Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Vocation

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

vo·ca·tion

 (From dictionary.com)
–noun
1.
a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
2.
a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
3.
a divine call to God's service or to the Christian life.


I usually have an issue with dictionaries. They manage to say exactly what the word is while ignoring what the word's about, and the dictionary manages to botch it up yet again. Yes, all three of those definitions are true, and are even satisfactory. But they're just not cutting it for me at the moment. They're too cut and dry.

The last few weeks have been filled with a lot of "what am I going to do?", far more than I 'd like to admit to anyone. For the last six years I'd sought being a professional iconographer as my vocation. I worked my rear end off on doing icons, and I had one particular place in mind: Eikona Studios. I love their work, and thought that maybe I could be one of them. So when I managed (by sheer dumb luck) to get an internship to Eikona I should have been excited. And I was. Sort of. Somewhere, deep down in my heart, I was terrified. I knew that I wasn't a very good artist, and that I hated turning my work into a business. While the money was nice it was the actual act of making contracts and doing the things that are necessary for making a business that repulsed me. I also hadn't been able to take an art class until the Spring Semester of this year, and I knew that was going to show up. But everyone around me encouraged me and told me I'd do just fine, my girlfriend in particular. She encouraged me passionately, telling me that I would do really well. So I swallowed my doubt and believed in her belief, as you sometimes have to do in this world. I went out to Cleveland to do the best job I possibly could.

Unfortunately things didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Within two weeks it was obvious that I didn't have the proper training to help people who were 30 year veterans in the field. I also had doubts that I could actually live the life that these people were living. To them Church and art was their life. The artists seemed to have nothing but each other and their art. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking that kind of life. If you can do it then by all means do so, because that's a very rewarding and awesome life. But for me? I wasn't so sure. I'm dating an awesome girl, and I have a policy about letting people whom I love and are good for me go: I don't. It's as simple as that. Words and ideas are not the most forgiving things, nor the most loving. Unfortunately I find the same applies to art. Can art be there for... whatever? Nope, and it's not supposed to be. Ultimately it all boiled down to my wish to be with this girl.

The combination of my lack of training and "drive to live the life" stressed me out, and so when some of my friends from Steubenville traveled up to visit I jumped at the chance to hang out and be a nerd for awhile (much to the chagrin of half the group, oops!). Saturday night came, and we drank a bit, which I swear is the male equivalent of getting a pedicure. I mean, what do you do? You sit around and talk and be stupid because you're getting drunk, much how women sit around and talk cause they're getting their nails done. It was pretty obvious that I was depressed, and so after a couple of attempts to get me to talk about what was going on I told them what my concerns were. Fortunately these friends have nothing short of common sense. They told me that if I really doubted I could live the life that my idols lived then I shouldn't, but should find something else to do. After thinking about their advice I told them they were right. I would finish out the internship and find something else to do.

The morning I went back to work was a good one. I'd called my girlfriend, assuming that she'd be up, and wound up waking her up. We had a really good talk, and I walked to work very happy. The sun was out, and that day was one of the most beautiful I'd noticed in a very long time. It was something out of an impressionistic painting, what with all the colors and the swirls and the movement and the vibrancy of life. I walked into the studio, and talked with a few people, cracking joking and enjoying being around them.

That's when I was reminded of my two-week evaluation.

Now, to be fair, it had completely slipped my mind. So my surprise really wasn't warranted; I'd been told about it in the contract I'd signed and everything. It wasn't something that I should have forgotten about. But I had. So I sat downstairs and waited for the judgment, a bit of a pit in my stomach. I knew what decision I'd made if I was in their position: I'd let me go, on the basis of not having enough training. That put a bit of a lump in my throat to go along with the pit in my stomach. I liked being around these people, and I liked the work. I didn't want to leave. But if I was them I'd fire me.

And they did.

I've met some bosses who were absolute jerks about firing people (not that I'd been fired before, understand). This was just the opposite. They were extremely gentle and kind, and sent me off as if I was going away for a long trip that they expected to see me come back from. It was all very humbling , that these people would show as much consideration as they did for me was nothing short of awe-inspiring, and I shan't forget it anytime soon. Hell, they even offered to pay for me to get back to Chicago! They also told me to not take this as a failure, that as soon as I had more training they really wanted to work with me again. That I shouldn't give up, and they wanted to see me again.

But I wasn't giving up. I had seen what vocation was, and I knew that professional iconography wasn't it for me. What is a vocation? Hell if I can put it into words. As verbal as I am I know that some things take years to fight and deeply love to put into words, and the concept and soul behind vocation is one of them. But I know this: it's something far simpler and complex than the definitions from dictionary.com.