Several weeks ago, I saw a local production of Wit, starring a former work friend. She’s in her 60s, this friend of mine, and as I watched her bring down the house in this incredible performance, I thought, “Wow, she really missed her calling.” (When she’s not starring in local plays, she’s a paralegal.) Flash forward to a month ago, and I found myself remembering the performance and thinking, again, that this friend missed her calling to be an actress. And then a small voice inside said, “That’s ridiculous.”
You can’t miss your calling if you’re still alive on this Earth.
I never had much of a plan for what I wanted to do once I grew up. As a result, I often feel a crushing sense of non-accomplishment. I am not unhappy with my life, my family, my friends, or even my job. I like all of those things. This sense of non-accomplishment comes from somewhere else, that tiny voice that you might also hear from time to time. This tiny voice whispers “what ifs” and “could’ve beens” ever so softly, drawing you into a fantasy world where your life might’ve been different if you’d chosen Path B over Path A. Not better or more beneficial, but different.
Here’s the deal, friends: You can have something different if you want.
There’s still time to choose Path B or C or Q. I know there’s still time for you because you’re reading this post. Are you a millennial who’s frustrated with the state of the world? Change it. Are you a septuagenarian who never saw all those fabulous places you dreamed about in college? Go there.
I know that some of you will object to this “just do it” attitude. Life isn’t that easy, is it? We work, marry, raise kids, and settle in for the next few decades. Maybe you have a few medical scares, job losses, and other significant setbacks that throw a wrench the whole toolbox at your life goals. The money never materializes for those fabulous trips, or you hit a really big snag that keeps you from That One Thing you always felt called to do. I don’t mean to suggest that you can just follow your passion without caring or thinking about the other things in your life. That kind of mentality leads to broken families and unfulfilled lives.
But if you’re constantly chasing a daydream, then that’s all it will ever be for you.
No, instead, I propose that you work for that dream. And if life interferes and changes your path, adapt to go with it. My actress friend is an actress because she acts, just as she’s a paralegal because she…paralegals? Until this year, it didn’t occur to me that I have achieved at least one small goal for myself. I get paid to write. By the definition of the word “professional,” I’m a professional writer. I work for a client writing about health care, and while it’s not glamorous, I love it most days. Someone gives me money to put words together (and I promise I’m better at it than this sentence would suggest).
At the risk of sounding like a naïve thirtysomething and a motivational poster, if there’s something you feel called to do or know in your bones that you’re meant to do, do it. If paraplegics can dominate sports, blind women can win cooking competitions, and people in poverty can turn rags into riches, then you can do the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it will take time and effort and sacrifice, and maybe your goals will look different by the end, but if you’re not dead, you haven’t missed your calling yet. How many times will the metaphorical phone have to ring before you pick up?
I don’t believe that the phone will stop ringing until you’re dead and out of time. But as we get older, that ring might not sound as sharp. Eventually, it’ll fade into the background with the other noises of life.