Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Massaging Out the Kinks of a Calling

“I don’t want to be doing this. I really wish my parents encouraged me to do something different, something more interesting,” she (an intellectually and professionally under-fulfilled yuppie) said, her voice trembling with indignation.

“Like what?” I asked, knowing exactly where this was going. I’m familiar with the song. The line-by-line lyrics change with each soloist, but the tune stays the same.

“I don’t know. Like massage therapy, for example.”

She, who’s so not masseuse material, pulled that one straight out of nowhere – that’s why I belly-laughed. I’d have an easier time with the visual if her handshake were firmer.

(I’ve also met and know a fair amount about her doting parents, who paid her way through school.)

It’s one thing to be an able-bodied, well-educated adult who hasn’t figured out your calling. It’s another to expect your parents to have figured it out for you.

Most involved parents do what they can to cultivate the interests and talents of their still-in-the-nest kids. But it’s not the parents’ job to pinpoint and stage-manage something as deeply personal as another human being’s passion. If a kid has been raised with enough self-awareness, confidence, and competence to hear and answer the calling whenever it comes, the fulfillment will follow.

The coolest intellectually and professionally fulfilled adults I’ve known fall into two categories: (1) they’re doing something their involved parent(s) originally tried steering them away from; or (2) they never had an involved parent and don’t allow that background to get in the way of their foreground.


  1. Wow, Kadzi, you really hit some hot buttons in this posting--both parents' hot buttons and young people's hot buttons. I was amused about your reference to professionally fulfilled adults choosing careers that their parents tried to steer them away from. Very much the case in our family -- our daughter wanted to be involved with the theater (ouch!--talk about financial insecurity). She did that for a number of years, and is now a middle school teacher of drama in New York (while writing plays on the side). Who would have thought that an insecure profession could result in a more-or-less "secure" profession. Life is so full of twists and turns. I do love your support of parents who have tried to do their very best for their kids. As a parent, I can say that sometimes it feels like a losing battle, especially when your kid looks you straight in the eye and lists all the ways in which you have failed him or her. (We seem to be on the far side of those times, now, thank heaven.)I suggest to all young people who are grappling with choice of a profession to take aptitude testing at the Johnson O'Connor Institute, which has several branches around the country. Of course, it would be best to do this in high school, but, hey, if you are having a hard time in your 20s or 30s, the testing and suggestions still could help. This is not the standard aptitude test you took in some high schools; this test digs deep and often has surprising results.

  2. Agreed... we're not an extension of our parents, so they can't decide what's best for us. I guess many people make that mistake. There comes a point in life when we have to make our own decisions and live with those consequences.

  3. Very interesting post!! I agree that your career has to come from your own passion and talents - and that just because your parents were talented and passionate about something, doesn't mean you will be. You have to find your own way! :)

  4. You can sometimes follow in the footsteps of your parents and still be passionate and even creative in how you deal with and interpret your career. You are still an individual. This is of course assuming the relationship was a healthy one from the onset.

  5. Somedays, I feel like I still haven't found my calling, though I have advanced just fine professionally. Something is missing. But it's not about my parents - hasn't been for a long time. It's been about the boundaries and barriers and potentially - fear - that I have faced.