December 12, 2011 by The Editor
I have been very fortunate to work in some jobs that I really enjoyed. I worked in publishing and in libraries by turns for the better part of my life so far, including as early as high school, volunteering in the school library. I love the printed word, I love research, and helping others find answers to their questions. But faced with the question, “Is librarianship my ‘vocation’?” I’m not sure that I can answer yes to that, or at least not now. Having been out of the workforce for a few years at this point I can’t rightly claim such a lofty attribute for something I’ve not been doing much of lately.
The question arises out of a comment a dear cousin made in response to my earlier posting on Karen Armstrong’s speech on compassion and the Golden Rule. She said that the theme of Armstrong’s speech, attempting to educate people about compassion and the need to bring the various iterations of the Golden Rule back into focus globally for the sake of humanity and the entire planet, is her “life’s work, full of challenges as it is.”
I know this cousin to be in a helping profession, however my sense is that for many people their profession is not necessarily their life’s work, or vocation. Sometimes people do of course find that their job is their vocation. Social work, teaching, being a police officer or a member of the clergy are often thought of as vocations because the jobs come with an identity, something that is not easily put away at the end of the day. Such people are in service to others.
On the other hand, there are people in many professions, including those above, who probably do not use such language to describe what they do. It is just a job. Perhaps it’s a family tradition, or is something that fell into place for them at the right time in their lives. And there are CEOs, secretaries, computer technicians, people working in sales and all manner of jobs who might never dream of describing what they do as their ‘life’s work.’
Typically a vocation is a profession or activity that a person is especially drawn to. The word is most often used in relation to becoming a member of the clergy. But if we can accept the definition that a vocation is “life’s work” or a meaningful pursuit, particularly in the service of others, then for many, if not most people their job is definitely not their vocation (especially if they don’t have a job at all!)
I’m not sure what my vocation is. I hold certain values and I try to live my life in accord with what I regard as noble truths; but beyond my personal lifestyle, a truer, better path is not yet apparent in this wilderness. So, my question to you is simply this: Have you found your “life’s work”? And how does your vocation play out in your life? What advice can you give to others who are searching for a more meaningful way to live? Do we always choose our vocations? I am interested to read the thoughts and experiences of others.