We all have to grow up. Sooner or later, it happens. That moment when we let go of not only our childhood, or adolescence, or high school/college years, we let go of that whole first segment of life – those early years when we loved and were loved, cared for and nurtured along, affirmed and corrected when necessary by our parents. All of a sudden one day it hits us. I have to make this decision myself, or I’m on my own in this. It can be scary or exhilarating or downright emotional. It is a deliberate letting go of childhood, adolescence and those teen years. At the same time it is a welcoming of challenges and decision-marking opportunities, and the joy of becoming.

During this onset of adulthood, we begin thinking about a vocation, a career, a chosen path of life. This too can be scary, exhilarating, or downright emotional.

We’ve all be there. And for anyone who hasn’t been there yet, be assured the day will come for you, too.

Two paths open before us as we stand at the forked road of our adult life emerging on the horizon of our existence. We need to live, to have adequate food and shelter and a job to sustain us along the way. At the same time we need to dream our dreams and behold our visions of what could and might and should happen in our lives. And then sometimes we follow those dreams and sometimes we seem stuck in the humdrumness of a daily life working at a job which brings in an adequate amount of money to pay our bills and then some, hopefully. But – we are not happy in our work. We do the job to reach the immediate goal of the paycheck and those specific things that money can buy.


But a vocation, ah, that is a different matter entirely. A vocation fits you like hand-in-glove. It is a God-given gift to be discovered, unwrapped and then used. Is there a difference, then, between my work, or job, and my vocation, or calling?  Or do they basically mean the same thing?  Let’s take a few minutes and explore this question. To begin with, let’s define work.  Work is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as:

  • a job or activity that you do regularly especially in order to earn money
  • the place where you do your job
  • the things that you do especially as part of your job

This is what we celebrate each September on Labor Day in America. To work is good; it is one of the basic human needs and when we are without work to do, we do not feel right at all and know instinctively that something is wrong.  Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday in September each year, highlights and honors the contributions and achievements of all workers in the United States. The labor movement of the latter part of the 19th century created Labor Day, which later became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.

But is my work or job the same as my vocation or calling?

The Mirriam Webster dictionary again helps us out. We learn that the word vocation comes from the Latin word vox, meaning “voice,” and the related word vocāre, meaning “to call”, give us the root voc or vok. Words from the Latin vox or vocāre have something to do with the voice or with calling.  That is why we hear of “my calling” in regard to one’s vocation.

God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life, toward the fulfillment of their vocation. Because of this it is important to follow that inner, strong desire to spend your life following that inner call.  A thought-provoking description of your specific vocation or calling is this: Your vocation is the work that you should be doing. There is a delicate nuance in this thought. Take a moment and think about it.

I have a religious vocation to be a Carmelite Sister.  It is my calling. The actual work I do on a daily basis can certainly change. I have been and still am a teacher. So, I can certainly say that I am a Carmelite Sister who teaches.  BUT, I am not JUST a teacher. I am a Carmelite Sister who teaches. This has been said in different ways. One of them you may have heard. “You are what you ARE not what you DO.”

When these two concepts are put together in the same sentence, powerful things happen!

Try this regarding your life, your work.  The answer is not only interesting. It is evocative, life-changing and filled with power!