When I was in college and wrestling with what I wanted to major in and thus, what I wanted to do with my life, I had well-meaning people tell me I needed to find “my calling.” If I found my calling, they said, everything would just fall into place. I took such comments to heart and earnestly set on a quest to find that mysterious “calling.”
It was clear from the comments I heard that a calling was a job—or more accurately, a career—and if I found my true calling I would know in my heart that what I was doing was “right.” I would wake up thrilled and excited to go to work every day. The added bonus was that I would also be making a positive impact on the world.
And so I searched, stayed open to the signs, and continued my quest. In college I explored psychology, law, teaching, sociology, business, and political science. Nothing felt right. Nothing felt like a “calling.” I finally gave up and settled on majoring in my life-long love—English.
Of course once I declared my major, I got countless comments along the lines of, “What are you going to do with an English degree? Teach?” Um…no. English is what I love. Isn’t a calling about doing what you love? But those comments planted a seed of uncertainty in me. Still, I persevered and graduated in just over four years.
Post-college, I landed a job at a nonprofit organization doing a little of everything. My writing skills were in high demand and soon I was writing grants and marketing materials. Graphic design quickly followed because I was highly creative and seemed to have a knack for it. I got a promotion. I used my creative skills daily. But I could not let go of the idea that what I was doing was not a “calling.” I just had an ordinary job, I told myself—health insurance, retirement, a regular schedule. This couldn’t possibly be a calling, could it? I convinced myself that some perfect career was out there waiting for me and I had somehow completely missed the boat. I needed to find my calling before I got too old to enjoy it.
And so I set out on another quest. I read career books. I talked to family and friends. I went to career fairs and information sessions on lots of different careers. I discussed my “inferior” job in therapy and agonized over how I would ever find my true calling. I felt such urgency because I just knew that once I found it, everything would be perfect. In the middle of all that, I wrote a successful two hundred thousand dollar grant, but I wasn’t even able to celebrate because I couldn’t shake the feeling that what I was doing was wrong.
I was so unsettled that I began looking for a different job. If I couldn’t find my calling, maybe my calling would find me. Before too long I got a new job at the same pay and much less stellar benefits. But the job was more focused—marketing and communications—and that made me feel that I was closer to a calling. But still something felt wrong.
Despite that, that job led to fifteen years of promotions, new jobs, and an even more focused specialty. Eventually, I landed a job I absolutely adored – the one I now believe I was working toward my entire adult life. I am creative and engaged all day, every day. I am never bored. My work is respected and admired. I have a great deal of freedom. And I work with some amazing people.
And now, six years into this job, I have let go of the idea of a calling. I no longer believe in a true career “calling”—at least not for myself. Once I released that notion, everything began to fall into place. I felt much more satisfied with life. Now, as I look back on my adult life, I realize that every step I took along the way has led me to the place I am now—the place I belong. I now know and have seen that everything happens for a reason and I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.
Sure, some people have callings. They know from a very young age that they want to be doctors or artists or scientists or teachers and they never waver from that.
But for many of us a calling is much broader than that, and not necessarily about a job. In truth I now believe that we all have many, many callings of all different kinds.
My calling was to quit my minimum wage job and go to college, even though no one else in my family had. My calling was to have a child and be a mother. My calling was to write and publish a novel. My calling is to walk in the woods as often as I can. My calling is to go to Hawaii every few years. My calling is to write this blog. My calling is to volunteer. My calling is to create. My calling is to heal from my painful childhood. My calling is to always try my best to be kind and compassionate (I don’t always succeed). I have gotten “calls” to do all these things. So in actuality, my calling has found me.
You see what I mean? Jobs are to make money so you can live. If everyone waited around as they searched for their career calling, our society would fall apart. We need bank tellers, sanitation workers, grocery checkers, mail carriers and so many others for the world to operate efficiently. While they may not have been called to that job, perhaps they’re fulfilling their calling in another way. We need all of us, doing what we do, to create the beautiful and varied tapestry of the human race.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets a “call” to do a specific job or career and then you get to do it, that’s amazing. But I think there are many, many ways to fulfill your various callings. Listen to your heart and move toward those activities, interests and people that call to your soul.
And so I am finally at peace with who I am. I know I’ve found my calling—to be me and to do what I do as only I can do it. To be true to myself and to use my strengths and talents—that has been my calling.
I wish someone had told me this many years ago, but at least I know now.