Claim Your Calling

In the final days of 2008, I walked into the woods of our backyard. We’d have moved into this house right after I graduated college as we prepared for the birth of our second child. My oldest child and husband were settled in for bed and I was feeling unsettled, lost, and unfulfilled. So, I wandered out back with coffee in hand with nothing else to do but listen to the inner turmoil that had been building within me.

I was working in the field of Criminal Justice just as I had planned. You know the plan we all tend to follow: Get good grades, find a good college, and major in a field that secure your future financially. After having a baby at 17, I was determined to prove I could attain and conquer the road map that had been laid out for me even with a slight detour to motherhood. Then I checked each box methodically. Get married. Buy a house. Have more kids. Climb the career ladder. For years I played it safe, confident my own hard work would take me from milestone to milestone.

By all accounts, it was a safe and happy existence. But day by day, paycheck by paycheck, something felt off. Do you ever feel like you’ve fallen out of step like something was off but you aren’t sure what to do next? That’s how I found myself laying in a bed of spongy leaves and crisp, staring up at the sky while clutching my hot coffee as if it were a lifeline while I lay listening to the sounds around me. I stayed like that for two hours. I felt the breeze. I smelled fresh earth and winter air. I saw the sky change rapidly from dusk to twilight. Sometimes tears filled my eyes. Sometimes my thoughts were louder than the world around me. Then Emily Dickinson’s words resonated deeply. “So few that live have life.”

It was there in my backyard that Emily’s words sparked to life in my heart. With words, literature, and books. With creativity, and challenge. This moment stirred the embers of a love of words that started when I was a child, grew throughout high- school and sadly died in the shadow of becoming a successful adult. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could and would become a woman of many roles. Not just the role of mother, wife, and receiving a paycheck. A still small voice whispered beyond the words of Emily Dickinson, “I want you to write. I want you to create.”

The very next day, I signed up for creative writing classes at the University of Nebraska and started a blog. I wasn’t sure where this path would lead (so much for the safe road map but I was used to detours) and I could only see about two steps ahead. But rather than stick to the sensible, I found open doors where the road was a little trickier and a bit more winding. Little did I know I had been set on the God-given path to my calling as a writer.

Looking back over the last decade, I went from working for a paycheck to becoming an award-winning journalist, writer, blogger, author, and now Executive Director. When new entrepreneurs come into my office looking like a deer in the headlights with their “I have this dream,” I point through the tall grass and set them on the same winding road.

This is why I tell friends and strangers alike, don’t ignore that still small voice. There you’ll find your calling. It will be in the least likely of places. It will be off the well-beaten path. It will definitely not be a part of the traditional plan. There will be roadblocks like business loans, grants, and perfecting your niche. But it’s your dream. So go after it. Claim it. Invest in yourself wholeheartedly, and don’t look back. This is how small towns thrive. We need your dream. And if you aren’t sure what your calling is, lean into this question: What is your dream? What is your curiosity? Explore it. Learn more about that skill. Soak up all you can about it. Lean in and claim it.

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