“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” ~Rumi
When I was young, I fell in love with Africa. It was an unsophisticated and amorphous love, not directly related to anything in particular about that vast continent. I now see that the point of my love affair with Africa was to deliver my first calling to me.
Merriam-Webster defines a “calling” as: “…a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.”
My first calling was to connect with people who seemed very different from me. It took me to rural Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, where I developed close friendships with my fellow villagers. It led me to people who were way outside of my socio-economic and my cultural demographic.
As with most callings, mine gave me a way to bring more love to the world. I wanted to get beyond language, class, gender, and culture; I wanted to experience human connection at its most raw and basic.
My first calling taught me that empathy heals and nourishes all those it touches, and that I could spread love by simply being available to hear another person, whoever they are.
Just because we have callings doesn’t mean they’re easy to follow. I declined the advice of others who saw my calling as naïve or even dangerous; and those who thought I should get a real job or do something closer to home.
I also stared down many of my own “shoulds” and fears in order to go ahead and join the Peace Corps.
It was hard to understand what the calling was when it first began to whisper in my ear. I found myself confused about what it meant, while at the same time growing surer that I would figure it out as I followed its lead. Sometimes the calling delivers clues that no one but you can decipher.
What I learned in Africa was that being true to myself meant trusting the process as it revealed itself, knowing that it was “right” for me at that particular time in my life.
When we listen at the heart level, we will always, always be guided forward in a way that serves us. Who I am now is shaped by having followed those persistent whispers.
We each have hundreds of callings in our lives, some big and some small. Rather than one “life purpose” or mission, we actually have many opportunities to experience aspects of what brings us alive.