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Wednesday, June 2,2021

What Floats Your Boat?

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  
I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain,” his self-proclaimed “autobiography of faith.” The mountain borrows from Dante’s “Mountain of Purgatory.” In his book, Merton explains his frustrations as a young man at not really knowing his “vocation.” He felt called to be a monk, but was not quite sure if it was his vocation. He spent the better part of a decade looking for signs to verify his worthiness for such a calling. Rather trust his own instinct, he convinced himself that he must be wrong and continued to work as an English professor at St. Bonaventure in upstate New York. He milled about writing novels and teaching, convinced that what he really wanted to do – become a monk – could not be his actual vocation. Thus he stayed stuck in a job that kept him from growing into his potential.

His hang up about his true vocation got me thinking about the word, and about the difference between a job and a vocation; between a vocation and an occupation. A vocation is something we feel called to do – like what we were put on this earth to do. A job, on the other hand, is an occupation. It occupies our time, keeping us busy with a job that pays our bills, but it may not be our true vocation. It is interesting that we call that a “job.” As in the Book of Job. Is that why we call our occupation our “job?” For many, work is our “cross to bear,” in that it is not spiritually fulfilling, despite a potentially huge paycheck. In fact, the larger the paycheck, the more likely one is to become a slave to his or her job. And if said job is not one’s true vocation, stress is the obvious byproduct.

That got me thinking about words again. Do we say “vacation” because it is the negative of vocation (the “a” making it so, as it does in prefix form: atypical, apolitical… atheist... vAcation)? When we take a vAcation from our occupation, we can spend it engaging in the things that make time feel like it doesn’t even exist. Come to think of it, 2020 afforded some of us time for those things. And also introduced creative ways for us to be more productive from home, and more flexible with when work needs to be completed. Perhaps once we truly come back from this pandemic, we will be able to do more of the things we were “put on this earth” to do. Finding your purpose is very important. Finding space and time to focus on our true calling is the only way to manifest it, The past year has slowed us all down. Take advantage of it. Dig a little.

What floats your boat?


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