I wish that I could report on my present condition as being one where I am full of great certitude about being on a path. I love the idea of being on a great path guided by God, and having it be the perfect path for me–a unique one that was custom tailored for my special self. I would really like to report to you that every single day sees me waking up feeling like I am part of something epic, real and perfect for a future biopic about a really interesting fellow.
But, most days of the week, I see only my own peculiar face looking back at me in the mirror, and I feel more inclined to stay in bed reading books and writing random thoughts then getting up and pretending that the life I am living is part of a miraculous plan. I am particularly defeated when I hear that there are people attending this school with me who have already been doing what it is that I came here to do, but for whatever reason the need for an MDiv and ordination was terribly important for them. It’s not for me. If I had found the opportunity to serve at a given church in a way where I really felt like I belonged and was needed by the people of that church, I don’t think I would have felt the need to go any further with my so-called calling.
I don’t need to have an acronym for a Master’s Degree after my name. I don’t need to be a Reverend or be ordained to administer sacraments. I felt the need to serve and wanted very much to do so much more than any church I’ve been to in the past six years has asked me to do. I wanted to be part of those folks who go on retreats, both in and out of state. I wanted the t-shirt or ballcap from the event. I wanted to be a part of some warm and fuzzy Jesus-y thing that included a conference center and outdoor retreat and lots of discussion about the future this or that in the church. Most of the time, I was invited to help a little bit here, a little there. Nothing much. Nothing particularly more than anyone else who happened to raise their hand and remind their church that they have a pulse. Fetching ice for a meeting. Standing at a station on the last day of VBS. Sitting in another Bible class. A lot of times, I had to invite myself. Really, that’s how I ended up here. I was always a little puzzled by the request from the school and others to talk about how much others recognized the calling in me–well, nobody ever did. Not even my mom. She thought my little brother was going to be the pastor, and I was going to be the politician.
So, I guess it was all just another head fantasy. I suppose there really is nothing in particular that God has called me to do. God may not even really care that much about what I do, period. I may just be a passthrough dad, slightly more involved with the process of DNA transmission than Joseph, but not by much. My purpose on earth is to keep my son alive until he’s old enough to look out for himself, and make sure he’s educated enough to support himself and a family, and that’s it. Such is the purpose of most men, as it has been for all time–it is the kind of purpose that doesn’t look that much different from the perspective of Darwin or the especially patriotic or tribal-oriented.
Be a man, have a family, raise the family, keep it from being harmed by the outside elements, make sure some of the offspring can bear offspring of their own, die.
If this is truly the case, then the best thing for me to do would be to find the most pure kind of work–honest work that sees me doing something necessary, valuable, and something that doesn’t require a lot of dishonest buttkissing or time spent trying to learn too many new things. Work, I can do. For some, that might mean going to work on a construction site, hauling lumber, building things, tearing things down. For others, it’s saving lives and helping people as a first responder of some kind. For me, those things are either just not me, I am too old to do them or too old to learn them. For me, being an IT guy is the most honest work. At all of the companies and organizations I worked, the IT person was the most honest, along with the lower-level bookkeeper/accountant types. Everyone else had to sing and dance for their supper, if only during team meetings or when their reviews came up. Even the mostly technical work I did in Sales and Marketing required me to put on a show of how much work I was doing–making to-do lists of to-do lists to show how swamped and necessary I was, when I knew all-too-well that I wasn’t.
Of course, ask me how I am feeling and what I am thinking in two weeks. Maybe you will get a different response. Right now, I am of a mind to get some kind of low-level Linux certification and be a reboot monkey for a web hosting company or the IT guy for a random firm, but not the main one–just a junior-level dude who sits in the basement rebooting servers and telling users to reboot their PCs all day. Nothing exceptional or fancy, nothing that would demonstrate to anyone that I have tremendous potential to lead, manage, schmooze, advance, grow, etc. A hard worker who does what needs to get done–punch in at 8 AM sharp, punch out at 12 PM, then back in at 1 PM, and then out at 5 PM. Every weekday, except for the 2-3 weeks a year I get the vacation time to go drive to national parks and fly to Mexico. No longer do I wish to be distinguished, intellectually curious, hungry, growth-hacking, koolaid-drinking, etc. All of those true-believer characteristics that get you promoted or make people think you are going places–I’ve tried them out and tried them on–I’ve tried on many different suits though I’ve only had the one interview sport jacket that came from a thrift store in 1999. All of my suits have been metaphorical, of course, and none of them have fit quite right.
