As a former professor of organizational communication, a feminist, and an unapologetic qualitative scholar, my absolute favorite kind of research involved talking to people about their lives. When I wasn’t immersed in my participants’ life stories or making sense of the 500 pages of data before me in hard copy format, I ruminated over how my own life had given me this incredible opportunity to learn so much from so many.
Having interviewed thousands of people in my various careers; previously as a journalist and later as a professor, I loved listening to people tell me about themselves. As an inquisitive researcher, I interjected when needed but mostly, as the authority on their own lives, I let my participants guide the direction of their autobiographical interviews.
I found great meaning and even greater joy in what I did and often pinched myself in sheer amazement at being able to do what I loved to do so immensely, for a living. I chronicled my field notes in a private blog that was truly about ordinary people like you and me, but who lived inspired and inspiring lives, in other words, extraordinary lives. From the maid who lived in a 6 ft x 6 ft illegal structure she called home to movie stars for whom home or homes was just a noun, I learned a little from everyone. Truly. Life lessons are all around us. We just need to be open to them, be perceptive enough to know when a lesson may be occurring, and wise enough to have the insight to draw on them at a later time in life when contexts present themselves.
Organizational scholar Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, who’s research I have quoted numerous times in my own literature reviews on related work, distinguishes between a job orientation, a career orientation, and a calling orientation.
A job, according to her, is a means to an end. People who get drawn toward this orientation or need to for whatever reason, prefer the straightforward expectations versus outcomes aspects of their jobs. They can leave work at work and engage in family and other life activities when not at work. They get paid, get benefits, and don’t have to worry about the dilemmas surrounding work-life balance. They work as a basic necessity to survive and live life unfettered by the stressors of their employee duties and responsibilities.
A career, is necessarily one where power, prestige, success, and such become key to one’s identity. Climbing up the career “ladder”, making positive lateral moves, higher income, better benefits, impressive job titles are all important to individuals who follow this orientation.
A calling, is where an individual believes she or he is doing something bigger than herself or himself. What they do is as important as how they do it. People with a calling orientation work for self-expression, for making a difference, for engaging in relationships and partnerships, and for building other connections. These people work for self-fullfilment. In fact, people with a calling orientation are the ones from whom you may hear things like, “Oh, I would do this even if I wasn’t paid for it”. They do the work because it is meaningful to them. It gives them a sense of purpose. The work they do is who they are – essentially an embraced identity.
I have finally found my calling.
My work as a journalist was fun. I was young. I loved dropping names of celebrities whom I interviewed. It gave me a new kind of high walking on my college’s campus knowing that I was known among my professors and hundreds of classmates as the one who works for The Indian Express Newspapers or runs Channel Y (Youth) or interviewed (insert popular celebrity name here). I basked in that ego flush. I loved it! I turned down a higher paying position at a relatively unknown website (which does not exist now) because I loved the name recognition that came with writing for a newspaper with a circulation of over 100,000 (as of 2001). In many ways, it turned my life around.
It was because of this tryst with journalism (Features), that I decided to study Communication in the United States. Except, as things turned out, I chose Organizational Communication over Print or Broadcast Journalism and that, the path less traveled, made a huge difference to my career trajectory.
In my work as a professor, my career was partially my calling but not entirely and I was fortunate to have found that space to inhabit! Working alongside some of the brightest minds in the discipline, I was inspired to do and be better. I thrived in that environment and am forever grateful to have had that opportunity.
Then as the leaves of my life’s pages turned, I took upon a new title – Stay-at-home-mother. To some, embodying motherhood is a calling. It is and it isn’t, to me. I am crazy in love with my children. Among mundane chores, the tears and tantrums, the cooking and cleaning, the loss of spontaneity, the losing perhaps forever of the body I knew pre-kids, I have some really good pat-myself-on-the-back moments too. I am making a difference to the most important people in my life. I am not a perfect mother. Sometimes I am not even an okay mother but I am the best mother my kids have got and that has got to be enough. Self-improvement is a lifelong effort and if my kids see me working on myself as a person, no matter at what age, they will grow up to know that, that perfection is overrated but Mom never gave up trying to be better for herself and for them.
Motherhood is not necessarily my calling either. It has certain characteristics of what makes for a calling. Motherhood is also not a job or a career. It just is. It is what I do. It is not all that I am or hoped to be my whole life.
Today, when I say I have finally found my calling, it seems like all that I ever did in my life was brought together to serve this one purpose. I am energized and enthused by the potential and promise of what lays ahead.
the Parent Voice, Magazine (tPV,)
I have founded an online parenting magazine, called, ‘the Parent Voice,‘ specifically for multiracial and multicultural families like mine. We launch on August 1. Given different time zones, it is difficult to predict when you will be able to access it where you are but please check it out and keep visiting.
the Parent Voice, (TPV) is an online parenting magazine that celebrates multiracial/multiethnic families and multicultural lives by showcasing our many different and unique experiences, providing resources, nurturing virtual support, and building a community of like-minded individuals who want to raise responsible and respectful children in a world that may not always be that same way for them.
Lower case ‘the’ is intentional as is the ‘,’ at the end of the title. You will be able to read more about why, once we go live.
I have a really, really talented group of moms, my second family, working with me to help realize the passion and purpose behind the vision and values of tPV,. Mind you, none of us are getting paid to do this. I will introduce these amazing ladies in future posts.
I have been working late nights after putting the kids to bed and waking up early to work before the kids are up, while trying to sneak some time in between when the kids (hopefully) nap because I am excited at the buzz constantly ringing in my head. It is the kind of buzz you feel when you are driven by a sense of purpose, the responsibility of making a difference in however small a way to a community that wants to share their life experiences, and raise their voices and be heard.
My calling is to answer, address, and present these voices by using the Parent Voice, as a medium.
Everything I have ever worked/working for and toward, whether as a journalist, a professor, or a mother, seems to have come together serendipitously and combined to form the Parent Voice,.
I can write much, much more but I’ll conclude with this:
Don’t despair if what you do does not seem like a calling or if you bemoan the loss of a zeal for your career because nothing about it excites you anymore. Finding one’s purpose needs motivation, from within, and from others who may identify what you are best suited for before even you can. Hopefully, I don’t sound like a know-it-all. I am far from it. It took me 37 years to find my calling. It does not have to be my only or last one.
Please check us out on August 1st, 2017. We are at: www.theparentvoice.com. If you visit the link now, you can get on our Early Notifications List.
Join our community and support us if your believe in inclusivity and multiculturalism.