What to do when your calling calls

November 26, 2004

There is something to be said for finding your “thing” in life. It is not easy, and most people hope to be able to find it one day, and when they do, hope to remain able to pursue it.

Lately, I have been asking myself, have I found my calling? Is this my calling? How happy am I with what I am doing? And strangely, I think this is it. For years I felt it was not it, and could think of several other more exciting things to do, but now, I do feel like I am close, and can see myself being an academic for ever. At least, till I drop dead.

Why do so many people feel that they have missed their calling, even when they do not know what it is? I think the answer lies not in the fact that one’s calling is hard to find. Its got more to do with not being able to recognize one’s calling even it comes up and says “Hullo.” I can mention several people I know who I think have really found their calling, and are spending all their time being unhappy looking for something else.

So there you have it, your calling comes calling and you send it packing. And it calls again, and you send it away yet again. That’s how people are – always dissatisfied with what they have, and looking for things ephemeral.

Why do we make this mistake? One can never be sure, but I think it has something to do with the thinking that one’s calling is going to be the most exciting thing on earth. And why should it? All it has to be is something you turn to every time you want to feel good, feel settled, feel like you. My love affair with academia is not full of torrid, exciting passion, its just a sensible cloak that fits me well. Its taken me some time to realize this. The only thing one needs to know is that the calling has got to feel right.

And you say to me, that’s really vague. And I agree, but let me explain. Its like a good marriage, confortable, happy, not always perfect, and just the right amount of stress, not too much nor too little. Its always useful to try and define something, even when it often means different things to various people, and even more often, has different meaning to the same person at various times.

A calling is something that you never get bored of. It does not have to be something you do not get enough of, that would be too much, and maybe oppressive. It wouldn’t feel right (there we go again)! But, its something you know will be a source of long-term fulfilment.

A calling demands committment, it isn’t a free source of gratification. This does not make it unnatural. We are in love with the notion that finding your role in the world must be the most natural thing of all. Don’t believe it for a moment. It takes work to find your calling. So put in that work, it will be a tremendous source of happiness. You may have seen this little quote from Winnie the Pooh that goes something like this – “Everyone’s got a happy place. Too bad most people won’t take the trouble to find it.”

Callings are not mutually exclusive. In fact they will always co-exist. Once you’ve found one, you may find another, and continue to enjoy the first. Remember, its something you never get bored of; thus by definition, co-existence of callings follows. How many people do you know that seem to enjoy two or more quite unrelated pursuits for a long time in their lives? Some? Sure! It’s probably because, if you’ve learnt how to go out and find your calling, you’ve become good at searching, and found more than one. There is no law that says there is but one “happy place” – rest assured there are many.

You may find your calling when you least suspect it. I have a few, other than academia, and they all came about in random fashion. So, do not hesitate, go forth and explore, visit wierd places, look around in an interested manner, keep muttering “Interesting!” and sooner or later you will find it. Look not where the light is, look not where people tell you to look, in fact don’t really look. “Browsing” defines it better! Forage, it always works. Isn’t that what it means, for-age-s, finding something for ever? Who knows? How will you know if you don’t get out there? Do it! Now! Your calling awaits.