Finding a calling and career that cohere

When one's calling falls outside the box

A career is something that we all stress about, especially those finishing high school who are trying to figure out what they are going to do with their lives. Even those in their twenties and far beyond are still thinking about it, while some never figure it out. It is a big decision. It involves trying to find what you want to do every day for much of your life. Of course, this dilemma is a luxury that only the affluent get to/have to make. But that fact often doesn't take the weight out of it.

What this big decision often boils down to is the question of identity. In trying to find out what job we want to have, we are trying to find out who we are as people. We base our sense of self on the career path we take; it defines who we are.  Of course, there are people who don't think this way. They simply crunch the numbers and choose the job with the highest salary. But for many of us, the question of finding who we are through what we do is very pressing.

Ideally, we succeed at this search and we come to realise that there is some profession out that there that captures much of what we are. If someone has a scientific bent and a desire to help others, then they might want to be a doctor. If someone loves cooking, then being a chef makes sense. These people are the "lucky ones" in a sense because they were able to find something in the job market that roughly captures who they see themselves as.

But for others, it is not so easy. For the writers, artists, dancers and musicians of the world there are not too many job vacancies for their calling. That means they either have to find ways to meld their talents into the market place or get a job doing something they don't really love so that they can pursue what they love.

If a person chooses the first option, the challenge is to keep pushing their passion even when there is no response. They need strong determination and perseverance. Rejection after rejection, they have to keep going. They also need to work using two minds: their own creative mind and the mind of the marketplace. They have to find ways to market what they do so that they can make a living out of it. But they must be careful. In trying to earn money from their passion, they must try to stay true to themselves; otherwise, they may sell out.

They also need to be comfortable to promote themselves. And this is hard for many creatives who are naturally introverted. They would rather stay home alone and write, paint, play music, and don't really like the "look at me" part, especially when they have to actively shove it in people's faces to try to get someone to notice their work.

Then there are those in the second group who earn a living doing any kind of job and pursue their passion after hours. In this case, because these people are not reliant on their passion to earn them money, they don't need to tailor their creative work to the market place; they can create what they truly want to create. But they run the danger of letting their day job define them and turn it into a career. They have to continually realise that they are not their job; it just gives them the money to do what they love. And when they are doing what they love, they have to refrain from judging the worth of their work by how much money it makes.

Finding a calling and a career that cohere is tricky. What seems essential is that we don't give up, we search for it with our own eyes not others, and we live with gusto and passion, not dwelling on failure and confusion, but doing as Joseph Campbell recommended: "follow your bliss."

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