Monday, July 20, 2009

Vocation All I Never Wanted

One of my greatest fears growing up was that I would get The Call. In Catholic school we learned about three vocations: The Call to religious life, (priest if you’re a boy, nun if you’re a girl), the married vocation, and the dreaded single vocation. Fr. Wright told us if you got The Call and didn’t follow it, you would never be happy. I remember praying, “Please let me get the married vocation. Please!”

Thankfully, God answered that prayer. But though I escaped the call to the nunnery, my path has had its own difficulties, which I was feeling last week. My writing group had critiqued my work again, and once again I felt discouraged and overwhelmed, like I would never finish the book, like it’s a fool’s errand, like maybe it’s all been a big waste of time and I should grow up and go back to my real career.

The morning after my critique, as I drove to Syracuse to spend a week with family and celebrate my brother-in-law’s wedding, tears streamed down my face, grief and discouragement merged into one big ball of yuck. Somewhere past Allentown I had calmed down enough to strategize. What could I tell people about the book? How could I explain that though I was struggling, I was still committed to it?

By the time I crossed the border into New York, I’d come up with an analogy. If writing a novel is a marathon, I’m on mile 16 or 17—-more than halfway there, but with the end nowhere in sight. I will finish, but I can’t think about the end, just have to put one foot in front of the other. Pretty good, though it still left unanswered why I had started running, and why if it’s so hard, I persist.

But the marathon sound bite was more than enough information for most people, so it wasn’t until the wedding reception, sitting next to Fr. Pat, who asked some probing questions about my protagonist and my process that it hit me—the novel is my Call. That’s why I do it. That’s why I persist. Because Fr. Wright was right—-when I ignored the Call I wasn’t happy. Something was missing, was off. And like any other vocation, it has its challenges. So even though sometimes I want to give up, to say forget it, to do something else entirely, I know I am called to do this, so I keep going.

As for the married vocation, congratulations to Ted and Moriah, who followed their call and tied the knot last weekend. I hope your marriage is like your wedding—full of family, friends, love, laughter and lots of dancing.