What is your Calling?
One of the questions people are most familiar with is, what do you want to be when you grow up? I really don’t like this question, I circumvent it with a really easy answer, I’m not planning to grow up? Now as flippant an answer there is, there is some underlying wisdom that I accidentally stumbled upon. You see, it is in childhood that we are able to get lost in something we love. Remembering playing as a kid I can remember hours playing sports, building dams on streams, playing with toys in my room or just walking in the woods.
I’ve worked in education for over 25 years and a lot of that time I’ve worked with students in helping them find their way to a major and direction in college. One of the ways we first try to help students do this is by asking them what they are interested in. One way to do that is to think about the types of things you do where you lose track of time. So if you can lose track of time while drawing and painting for hours a career in the arts might be something you’ll enjoy.
For students, honestly, the process isn’t that hard. You establish what they like, you find out what their aptitudes are and those two pieces of information really narrows down the possibilities. You can’t be an engineer if you’re terrible at and dislike math, no matter how much you like building and designing things. But you might be a great construction worker, welder or project manager. So after narrowing the field, a student can explore a bit by taking classes or other activities and come to a pretty solid decision on where their career will start. We also recognize that people will change jobs multiple times over their lifetime.
The tougher job is of course when you’re trying to help someone in their 30’s, 40’s or 50’s find their way. Even harder when the person you’re trying to help is looking back at you in the mirror. As we get older we all accumulate obligations, our decisions have a tendency to impact more than just ourselves, we have debts. All of our obligations make the process of pursuing our calling that much harder even when we can identify that calling. It can still be done, it just takes a lot more planning, work and negotiation with those whose lives we’re intertwined with and of course patience.
I’m in the midst of all of this myself. This week while on a business trip I was working with a company that has a software package that helps students identify their calling. While talking to one of their people about my adventures over the last couple of years he said, “you’ve found your calling.” He was referring of course to traveling, writing, photographing and speaking about my adventures. Without a doubt this is my calling.
If I were in my 20’s it’s an easy call, flat-out jump in with both feet. Of course I’m in my 50’s, I have a significant student loan debt ($800/month) and then there’s retirement looming. I have a good life, a good job, I make good money, I have health insurance and if I put enough time into my retirement system I’ll have a decent pension. My job is ok, I like what I do, but the question, in such a short life, do I wake up in the morning excited to go to work, no. It is a job, a good one, but a job. Would I be excited to get up everyday to hike, and cycle, to write and photograph what I do, to go out and be a speaker to help motivate people to make positive change in their life, absolutely.
The retirement issue is probably my largest obstacle, I wasn’t in a position early on to start saving for retirement the way I should have, and worse, not wise enough to do the minimum that would have absolutely paid dividends through the miracle of compound interest. But that didn’t happen, so you make the best of where you are and that is the first step, having a positive attitude.
So I do what I can, it’s partially the reason I take significant time off every 5 years. My book is being edited and will hopefully be published before the end of the year. I have a couple of speaking engagements lined up and plans for a couple of other books that I’m already working on. I look forward to my next leave in about three years and try to find ways to the things I love in between. Of course I’m always looking for a crack, a way to make a significant change that will work and that hope is part of what sustains me day-to-day.
So that’s the process my friends, for those of us who are older and more obligated. Find your calling, and start to develop a path. Find incremental ways to test the waters and to feed your soul. Plan for the time you can jump full-time but always be on the look out for that lucky break, if you get that shot and you’ve been planning, it’s that much more likely to be successful. Finally, be prepared to be a little bit fearless, life is short and the last thing anyone wants to do, is to be laying on their deathbed regretting never have taken their shot. So feed your soul, plan, be positive, be fearless and have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane
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