Understanding Our Vocation
anonymous Asks ...
I don’t know what I want to do. I have a philosophy degree (and no job…surprisingly!) but I also have the good fortune to have the time and means to attempt another degree. The problem is I do not have a clue what I want to do with my life and since I do not have the immediate need to support myself financially I have absolute freedom to choose a career. While this may sound like a blessing I am finding it to be a curse. With so much choice I am having a problem making any choices. I am not lazy (I work in a bookstore now, just because I don’t know what to do) but I am getting depressed about my inability to find direction or passion. I need get this jumpstarted. How do I find my passion in life?
Rev. Christopher Smith Says ...
The person asking this question does not state what their own background is so thinking of one's life work as a vocation may or may not be something they are familiar with but is at the crux of the question that is being asked.
Vocation is a word that some people will never have used in connection to the work that they are doing. Work is merely something that one does because one needs to earn money. Work is something that interrupts what one sees as their real life. For others, they may have grown up in a tradition where the word vocation was restricted to people who were doing certain "holy" or religious work. The reality is that one's vocation is when the life work we are doing (whether this is paid or unpaid work) is consistent with the sense of call on our life or the obligation we feel called to live out because of our spirituality.
Paths to finding your vocation vary as well. Some people find this while on quiet retreat relating very specifically with their spiritual side. There are a variety of types of retreats that one can go on. Some of these are very directed while others will allow you more space to go where you are led. Some of these are more focused on group experience while others are almost completely individualized (or even conducted with lots of silence). Some people will find their exploration is much more involved with engaging with other people. A person in this sort of engagement may ask people around them that they trust what they see as their gifts and where they might be called to as a life vocation. Such a person may also elect to shadow a mentor to try out a possible vocational path. Some people go a third route and allow work to be what guides them. In evaluating their experience with different types of work, work environments and so on they are able to see what resonates with who they are. Some of this could also come from hobbies and other avocations.
While you are really looking for a vocation, there are also career counseling services out there that can be very helpful. This might be a good way to jump start the process before or in addition to some of the ways just discussed. Going through one of the quality programs will give you things to think about in advance of a several day visit to one of these centers. While at the center, you can expect to go through some psychological testing (this helps to find out what would match well with who you are), gifts inventories (to see what might match what you would be able to do by abilities), other testing and counseling sessions to talk through the results and different possibilities. Some careers require people to go through such a process and it can be helpful for others to give them direction.
Having addressed that core question, the other fact that is important is that you may not be in as bad of a situation as you think you are. Many people go through most of their life before they work out their real life passion - some people do not find it until they are retired, if ever. Additionally, a degree in philosophy may be more useful than you would initially believe - it all depends on what you are looking at in that degree and how you market its relevance to different work tasks. However, if you are getting depressed about things and beginning to do some of the work discussed above does not alleviate this, you should also consider seeking out the help of a qualified counselor or therapist who can help you work on that dimension of what is going on.