"Finding Your Way Through"
College Writing 2, Dr. Sheila Kennedy
Many people believe that a calling presents itself as an “aha” moment for everyone. First, what is a calling? To me, a calling is a pull or desire from deep within yourself to do what you love. It is something that you are passionate about, brings you an immense amount of joy, and serves others in some way. While it can present itself as an “aha” moment for some people, most people go through a lot of exploring and obstacles to realize what they are called to. Additionally, some people may know what their calling is from a younger age and pursue that as they get older. Callings present themselves differently for everyone. However, discovering your calling is not always easy as there are always many influences that can play into one’s perceived calling and their decision to follow it. No matter how a calling presents itself to someone, family pressure or opinions, the people one surrounds themselves with, and one’s current profession can either encourage them to follow that calling or push them to ignore it.
Family can play a big role in someone’s calling, sometimes causing them to ignore it. This is shown in Deb Augsburger’s journey to living her calling. Augsburger, who is a professor at Lewis University, talks about her journey in her entry, “The Durability of Slate” in Journeys to Purpose. This book is a collection of stories written by faculty and staff members of Lewis University about their own journeys to discovering their vocation and calling. Coming from a line of tough women, where her mother believed that teaching was “a step above babysitting” (Augsburger 12), she tried to avoid the teaching profession all throughout her life. Even though she believed deep down that she was supposed to teach, she followed the path to becoming a doctor because of her mother’s opinion, as well as the fact that the women in her family were strong and in charge. After realizing that the medical field was not for her, she said “I would not let myself declare education as my major. I think I had bought into the belief that I needed to do something more impressive” (Augsburger 14). This is a perfect example of the impact a family can have on one’s calling. She knew her calling and still decided to not act on it because she felt that teaching was not “big enough” to fit in with the women of her family. I believe family is one of many aspects that can affect one’s calling, maybe even the strongest. Families, especially parents, also tend to tell someone what they are supposed to do in their futures. Someone may have a sense of their calling, but because of their families, they may choose to ignore that calling and do something that satisfies the desires of their loved ones.
Like Deb Augsburger, my sister also first-handedly experienced the negative impact family pressure can have on one’s calling. When I interviewed Jocelyn, I asked her about her definition of what a calling is and whether or not believed she has a calling. When she answered, she said, “I believe my life calling is to help children in any way possible” (Flores). Working as an infant teacher at a daycare, she is acting on her calling to work with children. However, getting to this career was not easy for her. When I asked her if there were any instances where someone tried to discourage her from following her calling to work with children, she explained that she was guided away from this career when she would take personality tests online to see what career would be a good fit for her. She also explained, “My mother also guided me away from it when I started college because she said there were jobs that made better money. So, I ended up taking up something I was interested in, which was psychology, as an undergrad, but I did not have a passion for it” (Flores). She said in the interview that she knew since middle school that she wanted to teach and work with children, but because our mother voiced her disapproval, she shied away from that profession in college. While she did eventually follow her calling and passion for becoming a teacher, she almost went into a career that she was not passionate about. I feel like there are many people who have experienced this. Not just Jocelyn and Deb Augsburger. People look for guidance within their families, and if someone voices any disapproval about their career choices, it can very easily discourage them from following that passion. These two personal stories show the impact that family disapproval can have on one’s calling and their decision to follow it.
Along with the impact of family on one’s calling, feeling the need to follow in the footsteps of someone they look up to in their lives can also cause someone to decide to ignore their calling. Author and educator Parker Palmer would call it “wearing other people’s faces” (Palmer 2). In his excerpt from Let your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation called “Now I Become Myself,” he talks about his experience with being told by his church that a calling comes from outside voices. He also talks about wanting to follow the path of two people he looked up to when he was younger. The first person was a man who his father worked with. This man worked as a navy pilot, and Parker Palmer wanted to be like this romantic and charismatic man, who also possessed many other positive characteristics. The next person he wished to be like was the father of one of his childhood friends. His friend’s father worked in advertising, but Palmer did not wish to take on that career. Instead, he yearned for the fast car and other expensive possessions that came with the career. However, as time went on, Palmer realized that these professions were not what he was called to. Instead, he explains, he was rather fascinated with the technicalities behind the careers such as language and its power to persuade in advertising, and the understanding and explanations behind aviation. When he looked deeper into his reasoning for wanting to be like these men, he learned that these desires provided him with clues to the idea that he was really meant to be a writer. Ultimately, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of these men because of the rewards that came with them, not because he enjoyed the professions themselves. He also may have wanted to follow in their footsteps because they were both successful men who he was surrounded by in his childhood. P arker Palmer says that “Faking it’ in the service of high values is no virtue and has nothing to do with vocation. It is an ignorant, sometimes arrogant, attempt to override one’s nature, and it will always fail” (Palmer 3). Like Parker Palmer did, some people do decide to go into the career of those around them that they look up to, but they soon realize that it is not truly what they want or are meant to do. This presents the idea that you cannot really ignore your calling. In doing so, you are just trying to override the nature of your life and really just prolonging your ability to answer it.
