Podcasts are such a godsend, really. It’s become a main medium of learning and exploration for me, especially since after a work day spent looking at the computer screen when I’m back home I find myself drawn to other forms of relaxation away from the harsh white light of the screen.
Most times I listen to podcasts while driving and it really changes the experience of the drive. I often stumble on podcasts/videos mainly via searching for a particular person I’m interested in. First it was Brené Brown — who led me to Krista Tippett’s On Being, which introduced me to Pico Iyer… and opened up a whole new world for me again. It’s amazing how following this ‘trial of bread crumbs’ as Elizabeth Gilbert would put it, can result in such surprisingly sweet revelations at every turn.
I recently listened to the unedited cut of Krista Tippett’s interview with Maria Popova and one part that she talked about which wasn’t in the edited version really resonated with me. They were talking about something Maria has written a lot about, on how she feels that “presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.”
And what she said made so much sense to me:
“I too suffer from our civilizational malady of busying ourselves with the feeling of being productive so that we don’t have to deal with the psychic pressure of feeling purposeful or to mask the absence of that feeling. […] you know, we’re so impatient with ourselves let alone others in this sort of quest to find why we’re here…that the productivity becomes an expression of that impatience and a filling of the gaps because to sit with that uncertainty, of that open ended question is I think, quite hard. We all have different strategies of avoiding that.”
It’s true, isn’t it? So many of us end up chugging along as if we happened to stumble onto a crowded street (think hordes of people in Chinatown leading up to Chinese New Year), squashed in between people moving at such a rapid pace in front and behind us, we can’t help but be swept along this maelstrom of work, activity, life. Stopping is difficult and getting out of it takes even more effort.
It’s easy for us to cast judgement on others who don’t seem to be on the same ‘most efficient path to success’ as we are (if we’re even on it to begin with). I’m sure even in our circle of family members or friends, we know one or two who seem to be drifters. Not working in conventional, stable, well-paying jobs, and seeming to not have a clear goal of where they want to be in a few years’ time. Why don’t they know what they want? We might bristle, taking comfort in the knowledge that we are on the safe, ‘tried and tested’, socially acceptable path.
But it’s often been said that we judge most harshly in others, that which we are ashamed of having in ourselves. At our core, everyone’s struggling to deal with our own questions and uncertainties.
Which made the reference Maria spoke about next all the more meaningful. She quoted the writer, George Elliot, who said:
“…People may really have in them some vocation which is not quite plain to themselves, may they not? They may seem idle and weak because they are growing. We should be very patient with each other, I think.”
— George Elliot
We should be very patient with each other.
I can’t think of a kinder, more spacious sentiment that that.
Just repeating it to myself makes me feel a sense of warmth and expansiveness inside.
While on the topic of vocation, I’m reminded of this wonderful Facebook post by Elizabeth Gilbert, in which she talked about the difference between hobby, work, vocation, career, which people often tend to use/misuse interchangeably. In essence:
Hobby – “A hobby is something that you do for pleasure, relaxation, distraction, or mild curiosity.” The stakes are low and not everyone needs to have a hobby. But it’s nice to have one as a reminder that we are not just cogs in a capitalist system, born and bred to pay the bills and then…die. ;p
Job – Something that everyone MUST have and the important thing to realize is that is doesn’t have to be awesome.
“Don’t judge yourself about your job and never be a snob about anyone else’s job. We live in a material world and everyone has to do something for money, so just do whatever you have to do, collect your paycheck, and then go live the rest of your life however you want. Your job does not need to be how you define yourself; you can create your own definitions of your purpose and your meaning, pulled from deep within your imagination. A job is vital, but don’t make it YOUR LIFE.”
Career – “A career is a good thing to have if you really want one, but YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A CAREER. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going through your entire life having jobs, and enjoying your hobbies, and pursuing your vocation, but never having “a career. […] A career is not for everyone. A career is a choice.”
A career is something that if you have, you probably love it. Because it requires time, effort, patience, ambition, in order to build up a career that you believe in.
Vocation – “Your vocation is a summons that comes directly from the universe, and is communicated through the yearnings of your soul. While your career is about a relationship between you and the world; your vocation is about the relationship between you and God. Vocation is a private vow. Your career is dependent upon other people, but your vocation belongs only to you. You can get fired from your career, but you can never get fired from your vocation. […]
Your vocation can be anything that brings you to life and makes you feel like your soul is animated by purpose. Tending to your marriage can be your vocation. Raising your children can be your vocation. Teaching people how to take care of their health can be your vocation. Visiting your elderly neighbors can be your vocation. I have a friend who finds his vocation in picking up garbage off the streets wherever he goes; this is his gesture of love toward his fellow man. Searching for light and peace and meaning can be your vocation. Forgiveness can be your vocation. […]
Your vocation will become clear to you through the act of PAYING ATTENTION to your senses and your soul, and to what in the world causes you to feel love or hate. You will be led to your vocation, though the path is not always obvious. You must participate in its unfolding.”
Lots of people might mistake their vocation for their career or their job for their vocation and wonder why it doesn’t ‘feel’ right for them. Well, when explained this way, it’s easy to see why now.
That post was a real game-changer for me. Because for a long time, I’d been
feeling listless, uncertain about my job because I didn’t feel that it was my calling. For many of my peers or for the people in this line of work, it’s supposed to be a calling. That’s how it drives you to improve on your skills and knowledge so that more people benefit. But I didn’t feel like I was called to this job every day I woke up to it. So I decided to take a step back to try out a different aspect of it this year. I still don’t know what I really want to do for my career but as a job for the time being, this will do. I’m ok with that for now. The best part for me was being able to have more time, unfettered by anxiety and stress, to allow myself to explore my curiosities and work on other things in my life that bear importance to me. And I haven’t regretted that one bit.
Do read Elizabeth Gilbert’s post if you have the time. 😉 The entire piece was just so wonderfully written that I remember sharing it with many of my good friends because for the working adult, it’s golden.
More and more I find that so many things are linked, sometimes unexpectedly, but in such gorgeous ways. The more I listen, read, watch, I find echoes and resonances everywhere. How exciting is that?