Thursday, May 30, 2018
What is the calling that I might, as an 80 year old, fulfill? Or, said in another way, what is my vocation in retirement? And what are the means for discovering vocation now?
These questions typically prod and poke the college student, the shocked worker recently laid off from a job, or perhaps the mid-lifer seeking a change of direction. In contrast, I ask the questions as a senior.
My first impulse suggests that for a senior the searching for vocation differs considerably from those who are younger because of the obvious “diminishments” of old age: less strength, less energy, less dexterity, less mobility. Further, a motivation associated with vocation and career is “to earn a living.” However, many of us seniors exist on pensions and social security and possibly savings which allow us to suppose that we no longer need a vocation.
As a starting point in this discussion, I would like to adopt a term recently used to define those people born before 1950. “Perennials.” The term allows us to continue to consider vocation for as long as we live. The perennial is capable of blooming year after year. Vocation is not an annual but a perennial. That is, we can always be in vocation.
What are the means for discovering vocation now as a perennial? Richard Rohr’s daily meditations this week pertain to vocation. Perhaps that is why my thoughts have lingered on this topic. He has quoted Parker J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation). Good counsels indeed. Surely there are more library and computer resources of this kind to guide. For example Google “books on vocation” and you’ll be shown “goodreads’” fine list.
Rohr and others suggest to me my own need to make a cognitive shift in my thoughts about millennial vocation. Years ago I used a somewhat pat sentence when consulting with college students who had not yet made up their minds on a career. “If you can read and think and write and speak, a world of opportunity awaits you.” Today, as a perennial, I am invited away from those terms, not because they lack validity, but rather that they are more appropriate for a skill-oriented quest for successful career. The millennial is not on a career search, but rather a calling. I have a growing hunch that the perennial’s vocation has less to do with skills and more to do with personal identity and disposition. The quip “when you grow older, you just become more and more like yourself” seems to hint at something significant.
The perennial vocations that I most admire do not depend upon a particular IQ, a distinguished history of accomplishment, a widely regarded talent, a high level of popularity or the maintenance of “style.” Actually, such distinguished people might, as perennials, be grouches. Instead, the perennial in fulfilling vocation has, as it were, come home after a long journey to be the person he or she deeply is.
Such people, as I see them from a distance or interact with them closely fit these characteristics and exhibit these behaviors.
- They accept who they are and even poke fun about it.
- Their goodness is not so much an act, but a flowing out from a fountain.
- They are more interested in learning than in proving something.
- They inhale each moment and exhale gratitude.
- Whether gregarious or solitary, they are not alone.
- Their greatest generosity is toward those who have surpassed them.
- While mental and physical abilities decline, soul is renewed each day.
I should be quite pleased to have a long coffee with you, there to hear of your vocation and share a precious moment together.