Lately, I have been thinking a lot about callings – my calling, your calling, the call of the wild, the call of a child. It made me remember the two moments in my life when my callings called to me (I sure do like the word call when discussing callings). These calls were more like deafening screams in my ear from two inches away followed by swift slaps upside the head. And still, while they made themselves rather obvious, it took me years to hear them.
To me, a calling is that activity in your life that brings out the true you. It’s the activity that when you do it, you are fully alive. It could be a form of art, climbing a mountain, speaking in public, designing a room, analyzing stem cells…anything really that when you do it, you are engrossed, entertained, inspired, hyper-intelligent and hyper-creative. Everyone is intelligent but we differ in how we are are intelligent, and our callings bring out those individual specialties.
I think if each of us looks for these calls in our lives, they will be like the obnoxious know-it-all in class always raising his hand way too aggressively with the answer. Sometimes you don’t want to call on that kid ‘cause it’s super annoying when someone’s right all the time. But, you have to call on that kid because no one else is raising their hand and you need to hear the answer. You probably already know the answer, you just don’t want to know it for whatever reason. The key is you have to be ready to hear the answer.
I’ll describe one of the moments when my calling made itself known so maybe you can relate to the clarity of a calling’s call.
My junior year in college I took a photography course and from the first few sentences the professor uttered, I bolted up straight in my seat, drooling like a pregnant girl near Dairy Queen (in other news: I am currently 7 months pregnant and think about the DQ a lot. Like, a LOT). Every sentence from the professor was sweet nothings poured like syrup on the pancakes of my soul.
The 90-minute lecture flew by and I remember being shocked when it was time to head to my next class. To me, time simultaneously stood still, slowed down, and sped by. To me, there was nothing besides what my professor was saying and what I could do with it. To me, it was love at first lecture.
That class turned something on in me; it turned me on and not in a ooo, check out that hot babe way. It turned me on. I had always been a good student but this was a completely different level of scholastic focus. The difference was I was completely motivated. Anything related to that class gave me endless energy and I was incapable of getting bored or distracted. It both consumed and fed all of me. Every assignment was like playtime with a side of seriousness and desire to excel I had never experienced.
That semester I didn’t have classes on Fridays so I would wake up at 6 to get in the darkroom as soon as the doors opened and I wouldn’t leave until the day was done. I didn’t talk to a soul, barely noticing there were people around. The entire day, completely alone working this craft, I was thoroughly awake and entertained. It wasn’t work to me, so I could do it all day long. To this day, the buzzing amber darkness, the smell of those noxious chemicals, and the sloshing of the development process are some of my favorite things.
When I wasn’t in the darkroom, I wandered through Washington, DC, where I went to school, taking photos. I would take several film rolls more than assigned (kids, a long time ago photographs used to be captured on physical objects known as “film rolls” that you had to develop to see. You had to think and compose before you shot a selfie because there was no delete! I feel like a cavegirl right now…). There was a feeling of self-exhalation every time I clicked the shutter on a shot I knew was beautiful. I would feel a spark that got brighter the more skilled I became, taking a piece of me but in a way that gave me more than it took.
Needless to say I did really well in that class and I was the obnoxious know-it-all always talking to the professor after class and crushing every assignment. I became confident, happy, bold, and free the moment photography was around in any way. I’m still that way and photography always brings out some of the best and most daring parts of me. I get high off of it. Pretty clear calling, right?
What is even more clear is that it is up to each of us to seek out our callings. No one will hand them to us on a silver platter saying “here, this one’s for you.” Callings are things we stumble across and it’s up to each of us to recognize when we’ve stumbled upon something worth paying attention to. What you’ve stumbled upon is you. Speaking from experience, if you don’t follow that call you will never feel fully satisfied, you will never feel fully you, you will always feel you’re holding back. What’s so interesting is that for most of us, we are the only thing holding ourselves back.
I think we owe it to ourselves to ask this question: what turns me on? I’m not talking about ear nibbles or Ryan Gosling; I’m talking about what turns me on? What makes me come alive? What are the things I could do forever without getting bored? What makes me bold? What makes time go all wonky?
Think back to those moments when something truly clicked. Maybe it called to you years ago and you weren’t ready to hear it. I know that you can still hear that call today because the echoes will reverberate through your entire life. The echoes are just waiting for you to listen for them. If you listen, you ARE that annoying kid in class with all the answers. You already know who you are, so heed that call and be that person. Turn yourself on loudly, fill your life with it and let the world hear you. We will all be better because of it.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
When the annoying know-it-all kid calls, pick up the phone. That kid is you. It’s you that has the answer.
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