Victor E. Frankl, a neurologist, psychologist, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, declares that “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Then he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated; thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” This message affirms the value, dignity, and importance of the individual, emphasizing that each person has their own personal and distinct role to play in the world. This quote beckons us to boldly and courageously pursue our calling.
As a college student surrounded by highly motivated and talented peers, I feel the constant pressure to secure for myself a stable, sensible, profitable career, which can lead to my own disregard of my true desires and talents, and instead prioritizing financial affluence. While striving for a career that brings financial stability isn’t a negative aspiration by any means, I believe there are a few more important things to first consider.
Before this semester began, I participated in a retreat rooted in the idea of taking a step back to reevaluate your actions and choices, specifically focusing on the theme of vocation. During this retreat, we discussed the discernment question of Fr. Michael Himes, a Professor of Theology at Boston College. He poses three central questions for discerning one’s vocation:
- Is this a source of joy?
- Is this something that taps into your talents and gifts- does it engage all of your abilities and use them in the fullest way possible?
- Is this role a genuine service to the people around you- to society at large?
Focusing on these questions helped me be brutally honest with myself. What brings me happiness? What am I actually good at? (Not what I wish I was good at- but what are my true talents?) And lastly, what does the world need me to do?
I think vocation discernment is often undermined in the lives of many young people. Vocation discernment doesn’t just pertain to those considering a religious vocation, but to each and every individual. And it’s important for us to remember, and to be reminded, that there are thousands of career options out there, and that society desperately needs what each of us has to offer. Moreover, each profession carries with it an opportunity and duty to do good and be fully rooted in love. I believe that it is our two-fold duty and delight, as humans, to uncover our talent, and discover our place in this always-moving, imperfect yet wondrous world. Choosing to joyfully live out our vocation- to employ our talents in tandem with others’ talents in order to add just a tad more light to the world- this is our mission, as individuals and as a community. What we really need– in all professions- is people dedicated to people.
Furthermore, it’s our responsibility to help others discover their own vocations- and this mission is at the core of Starfish. I stand behind this objective, as I think that discerning one’s vocation is central to being human. Enabling students to discover their own talents and vocations provides them with confidence, and helps them recognize their own dignity. As the Dalai Lama proclaims, “With the realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”
In whatever way we use our talents, I believe it’s important to remind ourselves that our first and foremost calling, as humans, is to open our eyes, to be fully present, and to live in solidarity with others: to acknowledge those around us as fellow brothers and sisters, realizing that each individual before us has a set of goals, hopes, and desires as complex and unique as our own. As soon as we do this- recognize the humanity of ourselves, and others- then we are able to be fully alive and choose to allow our lives to be governed by agape– a love that seeks nothing in return.
How do you live out our vocation? What does it mean to use your talents and time to live in solidarity and kinship with others?
“What is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?”