While waiting for friends at the local science museum this week, my daughter and I built a tall tower of Keva planks in the building space near the entrance (our favorite place to wait for friends since it gives us something fun to do while we wait, and it’s close to the front doors so that we can easily see when our friends arrive). I like to build really tall towers, experimenting with different ways of orienting the planks and trying out various structural elements. As several passers-by commented on the tower-in-progress and I was chatting with a nearby parent, it came up that perhaps I had missed my calling to be an engineer, given my fascination with these structures, and that got me thinking about callings more broadly.
What is it that we feel called to do? I’ve always been drawn to animals, to nature, to reading, and to creative pursuits, and I think when I was a child and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded with careers that incorporated those things — a vet, a park ranger, an artist, a librarian, a teacher, a guitar player in a rock band. As it turns out, teaching is the only one of those things I’ve ever been paid to do as I’ve gotten older, but I’ve incorporated so many of them into my life in other ways. I love our pets and enjoy my time with them. I spend hours at the Eno River State Park and our own nature trail learning about the trees, insects, birds, animals, and wildflowers that I find there. I take pictures and create art almost every day. I surround myself with books and I pick up my guitar all the time.
I’ve decided that the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” should perhaps be answered with words like “Happy.” or “Creative.” or “Useful.” or “Compassionate.” or “Loved.” rather than a laundry list of possible careers. Because if what we are is happy — if who we are is creative and useful — if how we are is compassionate and loved, then what we do to earn a paycheck is just one little piece of that fabulous whole. Just because we’ve settled on one or a few ways of making a living doesn’t mean that we have to stop pursuing a life rich in the other things that we are called to do. Perhaps we can find a way to incorporate more and more of our callings into our daily lives until those things that ignite our passions and fuel our spirits are so constant that we are infused with and inspired by them every day, even if we spend some parts of our days in other ways.
So even when the loud voice of the to-do list sometimes seems to drown them out, I try to listen to the quieter voices of those subtle callings and to act on them when time permits. Whether you believe that such a calling comes from a higher power, from the big wide universe, or from your own subconscious, I think it’s a voice worth listening to. Right now, I’m feeling powerfully called to create in all sorts of ways and feeling moved to write songs, so I’m jotting down ideas for lyrics and noodling around with chords and finding my way in rare spare moments, even though it’s not something I’ve really done before (unless you count the horribly angsty stuff that I probably wrote in high school). I have a lot on my plate and may not see this calling to fruition any time soon, but I have been called, and I mean to answer.