My day job, which I will not mention again, is at a maritime museum. I love my job. I love what we do there and I love the people we do that work with. It’s my occupation and it’s extra special, because it matters. Preserving history is important.
I want to talk a little about vocation.
When my grandmother was in the final stage of the cancer that would take her from us, I spent the evening watching the crime drama shows she loved. During one particularly juicy scene, she leaned over a little, lifted her oxygen mask and asked me the question:
“Why aren’t you doing that, hon?”
At first, since I was looking at Mariska Hartigay emote on the television, I assumed she meant acting. “Grandma, if I looked like her, I’d be an actress, too.”
She closed her eyes and shook her head and lifted the mask again. “No, writing that. You could do it.”
She died less than a week later. I didn’t tell her that I was currently writing fan-fiction in a pretty large fandom and surprisingly, they were digging what I could drop on them. I was too embarrassed to tell her about it. To be fair, I was too embarrassed to tell ANYONE about it. It didn’t matter that I got home that night and checked messages, (for those of you too young to remember 2006, the whole smart phone thing hadn’t taken off for non-corporate types yet.) there were many cooing comments begging me to post more of my stories for them. Writing was my dirty little secret. But, my grandmother recognized something that even I didn’t, the way she might have watched my cousins and I play school as little girls and know that one of us was going to be a teacher. She’d put her very frail finger on the pulse of my future. What I was meant to do.
It was also my coping mechanism that helped me deal with losing my grandmother, and then my grandfather, watching my marriage fall apart and starting my life over as a single parent. Writing gave me a place to put all of that loss and longing and hope so that it didn’t drive me crazy.
Years later, I stopped writing the fan fic, stopped watching the show and heard through friends that the show had done something very strange. It had fallen into line with the ‘alternate’ universe I’d created in my stories. I was weirdly flattered by that, even though I was sure the show writers had never even heard of me. Once in a while, I get a message from one of the archive sites that has my fan fiction in it’s archive. It’s usually from someone that has read through every single word and wants more. Sometimes, it’s someone that wants to know what I’ve been doing ‘lately’ since 2008. Invariably, it’s always someone that is excited about the words I put together the way I did. It’s a really nice feeling.
I started an original novel. Then a massive disaster happened and I had to replace the hard drive in my computer. Yes, the story was lost. And, so was the idea with it. I still have notes, and some haunting memories of the plot, but the story went where dreams go when we wake up, I guess.
I started another original novel. This one exists in back up and I still think it’s a great idea. Maybe, I’ll hear them talking again and need to write down what those characters are saying. And then, I stopped writing for awhile.
Flash forward to now. My current work in progress came together with a collision of opposing ideas: a supposition from an Oprah Winfrey topic, a late night viewing of the new “Evil Dead” remake, and my own conflicted feelings about suddenly being mid forties and realizing the time had come for me to get back to the very business of what I was supposed to be doing. And, I was supposed to be writing. That’s it. There are now five different ideas brewing for two other novels and three short stories that would complete a total of four novels. These ideas are in some stage of execution, too. Notes, first pages in draft, complete…it’s not really important. What matters is that once you find your vocation, it’s yours for life. It’s where you place the definition of your life.
When a man or woman decides to take on the vows of celibacy required to be a priest or nun, they are asked if they can imagine doing anything else with their lives. If they can, then they are encouraged to do that thing instead of taking on the yoke of responsibility that comes with the priesthood. To me, writing is the same. So is any creative field you might aspire to.
Find it. Embrace it. Run with it. Your vocation is calling.