What do you want to be when you grow up? How did you get to the place you are now? These are the opposite ends of one of the most important questions in our lives.
Some of us adults tell kids, “Get a good job in accounting and forget about that degree in art. It won’t pay the bills.” And to some extent, they’re right.
Other adults gush, “Reach for your dreams, little one! There is nothing you can’t do if you just believe!” And some butterflies fly out from behind their head.
I will tell you a profound truth: both of these people are right and both are also wrong. I’ll explain.
You can’t tell when you start if your dream of becoming a famous artist won’t pay all the bills and your mom’s with enough left over to sponsor fifteen children in Ecuador. The odds are against it and you can’t ignore that. You also can’t tell that your Accounting job will pay the bills. Maybe it won’t. (Especially if you hate it and don’t do it well.)
Sometimes, you think you know your calling and you really don’t. That happened to me. I learned shortly after starting college that I didn’t want to become a Psychologist or anything related to that profession. It was a crushing blow that I never bounced back from. I just worked jobs until the time came to stay home with my kids (which was a separate calling). But then, almost twenty years later, another calling appeared. I was unprepared to get a calling at this place in my life, but the writing bug had borrowed into my head and was now reaching maturity. Stupid late-blooming writing bug.
Let me tell you who I think has the ultimate answer. I think the people who know the right way to do it are the people who move with their passion, plunging into the thing they love wholeheartedly. They don’t worry about paying the bills. (You can get a random job to pay the bills.) And if their passion doesn’t pan out, they jump out of the water like a dolphin and plunge back in again at a different place. The people who live this way have amazing stories to tell. They know a lot and have enjoyed the journey as well as the transition.
Not everybody has passions about jobs. That’s what those weird tests are for where they ask you if you’d rather raise chickens, calibrate nuclear machinery, or eradicate dangerous pests. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plunge in. It’s not the love of the job that matters, but the love of the adventure and of expanding your horizons. This is your life. Don’t let your bad attitude ruin it for you.
As for me, I had a passion I was completely unaware of. (For those of you who know me this isn’t a surprise. Randomly Oblivious is my middle name.) Everything else had to burn off first before I could see it. Being a mom at home all day with the kids God gave me and all their laundry made it impossible for me to spend time with stained glass art, choral music, sewing, gardening, painting, and all the other art forms I loved. The thing was that I still had to read. I trained myself in the fine art of keeping a plot fresh in my head while being interrupted every five minutes in my reading. Also, fiction began to squish out of me. Journals I meant to fill with my actual life got covered in the fiction.
At last hubby bought me a laptop computer. I could pay our bills online and read emails in the same room as the kids with plenty of space to see who hit who over top of the monitor. Now instead of huddling in the back of the house hoping nobody was setting anything on fire, I could monitor my kids and let my fiction out. Did you notice how the passion had to have the right circumstances to bloom?
And now I’m a writer/housewife who does a bad job battling the laundry monster, but writes a lot of fiction, this time forming them into books fit for sale. When the kids grow up, I’ll either be a full-time writer (which I prefer) or be a writer/barista or a writer/Lowes employee, or whatever. We’ll see.
My advice as an adult who has (finally) found her calling: Reach for your dreams, little one! There is nothing you can’t do if you just believe…and also remember to get a good job if those dreams don’t pay your bills. And don’t listen to those unimaginative people who say you need to have a McMansion and a boat and all that junk. Those only make you happy on the weekends and holidays you don’t have to work. It’s your life and you should enjoy it in whatever form it becomes.
Did butterflies fly out from behind my head?