Instead of “faking it” when it comes to one’s calling, some people feel pressured by their family to go into different professions. This can make someone question if their calling is really for them. However, as Deb Augsburger’s pastor told her, “if you aren’t sure of your calling, go the other direction. God will drag you there” (Augsburger 14). Sometimes people start to develop a sense of what their calling is but are not sure whether or not to follow it. When someone decides to ignore their calling, it will eventually present itself again. This time it will be stronger, though. It could just be that once you discover your true calling, there is no way that you can ignore it. Life and business coach, Stephenie Zamora, says that if you were to ignore your calling, it will “leave you feeling frustrated, unfulfilled, antsy and very discontent with your life […]” (Zamora 1). This is one of the many obstacles that comes along in the process of answering a calling. Some people ignore their callings because of self-doubt that stems from being unsure if their calling is really their calling, or because of the family pressure that has been previously mentioned. In many cases, the self-doubt stems from the disapproval or even sometimes pressure that one receives from their family to take a certain path. In Deb Augsburger’s case, she ignored her calling because of family pressure. While trying her best to ignore her calling to teach, she found herself working as a waitress, a locksmith, a bookstore clerk, and a Sunday school teacher. While she did like most of the jobs that she had, they did not fill that desire to teach that she always had. Working as a clerk at a bookstore that was hidden away with very little traffic, the only people who seemed to come in were teachers. So, it gave her some good insight into their work. This insight caused her to develop a deep respect for teachers as well as a desire to be one. She said “it strikes me that the job I had found in the bookstore was not accidental. Such a place and such a job are very rare” (Augsburger 15). Her calling presented itself even stronger in the work that she did in an effort to ignore it as a result of the pressure she felt from her family. All of the jobs that she came across allowed her to develop the skills needed to be a teacher. Her many professions were what really encouraged her to go into teaching, despite her family. People can try to ignore their calling by picking up different hobbies or even trying to choose a different profession, but if it is what they are truly meant to do, God will keep leading them back to whatever it is. That unfulfilled feeling that they will feel as a result of ignoring it will also give that extra push to really act on their calling.
Having an unanswered or ignored calling has a negative impact on someone’s satisfaction with themselves, their jobs, and their lives. This is proven in a study done by Dylan Marsh, a researcher in the department of psychology at Colorado State University. In the study, 445 full-time working Americans were surveyed on their sense of whether their calling was answered, unanswered, or if they had no calling at all. The study found that those who fit into the answered calling group “showed significantly higher purpose, weekly hours worked, job satisfaction, faith-work integration, and lower search for calling than the unanswered calling group. […] Researchers have even connected having an unanswered calling to worse outcomes than having no calling at all” (Marsh 376-378). For those who believed that they were living out their calling, they were overall more satisfied with their jobs and their lives. Someone who believed that they had a calling but were choosing to not act on it for any reason, had effects that were just as negative as if they were to have no calling at all. It would seem better to not have a calling because there is still hope that it will present itself. Once it presents itself, they can act on it and have those same satisfaction benefits that the people who already answered their calling have. However, for those who have not answered their calling, they are going to experience that unfulfilled feeling and be less satisfied with themselves and their jobs because it is something that they do not truly enjoy. It is going to keep presenting itself until they act on it, but until then, they are going to have those negative emotions. Those negative emotions will be the thing that influences them the most to answer it, along with any encouragement that they may receive from anyone around them.
The many factors in one’s life are not always discouraging or causing you to ignore your calling. Some are encouraging and may even help you to discover what you are meant to do. In Joyce Hayward’s “Guiding Voices” entry in Journeys to Purpose, she talks about the many people in her life that encouraged her decisions that would eventually lead to her being an educator here at Lewis University. She calls them “voices” as she explains that they all become a chorus that cannot be ignored. These voices include her mother’s encouragement to attend college, the rewards that came with school, a theatre department faculty member’s encouragement to expand her creative abilities, and her mentor who not only shared her passion, but also noticed her skills and encouraged them to be put to use in higher education. When reflecting on the experiences she had with each of these voices, she said “key people in my life helped me recognize my skills and my passion. I am grateful for listening to those individual voices as they became a chorus of encouragement for the choices I made to be an educator” (Hayward 61). She never anticipated that she would be a college professor. Some people have a sense of what they are meant to do, but many people discover that their calling is something that they never would have anticipated. The encouragement that she received built her confidence and skills, expanded her outlook on the world, and pushed her to take chances. This is important for someone’s journey to answering their calling. Because many people are often told what they are expected to do, this kind of motivation will allow for someone to move away from those expectations. Once someone moves away from the expectations of those around them and are encouraged to explore different options, skills, and experiences, they are getting closer to discovering their passions and answering their calling.
