Episode 16: Who Cares about Callings?
Hello Friends! Welcome to Episode 16
Callings. What a big, hairy concept. I'm not going to lie though, they are everywhere and each on us gets called to do something.
That's why I'm sharing my thoughts on callings today.
In this episode, you'll learn
How "callings" are invitations to become more of our truest selves
Why an "almost" right job is vastly different from a "right" job
Why callings are so important to living meaningful lives
How dangerous it can be to refuse a calling
A few weeks ago, I was reminded by a fantastic quote I heard that’s attributed to Mark Twain. It goes like this: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
I love this quote.
Not only is it instructive for me as someone who writes. But it’s also instructive as a person in the world, a person is actively trading just a career for a calling.
The difference between almost right “work” and the right “work” is a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. It’s the difference between a spark and a blazing fire.
I’m starting to think almost right is far more dangerous than wrong. I think we as people, or let me speak for myself, I have a higher tolerance for almost right than flat out wrong. When I eat something, do something, that is flat out wrong, I stop and don’t finish. There are not equivocations, no berating myself. I did not like it, there is no convincing myself so I leave it.
But almost right. Almost right is harder. Because somehow I am wrong if something is almost right. I’m the one with the problem. Not that the work is just not what I want to do, it’s unsatisfying.
Which is why today’s episode is not very instructive, more of a rumination on almost right jobs, almost right careers, and something on a whole other level: callings.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I’ve been reading a fantastic book called Callings by Gregg Levoy. Truly, I say this without a hint of exaggeration, this book has changed my life and I feel so utterly blessed and appreciative to have experienced it.
What’s so fantastic about the book is that Levoy essentially explores some of the same questions that I’m so curious about. What is a calling? How can we know if we should say yes? And why oh why are they such an integral part of living a full life?
I don’t really have hard answers to any of these questions, which is why they are so fun. Here are some things I think are true:
1.) Callings are invitations to be more and more of our truest selves. You may think a calling is to be a teacher, but its not about teaching as much as it is about doing something you truly love to do even though your friends think it’s not prestigious. You may think your calling is to quit your job but what its really about is being more trusting in the universe. There is the surface of our callings, but the real meat is beneath it. And the true calling usually changes us into something both bigger than we anticipated but is really a truer version of ourselves.
2.) Refuse a calling at your own risk. Friends. This one I find both terrifying and hilarious. I’ll start with what I find funny. I think that it’s funny that we say, or I’ll speak for myself, that I say I want to be happy, live a full live, a life chock full of meaning…and yet I will refuse a calling with the swiftness. I will get a whiff of a call and hold my breath hoping that it doesn’t notice me noticing it. Called to share with other people that I started a coaching business? Ignore. Called to even start said coaching business? Nope. I ran away from it in the most creative of ways.
And what’s terrifying about not answering calls is that we can refuse them. And our lives start to lose color. I refused a call to leave UCLA for a LONG time. Too long. And my physical health started to suffer as well as my mental health. I was essentially hurting myself because I did not want to deal with the uncertainty that answering the call to leave would bring. I’m glad I finally answered it but I definitely took longer than necessary.
I took so long because I wanted perfect clarity about the call meant, and what answering it would do to my life. Which brings me to my final thought.
3.) You will never ever ever have perfect clarity about whether or not something is or is not a calling. I cannot stress this one enough, mostly because I harped on it so much. When I first started entertaining the thought of starting a business, I wanted to do it because I wanted to have the financial means to work when, how, and on what I wanted. Call that calling shallow. Or maybe it wasn’t. But I couldn’t really tell at first. And even now I can’t tell if that isn’t a part of my motivation, nor if it should be. What I am saying is this: callings are callings and if they’re shallow, you’ll know afterward. And if they weren’t meant to be, then you’ll know afterward. But you still should answer them.
Well friends, those are my thoughts for this week. Let me know what you think about callings.