Short answer: you didn’t.
Long answer, keep reading.
This is a scary thought many people have had at some point in their lives. It may come after college, which is our only perspective on any kind of ‘entrance into adulthood.’ It might be a “mid-life crisis” kinda deal. The basis of the question has a deeper fear than just missing the purpose of our existence. The question is a tug on the heart that asks,
“what have I missed out on doing because I’m not entirely happy.”
Or, “Have I lived my best life?”
This could also be the 21st century phenomenon; FOMO, (fear of missing out.)
Uncovering your identity is a lifelong journey. It starts when you are cognitively aware of it, so like 4/5 years old, and continues into your entrance into the Heaven (since God will reveal our identities to us.) In the meantime, we spend each day making decisions based on interests, desires, hurts, circumstances, emotions, and longings that help us uncover who we are and what we want. The attempts to find our best results usually happen in communion with others. For example, someone once prophetically told me, “sometimes going on dates is more about figuring out what you want more than figuring out who the other person is.”
For these reasons the basis of the entire Catholic Church is founded and strengthened by ‘communion.’ The Catholic Church is a community of people who all work together, with each other in praise of a person, Jesus. Prayer and sacraments are communal encounters with God. The Eucharist is communion with the Son, Jesus Christ. Involving religion into the question of “did I miss my calling,” is crucial.
It is usually asked this way, “did I miss what God wanted from me?”
We are apt to think that God only wants actions of a particular kind, whereas He is most interested in people of a particular kind.
Catholicism exists to connect us to our source of existence. Catholicism is a person, Jesus Christ, who still divinely exists within our souls and in the Sacraments to pull us into mystery and purpose in the world. Forget, for a moment, “what you are called to do,” and consider instead that to do anything involves personal growth, practice, experience, thought, freedom, and truth.
Think about it: career choices take practice and experience in the form of learning, doing, internships, degrees, classes, effort. They take freedom and truth which we ask, “do I even WANT to do this?” And, “Truthfully, will I even have what it takes to do this?”
Ponder the idea of being PEOPLE of a particular sort. It is far more intriguing.
Something that always amazed me in college was everyone’s inability to take care of themselves but their passion was for taking care of others and excelling in their career. Many people are trying to save the world and doubt that the degree to which you change yourself everything around will also change.
Everyone’s solution to loneliness, agony, struggle, stress, bad grades, and anger involves (to some extent) getting crazy drunk, self-harming, traveling abroad, scrolling on socials, having as much sex as you could until the issue went away, finding average “friends,” taking a nap when it’s been a long day, throwing in headphones, blocking out silence, and burying the issues.
Truth be told, whatever age you are, you have no idea what’s best for you. This is why we find spouses, life-partners with level headed ideals and virtues. This is why we have faith in a wise and just God whom we call Father. This is why we have parents. Everything we do to try and cope is a test run to see what might actually work.
When we don’t have true friends looking out for us and no one to express our deepest wounds to we walk alone not wanting to burden anyone, and [try to] figure it out ourselves. *Sad face.*
The question shouldn’t be, “did I miss my calling,” but rather,
“did I miss living a full life?”
Did I live a life free of the interior battle I have with myself full of agony, misery, despair, self-pity, insecurity, and hurt?
It is. I know. The insane part is that the love and mercy of God that pours itself on thirsty souls keeps us real and gives us the graces we need for anything. For discernment, for wisdom, for guidance and direction. If we live in robotic, mundane schedules, endlessly repressing and hiding our hurts from God, being so closed off to everything, we suffocate inside. When we don’t lament in prayer, or worship a loving God, our hearts loose all ability to desire. We lose the ability to be honest in admitting our deepest thoughts, desires, mistakes, successes, longings, and we never have a true sense of who we are: the good and bad.
How can we even begin to know what we should do if we don’t know who we are? If we’re not whole?
Not taking the time to wonder and contemplate who we are leaves us living in delusion. Not despair, delusion! We never taste the truth of reality. Some life experiences we idolize can disillusion us and we wake up afraid to admit it.
Hope is a gift. It springs out of nothing and inspires us to change and try again. Jesus—as a role model—lives and acts in ways that helps humans realize their human-nature has the ability to fight the battle of death that endures in us.
For humans to be alive and discern their purpose and calling, humans have to come alive to the realness of life. Humans must dedicate themselves to their ability to live for the goodwill of others, because in this we find our purpose.
‘Meaning’ and ‘the meaning of life’ is not just something we discover in ourselves like hobbies, and careers–for that is never sufficient–it is something that is given to us, from God. And the fact that it is given from the cosmic, divine, and loving spirit who breathes life into us is the greater part of the significance.
Regardless of where you’re at in life; graduating college, a mom, a middle-aged man, 5 years as a prisoner, God is more concerned about forming a relationship with you than He is going to be impressed about what you choose to do with your life. The power we have as humans isn’t this power to receive your calling, control, have a successful job, and be esteemed, but the treasure we have is in our relation to Him in vulnerability. It’s hidden in the agony we experience which makes us cry out to God (Thomas Merton). Our power is surrendering and overcoming the deaths we face in us, through the working spirit of Jesus’ love and divine nature of which we are being surrounded by.
“This is how I fight my battles, completely surrendering to God, letting Him fight the battle through me.” -Heather Khym
Jesus’ whole life was simplistic love. He didn’t have a fancy job. He showed us our supreme calling is to fall in love with life, and to fall in love with life means having a soul that opens itself to receiving the gifts from the Father God that He waits to give us.
Sure, those gifts could be new jobs, a spouse, the gift of children, etc. but don’t be surprised if the gifts He wants to give are actually just spiritual awakenings; of healing, love, patience, mercy, and breathtaking beauty. Most of my intercession prayer (praying for others and myself) ends up with God just telling me He loves me (He’s so smooth).
Until we stabilize our identity on the foundation that we have relationship with the God who created us, we will never be able to understand what we desire to do.
God’s calling for you is that you’re free, peace-filled, joy-filled, and close to Him.
Whatever has happened to you, whatever you have done to feel “far away” from Him doesn’t matter, read the prodigal son to learn why. He’ll use it and work with it. His commandments help you get there, His grace keeps you there, and your choice to turn to Him makes all the difference.
After enough time pursing that relationship, He’ll call you deeper and you can discern other things like vocations. Here is an article on that.
Until then, my prayer is that you realize your supreme calling is in communion with God, who satisfies all our desires. Once that happens, the adventure begins.
“Lord, all that I am, all that I have, all that I experience, is yours. Send me.”
Go fall in love,
A friend who loves you