This past summer I took a class entitled “Core Seminar” at the university that covered the subject of vocation. During the course we were required to write three papers on vocation that were to be titled ENGAGE, EQUIP, and EMPOWER. Over the next three days I am going to post my papers with today’s being the Engage Paper.
I would define vocation as “a strong desire to reach a particular state; or an inclination towards a course of action with a focus of service to others.” Writing an “Engage” paper at this point in my life is kind of pointless, but let’s see what I can do.
There is a difference between a career and a vocation. If you refer to my definition above, you see a vocation is a service to others. A career is a service to oneself. A person who becomes a plastic surgeon because plastic surgeons make a lot of money has made a career choice. Another person who makes the decision to become a plastic surgeon to help children in third world countries with cleft palates, for example, has a vocation or a calling if you like.
A vocation is also an ever evolving state of service. As people grow, their vocation may totally change by adding or subtracting which leaves ones vocation in a constant change of mutation. As the vocation grows and mutates it can be either nourished by internal or external factors and a person’s vocational existence should become a state that continues even after death.
THE VOCATIONS OF MY LIFE
Student – The first vocation anyone has is that of being a student. You learn all you can primarily out of instinct for survival, but once in the formal setting of school, you learn and try your best to please your parents even though it is you that benefits most from this service. This vocation does not end until the moment of death as we are always learning from schooling, experience, or observation. My parents were instrumental in instilling the need to do well in school. What they did not realize, nor did my teachers was that I was easily bored when not continuously challenged. Courses that did not me deeply involved that were the easiest to do are the classes I did not perform well in.
Citizen – As we complete the education necessary to be functioning pieces in society, it is now time to add citizen to the vocation. A citizen is one who functions in society for the benefit of the whole and does not feed on that society. Examples of non-citizens would be career criminals or career welfare recipients. This is a perpetual stage of vocational existence too. From about the time my parents divorced, I became a contributing member to the family financially. Although my mother never asked for it, I went to work full time while attending school full time to contribute financially to pay the bills and keep a roof over the family.
Employee – Normally, as we become citizens we also find suitable employment that matches our aptitudes and abilities to the needs of the employer. The longer your employment status continues with an employer the more knowledgeable proficient you should be at that employment. With knowledge and proficiency come higher expectations and rewards both internally through personal satisfaction and externally with promotions and pay raises. This stage of my vocation lasted for 33 years. Whereas my father continuously reassured me that I would not ever amount to anything while I was growing up, my military leaders took a young 17 year old boy and reassured me that the only limitations I would ever face were the ones I placed in front of me. They gave me incentive to excel in my professional areas.
Spouse – Some people such as me choose to spend their life with someone else. Even this is a vocation. For a marriage to be successful it takes a inclination with a strong sense of dedication to your spouse. The vocation of marriage is a constant state of giving and compromise.
Since my parents divorced when I was a young teenager, when I proposed to my spouse I stipulated that if she had any doubts at all, to turn me down as I don’t believe in divorce and if it ever got to the point where she did not want to be with me anymore, she could walk away but I would not go through a divorce. We have now been married 34 years.
A successful marriage consists of two people who want health and happiness for their partner more than they want it for themselves. – Me
Parent/Mentor – This stage is not necessarily built upon the previous stage of vocational existence, but whether it is with children or with persons you supervise, you dedicate part of your life to mentoring others. With children it is a perpetual vocational existence; and it can be perpetual with those you supervised too if done correctly. Otherwise, with co-workers it normally ends at the point when you end your employment.
Before I retired from the military I came home and visited with my father at his request. The man who told me that I would never amount to anything in my early life sat there and told me that he wished he would have had me as a mentor to teach him who to be a father. He told me that he was proud of me for making him eat crow and now knew he had misjudged me all my younger life. I also have people who were mentored by people who I mentored in the military tell me how they were regaled in stories of my leadership abilities and how their supervisors had shown them how to succeed based on my leadership.
Parenting is a vocation that lasts a lifetime. – Me
Example – The final stage of vocation is being an example through your actions for others to follow. If done correctly, it can be introduced at any other stage in vocational existence and you can continue to be an example for others to strive for long after you are gone. This is evidenced by how long people tell stories of your good deeds.
At one time I thought after I retired I would be able to relax and not have so many stressors of being an example for others to follow. However, I find that being in classes with people much younger than myself; I still have a personal responsibility to myself to continue to help others and give them a positive experience to remember me by.
Wealth is not measured by the amount of worldly goods we amass while we are here, but by how long and how fondly we are remembered after we are gone. – Me
In conclusion, a person’s vocation can be a life experience building from a baby’s first moments of self-awareness to long after they are deceased. Each person has a societal responsibility to make a positive difference in the lives around them. The best metaphor I can think of is “A vocation is like a ripple from a stone dropped in a pond. It continues to grow and spread in area until there is no energy to carry it any further.”
As to where my vocation will take me now; I do not rightfully know. Wherever it takes me I hope I leave the path in a little better condition to follow than what I found when I got here.
The path you take through life is not as important as how you improve it for those who follow. – Me