LOOKING OUT FOR A VOCATION
Towards the end of 2009 I had a moment of insight into a personal aspiration I'd been carrying a torch for, for many decades. The view was a simple one - that I could be fulfilled, specifically by discovering a personal vocation. It's hard to say how long I've held this for, or where I picked it up from. I'd conjecture that somewhere in my mid teens, as my imagination began generating possible future careers, I'd picked up the notion of a vocation as some sort of gloriously ideal job. It is held in high esteem in our culture, it appears to go beyond celebrity or wealth as an aim. Having a vocation is seemingly its own reward, one that can even redefine what being wealthy and successful is. Now wouldn't you want that if they could find it?
Everyone understands that finding a vocation is a rare, feeling fulfilled is almost a god given gift or blessing, it makes you very special. The majority of humanity that's ever existed has never found their personal vocation. What dreams people have had tend to crumple in the face of a hostile indifferent world. Ending up living lives that at best they can tolerate, on occasion might enjoy, but more often than not have to endure long enough to drown their in alcohol or drugs of an evening.
Not wanting to accept that, for the last forty years or so, I've just carried on searching. Maybe I'll be an artist, a designer, an actor, a performance artist, a poet, a writer, I'll work in a shop, run my own shop, become a Buddhist, work in Right Livelihood, work in a crematorium, a warehouse, in customer services, the list goes on. Spreading out over four decades, the ideal of finding a vocation has worn thinner and thinner. As I've aged my options I have became fewer, the chances of my finding a vocation were shrivelling before my eyes. By 2009 the idea of finding a vocation though threadbare, I couldn't quite let go of it, I couldn't abandon it fully. I could not let go.
What I saw myself becoming should I find a vocation, was so woven into the DNA of my Self. It would have felt like a crushing defeat to just let go it it too precipitously. Howeve, the insight I had was that I was never going to find that personal vocation now, that I just had to drop this expectation. It had only ever caused me suffering anyway, and as I've grown older its contributed to making me increasingly restless, to changing my style of work every eighteen months, two years. I could no longer hold down a job that was the same stuff day in day out, week after week, year on year. The actuality was I had regular, but quite ordinary work, but the weight of this ideal of finding a fulfilling vocation, was crushing all the spirit and meaning I might find in it. I still haven't fully let go of it, its hanging around somewhere in the background, but I have put it down.
When you put anything down, its because you've finished with carrying it, you can't take the weight of it, you're not prepared to be burdened by it any more. One of the Buddha's similes for the experience of Enlightenment is that its like a profoundly heavy burden being lifted from off your shoulders. Any smaller insight bears this sense of profound relief in its wake. Though I've been prepared to let go of the idea of carrying my expectation, its not fully let go of. It's still lingering, weakened but not broken. There's still the option to pick it up again if circumstances look hopeful. So, I've put it down, I've not really let go of it, I have to keep turning aside my attention from it. Be vigilant lest I get embroiled in it once more.
The implications and ramifications of this are still unfolding, if not rattling the scaffolding surrounding my habitual way of operating.