The idea of a calling or vocation seems a little old-fashioned in our economy, where it’s quite common to talk of ‘gigs’ and ‘portfolios.’ It implies a sacredness that few 21st century humans relate to as well as a singularity of mission that, to our multi-tasking selves, might just seem a little bit odd. But perhaps the real source of this oddness to us comes down to the fact that it might indeed be possible to have a job that encompasses all of who we are. Imagine that instead of trying to squeeze all of who we are into a tiny job description we were able to expand in the spaciousness of a calling! So strange when what we are used to is a form of capitalism that was never interested in trying to accommodate multi-faceted and multi-facinated individuals.
Even if you don’t recognise a calling in yourself, it is probably there. Like a voice softly but urgently calling you forward. Calling you out of the shadows. Calling you into a wider sense of your own humanity and a wider sense of what you have to contribute to humanity. That you HAVE TO contribute to humanity, because, if you don’t then who will? There is no-one else because there is no-one like you. No-one with your unique abilities and strengths, no-one with exactly your constellation of talents and skills, passion and compassion.
For each of my friends who have done exactly what they set out to do in their lives – Sheryl McDougald, Sunshine Coast artist; Ruth Wilson, community leader and grower – there is another who had big dreams that they either didn’t pursue or gave up on. Who didn’t fulfill her or his potential. ‘Potential’ having the same root as potency meaning power. Because when you give up on your dream, you give up on your power. Your power to show up in the most effective, meaningful, purposeful way in the world. Because when that happens – and it happens horribly often – it is too easy to sink into the kind of despair that would have you believe that life’s unfair and only the lucky few achieve ‘that’ kind of success (whatever ‘that’ looks like to them.)
That was me. I convinced myself it was all or nothing at all. I was either going to blaze a magnificent Hollywood trail with my screenplays or I was going to chuck it in. All the while my dear friend Sheryl never stopped painting and sketching and collecting objects from the beach to store in her thinking room for the time they might insinuate their way into her work. I let myself believe that if my writing wasn’t work then doing it was an indulgence – when actually the indulgence was giving up and feeling sorry for myself. Because, while putting on the mantel of victimhood can afford some temporary relief after a rejection, to wear it so long that it begins to meld with ones skin is a form of severe self-harm. Stop it! Really – stop it right now.
And start. Pick up a pen or a paintbrush. Create something imperfect. Dust off the piano, play something (but maybe get it tuned first.) Join a writers group. Get a group of friends together and decide to make a difference in the world.
Just don’t give up. And don’t close your ears off to the calling.