Having a ‘calling’: why it’s not always a good thing

Lesser Water Boatman. A beautiful name for a bug. Corixa punctata have bodies shaped like boats and legs like oars. Gold coloured backs and red eyes that darken with age.

These tiny creatures skate effortlessly across the water like they’re flying. Olympians diving, punctuating the surface, leaving just a ripple. They feed on algae at the bottom of ponds and lakes and sprint back up to breathe. There are 400 types.

Boatman are as adept on top, as they are on the bottom. Just like Emily Wapnick’s ‘Multipotentialites‘. Emily speaks to those without a calling. People who belong in many places. Great swathes of us interested in, and good at, different things. We’re as common as Water Boatmen. It’s those with a calling who are the odd ones out.

CorixaPunctata by Piet Spaans

But we’re made to feel stupid and lost without this calling. Turning our hands to many things, now a problem. “Why aren’t you passionate about quadratic equations?” And here’s another thought. When did ‘having a calling’ leave the spiritual to become common fare? When did it jump from divine to interview?

“A calling: a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence”

But being a Multipotentialite is a joy. We study Anglo Saxon poetry and mixology. Enjoy Drum and Bass and Bach. Practice our Japanese then kickboxing. We’re not in a little box called ‘This is All You Can Be.’

Helen is a Spoon-by-Spoon interviewee and a multipotentialite. She’s worked in marketing, publishing and PR. She makes ceramics and sells them to galleries, paints and creates beautiful collages too. She’s also worked in cyber-security and data protection. Phil has many skills working as a Harvest Manager, a Shift Manager in a factory and in Health and Safety roles as well. He’s also a published author and an adventure guide.

Since school Jenny has been ‘the girl who’s good at maths’ and that’s what everybody focused on. “Actually I was good at loads of things. But I did Maths at university, got a Maths PhD and then did maths-y jobs.” Her other skills were, “Slightly lost and slowly forgotten. I’d like them to be more in the picture as I’m a whole human being.”

David won’t be pigeonholed. “It’s been a challenge to distinguish my skills and talents and find my flow. I’m quite a jack-of-all-trades. But when I do something I try and do it well. As I tell my kids, be the best you can be.”

Saavi doesn’t have one great passion. “I’m not a world-class pianist or the world’s greatest trader. I’ve got a good general skill set. I can do most things well that I turn my hand to.” She has even done, “Relatively well in industries which were a terrible fit.”

That’s fantastic! Even with hands tied behind her back, Saavi was successful. In the right place she’ll fly like a Water Boatman!

Hear more about keeping your options by clicking here.


This is part of a series called Spoon by Spoon — a project I’ve run interviewing 100 people going through career, relationship and wider life changes. If you’re looking for support with your own career or life change find out more here.

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