Companies love the career-minded, but I am certain that there are those places and people out there who are looking for solid, honest IT pros who only keep up with the current literature of their trade enough to do their job and not cause the company’s collection of databases to get hacked.
Am I wrong to even be thinking like this? Is this just a passing phase that will end once Spring semester begins? I don’t know. I’ve pretty much felt like I’ve been faking it until I make it since we got down here, and the faking it part has grown tremendously but the will to participate in it has shrunk to next to nothing.
I may seem like a wishy-washy, paradoxical sort of person who can’t get on board with doing much of anything. But, there is an underlying hardness and consistency. There is, more importantly, an underlying truth that I am still in the process of seeing clearly. When I remove all the times I changed jobs because other people told me I shouldn’t be happy staying in one place doing one thing that didn’t pay as much, and when I remove all of the times I stayed at jobs unhappily because people told me I should be happy or should stick with things a little longer, a different sort of picture emerges about what I really would or wouldn’t have been happy doing.
I’ve struggled from the very first job out of college to find the right accord where I am either mostly absorbed with work and spending little time doing very little outside of work or I am mostly absorbed with activities outside of work and doing just the minimal amount of work necessary to not get fired and collect a paycheck. Occasionally, I’ve even tried to do both–be very active with work and with things outside of work, but that never works.
The person who can do a solid, honest day’s work (but is never recognized beyond stock and trade employee recognition programs–no promotions, no mention in trade journals, etc.) every workday of the year except for vacation time, and cultivates a rich and varied life outside of work–that is an admirable, respectable person. So is a person who joins all of the associations, wins all of the awards, becomes the thought leader, and is seen as the top of the best in their field–and their life outside of work is pretty minimalist if not completely spartan–such a person can also be admired and respected if they are striving in a way that isn’t unethical or duplicitous.
But then, there are people like me who have tried to do both or none or one or the other, and have found ourselves always unhappy with whatever we’ve tried.
However, I must say that the real difference in how I am feeling right now from how I’ve felt many times in the past is that I no longer believe that there is one special and important thing I was made to do, that I am not on a path that is significantly more magical than your average Joe Plumber’s path. In fact, the sense of there being a great path, or a future time for greatness (be it doing things that are noble and great or being recognized as being great or both) is gone. The feeling of being especially chosen or called by God just isn’t there. God isn’t calling me to do anything at all, other than be happy and not mess things up too much. I am not any more divinely favored than the plumber or janitor, when it comes to a particular “mission” or calling or vocation or path.
This might seem on the surface to be atheistic or defeatist or depressing, but it really isn’t. It is actually quite freeing. I feel free to go about a life of just being me in all of my good and bad characteristics, and no longer feel like I am set apart by God or humans. I don’t need to drink the fanciest or most local beer. I don’t need to get excited about the important and relEt things that could keep me in the running as an important and relEt person. God is not going to send me to hell if I decide that I wasn’t cut out for the life of a preacher. God is not going to send me to hell if I decide that I am a mere man and a slightly below average Christian. Some Christians might want to do such a thing, but thank God they don’t get to decide. I am not in charge of running the government. If Donald Trump decides to declare martial law and make himself a dictator, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. All of the work and ideas of great men is utterly beyond me–beyond me to affect, change or contribute to. What I can do is live a life that is honest, even if that means it might be a boring life and even a life others find to be disappointing. But, an honest life lived moving forward could very well be a more freeing life.
I no longer feel like I have to wear some kind of smiley, Jesus-y suit around others. Too many people I encounter in the Christian world, be they liberal or conservative in their politics, are impossible for me to connect with–they are full of a lot of self-righteousness and smugness for how virtuously they live their lives, and not interested in bothering to be merely human and happy. Maybe this is an exceedingly broad brush or the act of projection of self, but I do know that I am failing to connect with people even at this late hour, and it would seem that I am made a certain way and incapable of changing that. If I am made to be such a way, then it seems sinful to try to change how I am just to appear to be a nicer, more outgoing person.