Callings, Careers, and Concrete Realities

My previous post was yet another in a series of periodic rants on holding out for a job that’s deeply meaningful and passion-driven. It occurred to me not long after I posted it that it could be off-putting in the sense of suggesting that any job that doesn’t reflect a soulful calling is somehow unworthy. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that no one should settle for less than a job that involves changing or saving the world. I think as long as you’re learning things and enjoying yourself, as long as your work supports a satisfying life, isn’t harming anyone, and helps you draw closer to your goals, that’s wonderful.

Anyway, it isn’t my business what anyone else does: really, no one can define for another what constitutes a meaningful, fulfilling, worthwhile existence. I do believe, though, that to the extent possible, pursuing our passions and supporting each other is the way to go. For me, this means seeking work as aligned as possible with my calling to spread joy and reduce suffering, to help people wake up to their nature as unique, sentient beings in this great big, interconnected web of existence. And this is rapidly becoming more than an academic exercise for me, as big changes are on my horizon, approaching swiftly.

In a nutshell, it looks unlikely that there’ll be money for more than a substitute contract for me at school next fall. I’ve known this was likely for some time, but seeing the actual, preliminary numbers gives it a reality it previously lacked; now there’s no escaping or denying the big decisions ahead of me. Where will I live after this school year? What will I do to make money? Should I use this opportunity to seek out a mostly or entirely new path? And how do I even go about addressing these questions?

While I’m not conventionally religious, I do find meaning in the concept of vocation, of being called to live, act, and work in ways that are faithful to a still, deep, inner voice. And I do feel as strongly called as ever; I’m just not entirely sure where that voice is coming from, what it’s trying to tell me. this reminds me of something I’ve thought for a while, that one good way to track down your calling or passion is to catch yourself doing something when you aren’t thinking about what you “ought” to be doing. Consider for yourself: What are you most frequently drawn to? What do you do when you don’t have to do anything in particular?

For me, these things include swimming in words, reading and writing and general wordsmithing. Music seems to be another thing I can’t do without, and my fondness for meditation and exercise are undeniable. Of course, I can never stay away from Sudbury work for very long, whether or not there’s any money in it. (In fact, I need to do something about my tendency to donate or sell my services for less than they’re worth just because I love the work itself.) So I’d absolutely love, still, to find the money to support Sudbury schools in one capacity or another, through some combination of staffing and working with my nonprofit, the Friends of Sudbury Schooling (FOSS). If you have any ideas on how I might do this, I really hope you’ll leave a comment below and/or contact me directly.

Sudbury may have to remain a part-time pursuit for me, in which case I’ll need to find other things to do with the rest of my time to support my alternative education habit. To this end, I’ve lately begun toying with the idea of going back to school once again, this time to pursue training and a credential in counseling. As much as I love the idea of supporting myself through Sudbury work and/or writing and editing, this seems like it might be a more reliable way of not only pursuing something I love to do (in this case, being there for others, providing a safe space for them to open up and see what’s most real for them), but to offer this compassionate attention in such a way that it would support a modestly comfortably existence for myself. While I’m still no further than the dreaming and dabbling stage, I feel an excitement that may well be another of those signs that I’m on the right track.

I’ve also been thinking for some time that delving more deeply into Zen would be a very fruitful way to pierce through the haze of thoughts, judgments, and stories to a place where I can better discern (or rather, respond intuitively, sans analysis) the path ahead. The most appealing route for this would appear to be resuming a face-to-face practice with my friends at the Austin Zen Center. While I left Austin after living there just a year, I could see myself returning and really building a life for myself in this place. (And if you’ve read this blog much at all, you’ll know that the desire to really feel at home where I live has been a powerful and elusive dream of mine.)

Okay, fine: what am I actually going to do in a few months, and where will I go? I have some savings, and so I have some time to consider my next steps. Trouble is, so many things seem possible and/or desirable, and many of them are mutually exclusive in the sense that time is limited and I can’t seem to figure out how to be in two places at once. Should I stay put, or wander until I’ve decided something? Should I play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and leap into one thing or another? Should I pick one thing (e.g., Sudbury, Zen, Grad School Part III) and build the rest of my plans around that (and if so, how do I choose)? Should I look for serious funding for FOSS, or should I start looking for a paying-the-bills job while I consider all this?

Right now, I think I should get away from the computer for a while. Enough words; time to just be…

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