I’m ambitious. I have plans in my head for my life, plans for travel and degrees and books published. I kind of want to be famous. But I wonder if it’s really that worth it? What do you think?
I think the best answer to your question is to ask myself what I think I’m here for. I was pondering your question drinking a caffeine free Diet Coke watching the newest episode of Castle. I was thinking about it as I smeared avocado clay mask on my face in a vain attempt to do something productive to my pores. It even crossed my mind as I reread old letters from dear friends. Do I want to be famous? Is it worth it? What do I think about that?
I thought it over and over. And this is what I came up with.
I am not here to be famous.
Famous is a cheap kind of knowing. Every one of us can do better than a name on a billboard when it comes to being known. Every last one of us is already loved more intimately than that. I’d rather run up the stairs to my best friend’s room soaking wet from the rain and stand in front of her, dripping wet with disappointment and regret and anger and naked, raw, rain-soaked life than ever publish a Pulitzer.
I am not here to be famous.
Imagine this, Celebrity: you could do an act of radical, unbelievable, earth-shattering love and never get credit for it. Or you could do a smaller act, of love and warmth, sure, but smaller, and become really famous. I urge you to always pick the earth-shattering love option. It’s there. When you calculate graduate schools and Sunday school volunteering and living at home and becoming a top notch politician. The option for earth-shattering love is always present. Sometimes that will shove you sideways into fame. Sometimes it will put you up on a stage to accept a prize or a prestigious job or a movie contract. Sometimes it will mean you become “famous” whether you wanted it or not. But we are here to do the brave thing whether it brings fame or a $1.99 hallmark card. We aren’t here to climb ladders but to leap off cliffs into trust and grace without any promise of ever getting any kind of credit for it.
We are not here to be famous.
A wise man once told me, “Imagine, Hilary, what amazing things we could do if we didn’t care who got the credit.” This man, he lives it out. He works harder than almost anyone I’ve met, dreams and imagines constantly, builds programs and mentors students. This man doesn’t care if anyone ever knows that it was his idea. He doesn’t care if he gets paid less than everyone else. He doesn’t care if he looks ridiculous or could have been promoted at a different institution or might have had this illustrious career in…
When I get all knotted up in ambition I think about him. I think about standing rain-soaked in my best friend’s bedroom. I think about buying a cup of coffee for a homeless man in DC who doesn’t know me. I think about all the words I write that get me no closer to being a celebrity, but one person reads them and feels loved, and that breaks my heart right open.
I’m here, you’re here, we’re all here to give more than we take. To live towards the light. To hold out our hands to empty ones. To stand rain-soaked in bedrooms and believe in the beautiful and the good.
We are called to bigger things than ambition can offer us. We are called to anonymous, wild, love.