Being surrounded by things and people who encourage your choices to answer your calling can help you to avoid feeling like you need to ignore it in order to make others happy. Jocelyn was encouraged by our older sister to follow her calling to work with children even after our mother voiced her disapproval. Jocelyn said in the interview, “My older sister was helpful in encouraging me to pursue my career as a teacher. She really made it clear that I was not going to be happy doing what my mother wanted me to do and I needed to figure out what I wanted to do” (Flores). Us siblings were very supportive in her choice to become a teacher and work with children because we saw how good she is with them. She came to us with any doubts that she may have had, and we were able to help her stop doubting herself and her career choices. Not only did she put herself in a work environment that allows her to work with the people she is most passionate about helping, but she also surrounded herself with people who are just as passionate as she is about what they are doing at the daycare. She says that “everything I do is working towards these callings, from school to volunteer work, to my current position” (Flores). She is trying out different ways to act on her calling that will eventually lead her to work with children with developmental delays. While she is exploring different options that she was encouraged to pursue, she is still staying true to her passion for teaching and exploring within the teaching domain.
Some people find the encouragement to follow their calling within their career or through those they are surrounded by. However, it does not always necessarily mean that their current profession is what they are called to do. Feeling unfulfilled in their current profession pushes them to explore their other skills and passions, which is a good thing because they are taking the steps needed in order to answer their true calling. Someone who can provide an example for this is social entrepreneur, Noeline Kirabo. In her TEDtalk, “2 Questions to Uncover Your Passion -- and Turn It into a Career”, she asked two questions that she believes will help to uncover one’s passion. She asked, “If you had all the money in the world, what would you spend your time doing? [...] What truly makes you happy, or gives you a deep sense of fulfillment?” (Kirabo). She provides a personal answer to how she asked herself these questions. When talking about her experience with her search for a passion, she said “I had a comfortable job, I lived a comfortable life, and people expected me to be fulfilled, but I wasn’t. There was something in me that wanted more. [...] And so I decided to quit and explore the possibility of bringing this passion into my daily routine” (Kirabo).. She knew that there was something more out there for her, so she ignored society’s expectation to stick with the good paying career. She followed her passion for helping others, and started an organization called Kyusa. Her organization helps out-of-school youth to turn their passions into profitable and sustainable businesses. By choosing to fulfill that want she knew was there, she was able to turn her passion into a career. As a result, her passion helped the youth that did not finish school to also follow their passion and make a career out of it.
Noeline Kirabo’s speech provides a good example of the benefits that come when one decides to ignore any discouragement and follow their calling. As a drop-out herself, she realized that she should take advantage of every opportunity. She did so when she left her job that allowed her to live a comfortable lifestyle. Turning her passion into a career created a chain reaction. Her passion-turned-career helped an 18-year-old create and run a social enterprise that raises awareness for many different things, and it also helps to figure out the vocational skills of school dropouts so they can use them to make a living for themselves. Noeline also helped another dropout turn his artistic hobbies into a business where he makes and sells bags. He was able to turn his passion into a career that now provides people in many different countries with beautiful bags. Something that all three of them have in common is that they were all dropouts who were told that they would amount to nothing. These stories show that when you explore your passions and ignore the opinions and expectations of those around you, you can find the encouragement within yourself to answer your calling. A calling serves and helps others in some way that you are passionate about. The help that you provide others can push you even further in your calling domain because you feel the joy as a result of it. It is important to explore different passions and careers, especially if you realize that your current profession does not provide that joy that comes when you follow your passion or calling. The realization that your career is not your calling can give you that push to find something that does instead of choosing to ignore it in order to comply with others’ expectations.
