We are all created to do something.

Vocation wasn’t a word that existed in my vocabulary until my first semester of college. I was taught the typical “you can be whatever you want to be” clichés growing up, but these statements never really resonated with me because, let’s be honest, I knew that I would never actually be a star basketball player (not tall enough) or a top-notch chef (no culinary ability).

The summer before college started, however, I was required to read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

Without a doubt, this book (and the class discussions that followed when I got to campus in September) changed my life.

In the book, a young shepherd boy named Santiago goes on a personal journey to find treasure that a dream informed him was at the Egyptian Pyramids. On the way, he meets many inspirational people who guide him and teach him the importance of following his heart, as well as mischievous and devious characters who try to throw him off of his path. By the end of the book and his adventures, Santiago learns just how vital it is for him to go after what he wants in life, and how necessary it is to follow his call to wherever and to whomever it may lead him.

It was in this college class where a seed was planted in my heart that there was something deeper out there for me. Life isn’t just something you nonchalantly wade through. There is a purpose. The idea of having a calling sounded so beautiful to me, but entirely foreign. I was supposed to feel in my heart what I was going to do for a career? How is that even possible? I always assumed a career was just something you do to pay the bills and care for your family. I wasn’t sure if I could buy into the idea that there was one specific career path waiting for me.

At this time in my college career, I was a biology major.

First semester went great. I loved learning and was fully engaged in my science courses. Second semester, however, proved to be extra challenging as I was hit like a brick with severe depression.

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I would physically sit in my classes, although my mind was elsewhere in an extremely dark place. I would watch the professor write chemical equations on the board and feel nothing inside. There was no joy, no excitement, no desire to continue learning these things that were not life-giving for me.

So, I switched my major.

I immersed myself into all things mental illness. I learned everything I could, and developed my passion along the way. The fire in my soul grew as I came to the realization that my purpose is to be a mental health and suicide prevention advocate.

People ask me all of the time if I think the reason why I got sick was so I could come across my vocation. The honest answer is, I don’t know. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t think my immeasurable suffering and a chemical imbalance in my brain should be boiled down to a cliché idea.

I believe, however, that I was able to take my pain and turn it into something purposeful by devoting my life to the mental health field. How exactly that happened is not something I am interested in speculating.

I think it is so easy for millennials to give in to the pressures of society.

We are told everywhere every day that we aren’t good enough. That success isn’t something that we define, but something others dictate for us. That we can follow our dreams, but we better be sure that the dream leads us to a bountiful paycheck.

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I think it’s nonsense, really.

The lies we are fed from society cloud who we really are and prevent us from becoming who we were created to be. Thankfully, we have the opportunity to rise above.

I believe that every individual has a vocation, whether it be his or her career or a hobby. We were all created to be something, and invest ourselves into something else, that I am sure.

To me, a life that is not lived authentically and passionately is wasted. We are only guaranteed one chance at life, and it is necessary to follow our hearts and passions to lead the most fulfilling life.

This is obviously easier said than done, but I trust that the fight is worth it.


Discussion:

1. Have you discovered your vocation?

2. Do you think everyone has a purpose?

3. What’s the best advice you ever received?