Recent realization that I'm going to try to articulate.
I don't have to choose between work I'm passionate about and having good relationships with individuals and communities of human beings based on things that aren't (just) my work. If I continue with the things I love, then I will (continue to) find people who love me - Mel, a person with great passion for the things she does.
They won't love me because of my work, and our relationships won't be based on it, but inasmuch as my work is something I love, inasmuch as your calling is a part of you, they will - through loving me - love that, and love that I do it, love that I choose to do it, love me no matter what I choose.
I don't need to work on things to prove my worth, and my projects do not create my worth. The things I do and make affect the person that I am; whether I (or others) call the things I do "building a career" or what-have-you is, on some level, arbitrary. And I can choose how that affects me.
Realizing this won't make me less shy or introverted (which I don't mind, and often find extremely valuable). It won't make me suddenly and magically start dating (I know my mom would like it, but really, it's a non-priority...) and it won't - well, it won't do anything by itself. It's just a thought. But now it's there for me to ponder in case it's useful for any future actions.
And it does take away a tiny chip of my irrational fear and frustration about - I can't articulate it, but it's some aspect that's come from watching my beloved (and mainly older) female relatives go through life, respecting them, respecting that they made the choices that they made, seeing the conditions that surrounded those choices, and constantly thinking I don't want that for myself in terms of what it means for me to be(come) a woman. And feeling sort of obligated to feel guilty for that. And feeling guilty. But not really.
It's only in the last few years that I've started to see some vague and fuzzy outlines of pictures of what I could want. Maybe. When I was little, I always thought I would die young because I couldn't imagine me as an adult - just cardboard cutouts of what grownups said and showed me grownups could be like. Even in my late teens, past 25 or so was just a blank. I couldn't grow up; there was nothing I could see that I wanted to choose to grow up into, a aberration for a child who never had trouble imagining up any other gerdunken. (Well, maybe 4-D space, but even that was more visceral to me at 12 than the existence of my future adult self.)
My world is bigger now, and I've seen more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy. (People do community stuff as their jobs! There are co-ops where non-blood-relations create a household! Smart young couples with promising careers support each others dreams in an interdependent way! This is really, really weird!) I still can't imagine myself at 24, or even 23. But I can vaguely imagine that a Mel who's 22 years, 9 months, and some-odd days old might exist tomorrow, even if I can't imagine who that Mel might be.
I know that she'll at least still have a backlog to deal with. ;-) It's time for bed. I'm still a little wobbly-sick and sniffly, but hey, I'm functional.