The other day I caught up with someone who thought they might want to do grant-writing as a job, and was keen to hear all about it. I had never met anyone before who had actively decided that grant-writing might be their calling, and I was keen to meet this rare species of a human. We both ordered a glass of wine, and I proceeded to regale my aspiring grant-writer with tales of the greats ups and downs of the sport: the endless stream of deadlines, the great joy of writing the same thing in five hundred different ways in order to suit the sophisticated nuances of each precious snowflake of a funder.
At the end of all that she said, "Nah, I don't think grant-writing is really for me". I was flabbergasted. But we still had half a glass of wine left and so she added, "What I really want to do is be a social worker."
"Then why are we talking about grant-writing?" I asked.
And she answered with this terribly wise and self-aware statement, which was: "I don't want to inflict my too-young, saviour-orientated self onto other people, in order to cause more damage than good".
Wow. Actually, I tend to think that if someone is thinking that, they're a step ahead of most of us and maybe they should be unleashed onto the populace after all. But this young woman seemed much smarter than me, so I didn't interrupt. She continued with: "So what I'm doing now is getting a bunch of experience in the world doing all different things, and wising up".
I said to her, "Do you feel like you're sort of in an incubator, getting ready to be a social worker?"
She thought this seemed like an ok metaphor (maybe she was being polite), but I immediately regretted saying it. Actually I hate the idea of passively waiting to embody some future calling, with today's work really just marking time, or at best being used as a way to get ready for the 'real' work. I used this shitty metaphor because it's often been how I see my own work. I think it's time to let that one go.
I used to aspire to be a Baptist pastor, because I thought that would be a great occupation with lots of career opportunities for a young, left-leaning woman (lol). While I was doing the requisite study and trying to get a bit of experience, I did other kinds of work to pay the bills: namely, disability support work and grant-writing. Before wanting to be a pastor I wanted to be a writer, and I paid the bills by being a disaster risk reduction researcher. After wanting to be a paster I wanted to be a community organiser, and paid the bills by being a fundraising consultant.
In each of these cases I had decided what my 'real' work was (pastor, writer, community organiser), and cordoned off the other work as a means to the end. I drew a line in the sand between what I considered to be vocationally sacred, and what I considered to be not.
I would say I believed this stuff because I'm a member of Generation Y ("Follow your heart!") and also part of the church ("Find God's calling for your life!"). If I dig deep enough, I could probably also find a way to blame my parents too.
But who really cares. The point is, I've decided to put on a new pair of glasses, which imbues everything I do with the sacredness it deserves.
I have decided that every single moment is special and sacred, because we live in a universe with a life-force that courses through every person, atom, community, workplace, ocean, star and forest. We live in a universe where the act of making tea in the staff kitchen is pregnant with sparkly vibrating possibility. I can fill in funding submissions for the rest of my life, and it doesn't change that fact. Even the most boring, unglamorous part of any job is radically alive. The essence of God is found there.
I want to make my vocation this: being deeply present to the sacred now. Who knows where that path will lead?