may produce income—or may not (The iced-coffee lady can open a neighbor café, and my husband should go into library sciences, but Mom probably won't open an underwear-ironing store). This is not the test of whether we ought to be doing it. We can't help but go further, so much further, than anybody else that we may just stumble into our own niche of genius—or maybe just plain old fulfillment.
The gateway to this realization is, of course, admitting your own free-flying, freaky weirdness. Such as (and this not me, of course—I would never, ever get obsessive about this) perfecting chicken marinades (but if you do enjoy this kind of thing to extreme, see this excellent article.)
Next: Make impossibilities possible