What is your life telling you?
What is your life telling you?” As a therapist, I have been trained to answer a question with a question. I ask this question when a client is seeking an answer as to what they should do with their lives. Working in Athens, I have the privilege of seeing students. They are full of possibility and anticipate their future, although sometimes with fear and trepidation. The questions they are asking are, “What am I going to do with my life?” “What is my purpose?” “How do I know for sure that I am on the right path?”
These are not only questions for students. These are questions you may ask of yourself from time to time. It is not uncommon for me to counsel adults already in a profession or job who say, “one day I hope to know what I will be when I grow up.” To whomever is asking the question, my answer is the question, “what is your life telling you?”
One of my favorite books is, Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. Palmer is an educator and his book is about listening for the voice of vocation. He says, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” He believes that, “our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.“
The journey towards true vocation does not start with “what should I do?” but instead with, “Who am I?”, “What is my nature?” Living a life counter to the answer to this fundamental question about self can lead to depression and burn out. Depression, because we become detached from our true calling and nature, and burn out, because we are giving to a vocation something we do not possess, that being interest or desire. A part of knowing who one is, is also knowing who one is not.
It is a beautiful thing that we are all different. We each have been uniquely created to offer varying gifts and talents in order to make the world a better place. Part of knowing oneself is knowing the material with which you are working. What interests you? Where do your talents lie? What comes easily for you? What do you feel most energized by doing? Our most profound gifts are those we are barely aware of possessing. They are a part of our God-given nature. Listening to the voice “inside” instead of the voices “out there” is the beginning of fulfilling the selfhood given to you at birth by God.