Sunday, January 20, 2013


People at seminary talk a lot about “callings.” I guess it makes sense: why would you become a clergyperson if you didn't feel called to it by God?

One day, after hearing a lot of talk about people being “called” to various things, I said to a friend who, like myself, is looking to a life in academia, not ordination: “I wish I had a calling.”

My friend said thoughtfully, “I kind of feel called to academia.”

I feel like academia is a black hole,” I said. “No matter how desperately I try to escape it, its gravity just sucks me back in.”

Um... That is a calling.”

Dammit, I always thought a calling would be something nice. It sounds so friendly! Sunday school lessons about God calling Samuel in the middle of the night always made it sound pretty cool and desirable!

It was supposed to be this^. Instead I got this:

I've discussed callings with a number of friends since, both the future clergy and the future professors, and everyone agrees: the smiley-face God-is-my-besty model is a pile of horsefeathers. The black-hole/lightning-sand analogy is far more accurate.

Except for how there is no Westley to rescue you.
This rather unhappy understanding of callings does make sense of something that previously eluded me, namely Justin Tanis' idea of gender as a calling. If a calling is something that sucks you in willy-nilly, that drags you along kicking and screaming, that you can fight and struggle against but never escape – well, then my gender is definitely a calling.

I understand that in some denominations aspiring clergy are told not to seek ordination if they can possibly do anything else with their life. I feel that way about academia – if I thought I could do anything else at all, if I even had a plan B, I would certainly do that instead – and at the moment I feel that way about transition.

Maybe it gets easier farther on, when you're passing more often and you've already dealt with crap like legally changing your name. Right now, though, transition and academia both feel like my ineluctable destiny. They both feel like things that have beaten me into submission. Submission is exhausting, but resistance is both exhausting and futile.

Fine. I give in. Academia, transition, you can have me. Not my will, but yours.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. I have a passage in one of my novel manuscripts all about The Graveyard of Dreams. Seeing that no one wants to publish the thing and I have too little confidence to self-publish as yet, the novel itself seems to be resting there. I'm not sure I ever really had a calling, or was able to afford one. Maybe life is like that - some run to their destinies, arms open, others are dragged kicking and screaming. Some wander graveyards.