Finding My One True Calling
In my experience, people often speak of choosing a career in much the same way that they speak about soulmates: that is, trying to find “The One” that you are meant to be with for the rest of your life. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I believe in either the One True Career or the One True Soulmate, but it’s the former that I want to focus on here.
I’m the type of person who likes to know what to expect. I love making plans, structures, and schedules. Life, however, doesn’t seem to like following roadmaps. And the more I come to understand and accept this, the more I come to appreciate the unexpected.
Since sometime around middle school, when I started writing my first novel, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I also knew that wasn’t likely to pay the bills very well, so I vaguely imagined myself working in publishing or editing, but I still wasn’t sure if that was really what I wanted to do with my life.
I was, however, certain of one thing I didn’t want to do: teach. My mother was a teacher, as were many of the women in my family, but I had no desire to carry on that particular tradition. Or so I thought.
I think it was a friend that first put the idea of teaching ESL (English as a second language) abroad in my head. It was one of those ideas that I initially rejected, but that refused to leave me alone once it had been introduced. I remember watching vlogs made by ESL teachers explaining their job and daily life and wondering to myself, “Could I do that?” What ultimately convinced me were two short-term volunteer tutoring trips to Brazil and Japan, wherein I realized that living and teaching abroad was not only something I could do but something I wanted to do.
After graduating with a B.A. in Writing, I moved to China to teach English. What began as a one-year commitment turned into four, and I was sure that at last I had found my One True Calling.
As you’ve probably guessed, that didn’t last either. When I moved back to the USA, I was again adrift. My plan was to work here for a while, maybe get a little more education, and then head back out on my next ESL adventure. In my search for a job that would be both enjoyable and worthwhile, I landed on virtual assistance – and fell in love all over again. I am able to pursue those writing dreams that I thought I had left behind, or at least put on hold. And I am able to use my passions for organization and communication to help others while remaining flexible.
This doesn’t mean that I have turned my back on teaching: in addition to my VA work, I also work part-time at a local tutoring center. What it does mean is that now I’m more open to change in the future. I love VA work enough that I could very well see myself doing it for the rest of my life, but I’m not married to it. And while I do still fully intend to get back to Japan one day, whether that will be as a teacher or as a traveling VA remains to be seen.
Someone once said to me that the important thing is not so much what we do or where we live, but the kind of person we become. The journey, not the destination, as the saying goes. So if I have a life’s calling, I think of it more in terms of developing confidence in myself and inspiring others to do the same – and doing so within every job or career path I take – rather than in terms of finding that one specific line of work to dedicate my entire life to.
By no means am I trying to discredit anyone who does stick to one career for life – but neither do I think that’s a requirement for finding fulfillment in one’s work. And I think that’s reassuring in a number of ways, not least being that no one should have to feel they’ve “missed” their calling by not landing on it immediately out of school. As a professor at my university used to say of soulmates: If you miss your train, there’s another one on its way.
Kristine Pike is a writer and virtual assistant with a passion for helping people be their most efficient and effective selves. You can read more about her journey from ESL teacher to freelancer on The Desk Dragon blog, as well as find tips and musings on pursuing clarity in all areas of life.