The older I get the less I feel that I know. But the few things I feel confident in I surely expound on often. Such is the case here.
I’ve been thinking about vocations since a good friend admitted to me he didn’t know what he was doing with his life. He feared his life was slipping away. He was really quite despondent and said he was “only” a salesman.
I didn’t say anything wise to my friend. I just listened. I tend to ruminate. And usually by the time I have figured out an answer I’m proud of they’ve moved on and all but forgotten the problem they’d discussed with me. But it doesn’t stop me from ruminating.
I think our lives take shape best in retrospect. When we look back we more clearly see that our choices created a pattern. I think what I’m saying is that what we fill our days with define us. That’s a scary thought because I’ve filled my days quite meaninglessly at times. I think sometimes we don’t mean to become what we’ve become. It just happens while we’re trying to become something else. But we look back and see all along what we always were. And it wasn’t necessarily one decision which did it. It’s a thousand little ones.
I always thought of myself as a writer. It’s just what I was. I wrote for newspapers and was working my way up into a nice career. But then my wife and I had a daughter.
We had a daughter because of a decision made in college to be a Catholic. Believe me, when I was doing my research on religions nothing would’ve fed my ego more than adopting some eclectic Oriental Occultism as my own. But that’s not where I found truth. I found truth in Augustine and Chesterton and Pope John Paul II. I made a leap of faith. My leap just happened to land exactly where my father and his father and his father landed as well. I still leapt though.
I married a religious woman and we began having children. As we were both working, our first daughter went into day care. But the mornings drop-off’s broke my heart. She would cry and hold onto my leg. I remember a woman who worked there told me consolingly, “It’s only natural.” She thought she was being kind.
But it was only natural that a little girl wanted to be with her Dad rather than someone paid to watch her. So I quit my job and stayed at home. It didn’t seem that big of a deal at the time. My thinking was that my wife made more money than me on account of being much smarter and quite frankly a little more suited to the world than me. I thought I could write from home and still make money writing for small magazines. And I did. I was a writer who took care of my children at home. That’s how I thought of myself.
But each day little choices were made. Instead of staying on the keyboard while my children watched television I chose to take all four of them out to feed the ducks or to the Merry-Go-Round at the mall or to the zoo to point out the silliness of otters and ostriches.
My writing research became seconadary. I still make money doing it but I found myself more interested in giggling than Google-ing. My concerns were whether my oldest was too shy around other children. Or when the boy would begin talking. Their thoughts occupied my mind. I began taking on less writing assignments – choosing my assignments more carefully. Soon we had five children. I still write on this blog and for local magazines. And I’m, of course, working on a book. And I still do politcal consulting.
But I figured something out recently. I’m a father. That’s what I am. My one thing. My vocation. At some point writing just became something I did; an addendum to what I am. And I’m OK with that. I’m a father. I’m only a father.