Considering Career vs. Vocation
This weekend saw us traveling to both Knox College and North Park University, so I’ve been contemplating what I had planned to do with my life versus what I wound up doing. I’m sure you’ve had similar thoughts.
My husband’s college reunion was postponed last fall because of COVID. Even though not many people pre-registered, we decided to drive down anyway to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, to see a few friends from our college days.
When Don was accepted to Knox, his intent was to take advantage of their 3-2 program and be pre-med. What he actually wound up doing was becoming one of the first graduates with a computer science degree that was cobbled together before they had formally created a program. Since the 1990s, Don’s career has been building websites.
I also attended Knox, graduating with a double major in creative writing/poetry and fine arts/painting. My intent was to write and illustrate children’s books. What I actually wound up doing was newspaper reporting, raising a family, and assisting with our website business. I didn’t publish my first book until 2006!
While that first book was for children and I did illustrate it a bit, it wasn’t at all what I imagined I’d do, back in the day. Ruth by Lake and Prairie is a “chapter book,” a narrative non-fiction recount of the founding of Naperville, Illinois, as told through the eyes of Joseph Naper’s niece, Ruth.
My next couple of books were also about history and so is the one I’m working on now. I’ve always had an interest in history but never thought I would go this far. Now that I think about it, however, I probably should have suspected as much.
Before I graduated from Knox College, I attended North Park College in Chicago for a couple of years. They didn’t offer a creative writing program at the time, which was why I transferred, but I did take some classes. In fact, I had a bit of a scholarship and won a creative writing award for my poetry. You’ll never guess what the winning poem was about: The Civil War! Because I had also taken a history class.
North Park College is now North Park University and they offer a lot more options, including a master’s degree in collaborative piano. How do I know that? Because also on this past weekend, our daughter received the first degree in that program – with distinction! She changed course a bit since her undergraduate degree as well. Technically, she majored in English literature, although she just missed double-majoring in music.
Our son is also rethinking his vocation. In high school, he wanted to be Indiana Jones and studied archeology. Then he realized he'd rather make "Indiana Jones." He got a film degree and worked in Hollywood for more than a decade. Now, he's back at school, too. Many of us, no doubt, feel called to the arts, but set that vocation aside because we’re afraid it’s frivolous and will be unable to financially support us. Maybe that is true, but maybe we just don’t know how to make our art work for us.
Our daughter has career plans that should provide reasonable subsistence as well as personal satisfaction. We’re immensely proud of not only her accomplishment, but of the fact that she is pursuing what she loves. And we’re re-examining our own vocation-versus-career decisions. Who knows for how much longer we can push our productive selves, so the time is now!
I suspect the time has always been “now,” but we weren’t wise enough to recognize it. If you’ve been wondering whether to pursue your own passion, consider this your wake-up call and the permission to go for it!