Hardly Just Another Face Anymore
We talk about our ‘true calling,’ but what exactly is it?
I’ve found that it’s usually an activity that we discover that we love to do and possess a natural talent for. Since we love it, we are loyal to it and we pursue it against all odds. Everyone has one, whether they have currently found it or not. This ‘true calling’ becomes so much a part of us that we use it to form our identity. Having a certain skill helps us stand out from the crowd, and that individuality is what gives us pride and self-confidence and joy in existence.
We teenagers and young adults are good at finding our true callings. We are big, proud, curious, and sure of ourselves. The world is our oyster and all we need to do is take it, so we do. Since we think that we will be young forever and we have our lives spread out before us, we want to taste everything the world has to offer.
So, we surf the web, we read books, we interact with each other, we join new clubs. We attempt to contain the multitudes of our world within our memory, to experience everything like an omnipotent chronicler. Just like the Nows of Einstein’s Dreams, we want to see and do everything because we are young and we can.
And somewhere, through the barrage of information and experiences, we find something we stick with. Something we’re good at – our talent. Whether it’s thanks to a free elective slot you chose to fill with an art class, or an advertisement for a fledgling music group you happened across, or an invigorating science teacher that made you fall in love with astrophysics, somewhere along the line we found the pearl in the middle of our oyster.
As Mr. Keating from Dead Poet’s Society preaches, we should find a way to seize the day and live life to the fullest. If we never find anything fun to do with our lives, what is the purpose of existence? What would our egos look like? They would be no different than those of the other people working nine to five at the desk jobs around us.
This is why we find what sticks with us. We pursue it and develop our skill so that we can be different, so we can enjoy ourselves as individuals.
In the movie Dead Poet’s Society, the main character Neil Perry discovers his love for acting. He had been trying out different school clubs at his prep school, but his father always disapproved of anything interesting and shut it down. He tries acting and finds that he loves it, and continues practicing behind his father’s back because he knows it was what he was meant to do inside. And as his friends mention on opening night, he is a natural (Dead Poet’s Society).
Sampling everything the world has to offer is predominantly the way we craft our identities, but it is not the only way. For TJ in the short story “Antaeus,” his true calling is farming. He was not exposed to a wide variety of activities to pick from back in his Southern home, but he was surrounded by earth and seed and chlorophyll for his entire life. Since that’s all he knew, he really couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else. It was the only way he defined himself from the other boys in his new, urban town. When telling them about it, “his voice was resolute with the knowledge of his rightness,” (Deal). He knew where he came from and what he could do, and that was his identity.
When our environment is chock full of information and opportunities, we can tell exactly what we like and what we don’t. If our surroundings are hindered by society or situation, our experiences are restricted as well. In TJ’s case, he adored and accepted the first and only activity that he was exposed to on his farm. A limited selection of experiences, while this only steers the person towards one idea, is still effective in forming our identities. He found his true calling early, and had plenty of time to cultivate it and internalize it throughout his life. It sustained him, until reality crashed down.
For the most part, our true calling stays with us our whole life, whether as a passion or hobby or even a career. But sometimes, that thing we associate with our identity is taken away from us. And without it, what is left of our ego?
TJ was forced to destroy his garden, to uproot what he had implanted his identity in. His whole life was built around coaxing crops from cold soil, but he realized the hard way that as long as he was in the city, that was something he’s never be able to do again. As long as he was in the city, he had nothing to identify himself by, so he left, “still heading South, still heading home,” (Deal), where he could grow things again.
Losing our true calling – and by association, our identity – leaves us just a husk of who we used to be, searching for something else to fill the gaping hole. Whether or not we show it on the outside, its effect on us is apparent.
Neil’s reaction was extreme. His acting dreams are shattered by his father. He was taught by Mr. Keating that he should suck the marrow out of life (Dead Poet’s Society), but he can’t see himself doing so as a doctor. He can’t see himself doing anything productive without acting in his life. So he commits suicide, in an extreme action against his emptiness.
Our true calling becomes our individuality, but it does not always have to be our downfall. Though we may face opposition in our desires, for the majority of us, we hold on to what it is we love to do and keep it with us. We worked hard, searching through our world of experiences to find it, and we will not let it go. We’ve absorbed it into our identity. Our talents are our pride, our happiness, our strength, and they are what make us more than another face in the crowd.