“One of the symptoms of approaching nervous break-down is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” Bertrand Russell
In my line of work I often hear people say “What’s my purpose?” Most of us are looking for a calling … something that will define us and leave an indelible footprint for others to follow when we’ve been called to Eden.
For many years I defined myself as a writer. That was my calling and I lived to write. How’d that work out for me? Thousands of hours, millions of words and four books later, I have little to show for my efforts. I’m not JK Rowling famous. The only reason you know that I write is because I’ve just told you.
If I’ve sold 100 books, it’s a lot. Luckily for me I realised quite early on that writing is a job I do, it’s not my calling, nor my purpose. If I had taken the view that writing was my sole purpose on this planet, much like Pulitzer Prize-winning author, John Kennedy Toole, I would’ve put a garden hose to the exhaust pipe of my car and killed myself.
Toole’s magnum opus manuscript was rejected by publishers Simon & Schuster and everyone else he tried to pedal it to. After his suicide in 1969 his mother found a publisher for the manuscript. A Confederacy of Dunces was published in 1980. He was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the best novel of the year. It sold more than 1,5- million copies.
Beware of trying to find your calling.
You might never be what you’ve set your heart on being. You may never make the difference you envisioned yourself making.
By now, if you’ve paid any attention to my writing, you’ll know my view on what our purpose is, wouldn’t you?
Just in case you missed it: To have an eloquent death. To be able to give this life up in an instant with grace and gratitude. The rest is all detail in a sideshow.
Even if you think you’ve found your ‘calling’ would you do whatever it takes to achieve it. Real callings like those require total sacrifice. Are you prepared to give it all up like Avva Antoni, known as ‘the father of all monks’ and live a hermitic existence. Or give up all your wealth to become a Francis of Assisi. Would you sacrifice your life for your calling as did double Nobel Prize winner, Marie Cure who died of Aplastic anemia from exposure to radioactivity. Can you be a Paul, an Augustin, a John Calvin, a Joan of Arc, an Ernest Hemingway, a Jack London or a Virginia Woolf. They gave it all up to achieve their calling.
The trick is to view your ‘calling’ as a craft … something you just happen to be good at and hopefully also enjoy doing.
Everything you do, is a part of you, it’s not you. Deep down you already know who you are and what your purpose is. Chances are that what you think your calling is now, is not.
Don’t bet it all on the ‘one thing’ that will define you. It’s a dangerous notion. There is not just one magnum opus in you. Every day you have a chance to create many magna opera.
You are a masterpiece and everything you do is a masterpiece.
You are defined by your character, the way you conduct yourself and your ability to feel awe and gratitude that you get to play here for a short while. You are not defined by the job you do or the calling you have. Oh, and don’t take yourself so seriously because you have little to no say in how things will turn out for you. So you may as well enjoy the ride and see what wonderful opportunities open up for you.