I (Jason Gots, the guy writing this article) have had one of the weirdest career paths I've ever heard of. After attending an elite boys' school in Washington DC, most of whose graduates went on to become lawyers, doctors, or senators, I went to NYU to study acting, with dreams of joining some kind of Medieval traveling theater troupe. I have two Masters' degrees – one in Eastern Studies (What's that?, you may well ask. Think of it as two years in a secular Zen monastery.) and another in Developmental Psychology. I've taught middle school English, waited tables, written children's books for Kindergarteners in South Korea, started a theatre company, been a sort of semi-trained "clinician" for children with learning disabilities and, well, much much more. Now, at Big Think, I've got a job so perfect for me in its creative, multitasking zaniness that if I hadn't somehow stumbled into it, I'd have to invent it. How did I get here from there? And why did it take so long?
What's the Big Idea?
The idea of a 'calling' – a career path that grabs you by the throat and won't let go even if – maybe especially if – it's totally impractical, was an article of faith for me at age 18. Hence the acting degree. Somewhere in the middle of drama school, though, I began to understand how the profession of acting really worked, and that we were a horrendous fit for one another. That's when things got complicated.
So you can imagine my envy at the comparatively straightforward career decision-making process of spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, whose life calling exploded upon his consciousness when he was sixteen years old. While sitting with his mother in the apartment in Rome where they lived at the time, Cohen says he "suddenly became aware of an infinite expanse." He admits that words are poor conveyances of the magnitude of this experience, but recalls that he was flooded with an experience of ecstasy, joy, awe, and wonder that completely and permanently changed his perception of the world.
At the time, Cohen was an aspiring Jazz drummer, and it would take him another six years to realize that this teenaged spiritual experience was the defining moment of his life. But realize it he did, and for over 20 years he has been travelling the world, teaching a spiritual method he calls evolutionary enlightenment.
Spiritual Teacher Andrew Cohen talks with Jason Gots about how he found his calling.
What's the Significance?
All of this is to say that figuring out what we want to do for a living is one of the most important and complicated decisions we make in our lives, and that for many of us, school doesn't provide anything close to a road map. At a time in history where our collective problems are more complicated than ever, and where even law school isn't a safety net anymore, we need to pool our idiosyncratic experiences of finding a way in the world. These stories, in all their unvarnished variety, are what younger generations need to hear in order to put their own dreams into context.
Open questions to everybody out there reading this:
- Does the idea of a "calling" mean anything to you?
- If so, do you think you've found yours?
- Either way, what's the story of your career?
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