Last week, Foxfier mentioned vocations. I don’t tend to use the word because it’s too fraught with religious meaning, (being a specific thing of many religions) and also fraught with the meaning of predestination, destiny, fate, and things you are “meant” to do.
It’s also fraught with crazy, because all of those invoke crazy in our culture.
There are a lot of strange thoughts in all our heads, un-examined, about vocation and “what you were born to do.”
Forgive me if these sound erratic and odd, but I’ve been up since 3 am doing preparation for minor surgery*, and there are the remnants of anesthesia in my system. By 4 am I was actually hearing voices, awake in the sleeping house. (Voices of people who weren’t and couldn’t be here, like younger son. None of them saying anything earth shattering btw. More like “oh, there you are.”) This has happened before when extremely sleep deprived, but not with that clarity, so keep in mind I’m in a semi-altered state.
In the religious sense vocation is probably easiest to define. A vocation is a calling; specifically what G-d is calling you to do. This removes a lot of the crazy from it, because if He created the world and knows all its pasts and futures through all its permutations and potential infinite universes, then it stands to reason that He knows what you should be doing. If you’re a believer and He tells you you should be doing something, LISTEN. (Of course, distinguishing if what you’re hearing is His voice, your wish, your parents’ desires and expectations, etc. is a whole other ball of wax.)
But it’s long since escaped the confines of religion to cavort the secular world. Where it often doesn’t call itself “vocation” but “what I’m meant to” or “was born to” do. (Also many religions believe you can have secular vocations, from marriage to specific careers.)
Here’s the thing though: people often adduce to that that if you’re following your vocation, your “one true path” it’s easy. It’s “the path of least resistance. That you’ll feel happy doing it than anything else in the world. That it will be (a least if secular) financially rewarding, and that it’s the equivalent of following your bliss.
As someone who probably has a vocation (secular? sacred? who knows? who cares?) to do what she does, and also because misery loves company has read an awful lot of stuff about people similarly afflicted, including those with traditional religious vocations…. uh. No. None of the above.
Even people who in retrospect truly were called to do something, often fought with it tooth and nail; fought to make a living/stay with it.
I could say that doing it is easier than not doing it. That’s about it. And even then sometimes it’s “depends on what you mean by doing it.”
And rather than bringing with it bliss… well… there is a feeling to when you’re doing the thing you were born to do/feel compelled to do: it’s akin to when you are tuning a radio and finally get a station with perfect, clear, crystalline quality. It feels like you’re doing what you should be doing, that’s about it. If you’re not, the dissatisfaction and resentment can grow and eat your life.
But no one promised you a rose garden. Even if you think Himself above set you this task or this avocation it’s easier to think of it (also reconcile it with free will) by thinking “He set a hundred” (or a million people) “this same task, because humans are fallible and fragile.”
It doesn’t absolve me from doing the best I can. But it means that though it’s my vocation, I might not be the most perfect fulfillment of it. Or might lack the luck/positioning/contacts/ personality to even reach enough people with it (if it’s something like writing.) Doesn’t absolve me from doing it, but it means it can be a very frustrating experience as well as anything else.
But “you have a vocation” is not “follow your bliss.” It’s more often “you drew the short straw, you luckless fool.”
And yet, if you — like me — fight against it, you just hurt yourself. And what peace and fulfillment you get is from doing it. Even when it’s not fulfilling in any way but psychological.
Which is when you must shut your ears to the idea that not all vocations are rational — imagine you were born to be a perfect interstellar explorer right now — and that it’s quite possible this is just a defect in your nature and hope beyond hope that there is a rhyme or reason for it and someone is keeping score.
But all I can tell you is that following your vocation hurts less than not following it.
*Hopefully it stays with this bout of minor surgery, and doesn’t become major surgery, a life-roadblock or worse. I find out in a week. I’m hoping for column a, because too much of my life has already been devoted to illness.