I’m reading a lyrical, insightful book right now by the educator and poet Parker J. Palmer titled LET YOUR LIFE SPEAK: Listening to the Voice of Vocation.
Yeah, I know, that sounds heavy but it is actually a wonderful read during this Season of Gratitude when we take stock of the year we’ve lived. What did we do right? Where can we pump things up a bit? Who has touched our lives in ways we didn’t expect? Who has pushed us, pulled us, blessed us, and who has given us a well-deserved kick when we needed it?
Now here is the thing about Palmer, when he talks about vocation, he’s not talking about just getting a job. To him, vocation is “calling me to be the person I was born to be.”
For some people reading those words, alarms have just been set off.
So many of us are living according to others’ expectations. We’ve chosen vocations in life by how we think we will be perceived, not through a clear and honest evaluation of what would fill our souls. Many of us were young when we made these decisions. We looked for guidance from parents who wanted what was best for us provided it offered security. I know this first hand. I’m a Mom. I did it with my kids. I don’t know what I would have done if one of them had said, “I want to be a writer.” I admit I probably would have advised an accounting degree to be safe.
There is security in being practical, but for some of us, it means dying a little, too. Furthermore, once we are into our twenties, it is our individual expectations we have to fear—especially if they lead us to be dishonest with ourselves.
Now let me tell you a secret about writing—the fiction writer ranks are chockfull of doctors, teachers, sales folk, military leaders, and, yes, accountants. Amongst my fellow Romance writers, I’ve met hordes of Ivy school grads. I’ve lost count of the number of attorneys I’ve encountered. These are all people who checked those boxes titled “success” and realized it wasn’t enough. They weren’t being true to themselves and were brave enough to pursue their true vocation, that of a storyteller.
By the way, sometimes I feel it is more challenging for the person who doesn’t have any sort of academic creds to start writing or jump into any creative endeavor. The world is stingy with validation. Each us must learn to value ourselves in spite of how others see us. There are acclaimed writers who were stay-at-home moms or ran home daycares. Numerous writers never attended college. They didn’t need it. Their vocation, that of being fully who they truly are, was all it took.
Palmer is a Quaker and I believe he is at his best when he discusses, limitations and failure. There is grace in being my authentic self; there is not always money; there is not always success. Ask any poet.
I’ve had a great run. I sold the first manuscript I completed. I supported my family on my writing. But I can look back with the clarity of experience and confess success is in the hands of luck. And none of this was possible without fear. The fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear the words will run out, the fear of ridicule, the list goes on. However, as I sit here in from of my computer, I have a profound sense of satisfaction. I have claimed my place in the world. I have honored my vocation.
I pray you honor yours.