Some people receive encouragement from those around them to stick to only one career patch because they are so passionate about it. This is presented in a study carried out by an assistant professor of management at The London School of Economics and Political Science. Dr. Shonana Dobrow, whose work focuses on the meaning of work and the sense of calling, conducted a three-and-a-half-year longitudinal study on how high school musicians’ sense of callings to the musical domain can change over time. This study does not look into one’s calling changing all together, but it studies how one’s sense of calling can weaken or strengthen over time. The study was carried out between the years of 2001 and 2005 at two prestigious summer music programs. Not only was one’s change in sense of calling studied, but it also studies how one’s musical ability, formative behavioral involvement, ongoing behavioral involvement, and social encouragement can change their sense of calling. The study found that over those three and a half years, the musicians’ sense of calling did change. The results also found that those who were attending an arts school, enjoyed practicing, were more involved in musical activities, had parents in the arts, and enjoyed socializing with other musicians had an increase in their sense of calling by the end of the study. Overall, the study found that “it is not who one is that influences a sense of calling; rather it is what one does and who one does it with that matter” (Dobrow). This study showed that getting more involved with what you are passionate about can make your sense of calling even stronger and push you to pursue it. Being around others who have the same passions as you do, just like in the study, you will be further motivated to pursue the passion or career that you are called to. These participants did not try or even need to ignore their calling because they surrounded themselves with people who were encouraging them to follow it. Having family, friends, or people that you may look up to in the same domain that you are called to can also help to increase your sense of calling and belonging, which in turn can make you sure of that calling. You will not necessarily have to explore other passions or careers if you submerge yourself in the work or activities that you are passionate about. If you know your calling, act on it in as many ways as you can. This idea can also be seen in the stories of Joyce Hayward and Jocelyn. Putting yourself in situations that will encourage you to take any steps necessary to answering your calling can override any negativity that you can possibly encounter during your process of answering your calling.
Throughout this essay, I have touched on the influences that can play into one’s decision to pursue their calling. However, there are a few “cautions” that should be known when it comes to someone discovering what their calling is. Editor-in-chief and author of some theology books, Peter Zelinski, writes about five cautions and influences that might keep someone from their calling in his article, “How to Find Your Calling: Here are 5 Clues to Recognizing It and 5 Things Your Calling is Not.” As explained in his article on Linkedin.com, he says that your calling is not just one thing, the thing that other people tell you to be, what you feel you should do to fulfill others’ expectations, something that is easy to give attention to, or something that makes perfect sense. To explain the idea that a calling is not just a one single thing that never changes, he says that “sometimes one calling will wane because another calling is in season […]” (Zelinski). This is the first thing he says people should keep in mind when it comes to callings. It is okay for one’s sense of calling to change with time and different experiences that they may have. When explaining the ideas that your calling is not something that others tell you to be or what you feel you should do to fulfill their expectations, he says, “the calling is yours, including yours alone to hear” and “saying yes to something potentially means saying no to many other things” (Zalinski). There are going to be people who either do not agree with your calling and will tell you what you should be or do. It is okay for people to have opinions, but that calling is for only you to answer. When you decide to say yes to what they ask of you, you are saying no to the nature of your life and making it harder to follow the calling that is presented to you. When he says that a calling is not something that is easy to give attention to, I think he means that it is not always so easy to discover, point out, and follow. To me, if you can give all of your attention to it as if it were your email inbox, it may just be a hobby and not necessarily your life’s work that you went through so many obstacles to find. When Peter says that a calling will not always make perfect sense, he says, “your rich life will include at least one worthy calling that rings out by joy alone, offering little expectation for where that calling might lead you or what it might mean” (Zalinski). As I said earlier, a calling is something that brings you an immense amount of joy, so when a calling presents itself just out of joy alone, it is up to you to figure out where it will lead you or what it meant in terms of what you are supposed to do. It may not just click as soon as it presents itself to you, you will have to determine the nature of the calling. These are all what Peter Zalinski says that your calling is not. These are his cautions that one should pay attention to when they feel that they may have discovered their calling and are deciding to pursue it. One should look deeper into their calling and make sure that they perceive it as their own unique calling, not because it is something that they may have been told or expected to do. Our callings are unique to us and we should allow ourselves to go through the obstacles that may be present as they will make answering your calling much more worth it in the end.
Answering your calling can be a long and difficult process because we are sometimes faced with factors that can either cause us to ignore it or encourage us to pursue it. There are many factors, both positive and negative, that can have an effect on one’s calling. These can be family, the people we surround ourselves with, or even our current profession. Depending on the situation, these factors can easily discourage someone from following their calling. However, they can also give someone the push and encouragement that they may need in order to follow their calling. Regardless of the situation though, it can be hard for someone to ignore their calling and go a different direction because it can cause them to feel unfulfilled in what they decide to do. With that being said, I believe that no matter what anyone says or thinks, you should always listen to your heart and follow your passions. It is your life and only you can live it. If you are called to something, follow it! You may regret it if you do not.
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