How is it that we learn in life what it is we are supposed to do? I fear most end up in careers determined by factors unrelated to natural talents and deep calling. In one of Parker Palmer’s most personal essays, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, he says:
We arrive in this world with birthright gifts – then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. Then if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss – we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed. When we lose track of true self, how can we pick up the trail? One way is to seek clues from our younger years, years when we lived closer to our birthright gifts (p 12-13).
We all are born with birthright gifts, the question is whether we have figured out what they are, and whether we are using them to make the world a better place.
When I think back to my younger years, no question I had a talent for photography. I worked at a camera shop and around professionals who helped me hone my talent at an early age. One pro even had me join him on a trip north to Olympia, Washington to photograph the first ever women’s Olympic marathon trials. I was to carry around his gear, but when Joan Benoit crossed the finish line he was in the wrong place and I snapped a shot of her placing her emotional face into her hands after the win. Runner’s World magazine published my shot and I knew then I could be a pro if I wanted to.
But I abandoned photography for years, pursuing degrees in business, counseling and systems science. They have all been useful in my work, but not until we got this blog going did I realize how much Parker’s point rang true.
What are your birthright gifts? Are you using them to make the world a better place? No matter where you are at in life, it’s never too late to discover and claim what has always been yours.