Call Waiting

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.

Block Tower
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.

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7 Responses to Call Waiting

  1. Rain says:

    Fantastic! I’ve struggled with this question for at least 30 years, and have come to a similar conclusion. Sadly, though, I’ve sort-of given up hope that paid employment might encompass any of the things I am passionate about (not that I really know what that is anymore – illness and motherhood have rocked my world)…I think that ship has sailed from me. Now I just hope for paid employment that is stress-free and flexible so that I can focus on my personal callings should they reveal themselves again :-)

  2. Alicia says:

    just saying hi! and I can soooo relate.
    when i grow up i want to be patient :-)
    and mostly with myself, as i seem to be plenty patient with others.
    When I grow up I will be an example of peace,
    more often than I can draw from my tumultuous life right now.
    i will find delicious more often,
    in food, in nature, in every sense….

    thank you for taking the time to share!

    (found you on the thea list)

  3. Kristy says:

    Beautiful, Friend! I think the content of this post would make an excellent song!

    You have me thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up…I remember wanting to be a brain surgeon and a mommy. Then I remember other callings coming out of the woodwork- and they still do till this day.

    Funny-I never said I wanted to be a photographer- I had already considered myself to be one by the time I pondered this question. (-:

    Thank you for this post today- I had been thinking all day today how much of what I do seems “invisible” in the world. This is a nice antidote to that way of thinking. (-:

  4. Esme says:

    I loved this post so much – like Kristy, it absolutely came at the right time for me.

    I made me reflect on two things. The fact that when you ask children what they want to be, they’ll answer with a profession that they think is fun, good, and would make them happy – a teacher, a nurse, a doctor, a musician, a farmer, a fireman, an astronaut. I asked one kid and he said he wanted to work in a supermarket around all the food so he’d always have good ingredients for dinner and get to help other people choose their dinners. It’s not about money, power, prestige for them. I know adult responsibilities encroach upon plans, but we tend to grow out of this potential to see the positives and fun of a situation. Responsibility needn’t do that to us.

    Secondly, the idea that what we are equates to how we earn our money is a sad way to define identity. But not everyone does it. Most musicians that I know make their money as waiters, baristas, opthamologists, dogwalkers, teachers, and a host of other professions – yet they define themselves as musicians, because that is what lives in their soul. So I think we should all follow this example – I’m a gardner, musician and reader, a dreamer, a lover, a partner, a hostess of vegetarian dinner parties, a wine-taster, a cheese-monger, future mother (i hope). It doesn’t fit on the tax return, but it’s sure as hell more accurate.

  5. katepickle says:

    Yes yes yes!
    I still don’t know what I want to be ‘when I grow up’ I can reel off a list of professions that include tight rope walker and gardener… I hardly ever think to add ‘mother’ to that list yet that is what I am doing, and loving, and being good at right now….
    So much better to add things like, happy and fulfilled to my list… because I am.

  6. Heather says:

    Love this! One thing I’ve noticed through our years of learning at home is that people sometimes question what my kids will “be” when they grow up and I’ve always answered that I hope they will be happy. It is never the answer they are expecting to get and it always give people pause when I say it. So enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, thank you for sharing. Going to send it along to a few of my friends.

  7. Lulu says:

    Right On Sister! Keep shining : )

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