What were you meant to do with your life? What is your passion? Are you currently working in your true vocation? If not, perhaps you would benefit from taking time to rethink your core reason for being.
In his book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Parker Palmer writes "Vocation does not come from willingness. It comes from listening."
He says each of us must listen to our life and try to understand what it is truly about. Our vocation is not what we think it should be about. Instead, vocation is found in seeking our true calling. For if we don't do this, our life "will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest our intentions."
Palmer also says that the insight to each person's work is hidden in the word "vocation," which has the same Latin root as the word "voice." In other words, our vocation is not a career or a goal that we pursue, but rather a calling – a voice that we hear. Palmer says "Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am."
Is this too esoteric? Not really. Personally, I struggled to find my inner voice. At an early age I was told there was no money for college. As fate would have it, I ended up serving six years in the military and was able to visit more than a dozen countries. Those six years of travel gave me a perspective not afforded many people, but during that time I also had opportunity to complete an "interest inventory." You know, one of those tests that tell you what you should be when you grow up.
The top results from my inventory did not interest me: Math teacher. I hated math. French teacher. I had seven years of French, but I didn't see much of a value in it. Science teacher. I didn't do well in science, so I didn't see how that was possible. History teacher. I didn't do well in history either. (High school was not a good time in my life.)
Sadly, I was blind to the common denominator here, which was teaching. Even more sad, the counselor who administered the test didn't see the common thread, either. Thankfully, I eventually came to realize that my calling was to be a teacher. The topic of my teaching was unclear until I funded my own college experience in my 30's and earned several degrees in how to create training for any topic. What the topic was didn't matter. My calling was being able to create training, and it's been my vocation now for more than 20 years. In fact, now I teach others how to create training, too.
Looking back, I can see that training was my vocation all along, it's just that I didn't always hear it. I wasn't listening clearly enough. But once I heard and clearly understood what I was called to do, I knew in my soul that it was my true career.
So let me encourage you to pursue your own calling. I don't care if you're in your 20's, 40's, or 60's. It's never too late to start doing what you were born to do.
Consider one of America's greatest vocal treasures, Ella Fitzgerald. Even though we know her has a singer, Ella Fitzgerald had originally studied to be a dancer, and she had prepared to make a name for herself as a dancer one night at an Amateur Night contest at the Harlem Opera house. Her dance was on the schedule, and her routine was well-rehearsed. The music was ready to go, but just before she was slated to go on, she caught the attention of the emcee.
Something inside her was telling her not to dance, but to sing. How could this be? Every ounce of practice had gone into her dance routine. Yet listening to her inner voice, she realized that her very essence was screaming out that she was a singer, not a dancer.
Later that night, four encores later, Ella Fitzgerald began her career as one of America's national musical treasures.
My question to you is "what is your vocation?" What is your calling? What were you born to do? What is the voice of the universe telling you to be?
If you're hearing the answer but too afraid to make a switch, allow me to say that if you were meant to do something, the only person who can stop you from doing it is you. Please. Don't let fear (or your past) get in the way of you becoming what you were designed to be. If you know your calling, listen to that voice.
It's my belief that you won't truly feel alive until you're doing what you were born - and called - to do.