Beginnings, vocation

Making the road by walking

brown-couch-beforeSurrounded by several large books sitting on a ratty couch next to the large windows of a studio apartment sat a young woman. The studio was student housing of a university. She could be described as being unsure of herself and slightly anxious about this fact.  She didn’t know she was intelligent, she didn’t know she was hard working and she didn’t know she might actually make it out of everything ok.  She sat on that damn couch for so long she thought she would grow roots out of her back side.  The task at hand was translating antique words from Olde Spanish texts from the late 1800s and before in order to hope to grasp at the meaning the author intended through so many years.


Hours upon hours for a great many classes in Spanish Lit, the young woman estimated that she absorbed perhaps 40 percent of the texts after translating 8 to 10 words per page, and perhaps 40 percent of what the teacher lectured in Spanish in class.  The whole process required a desperation for something better than what life may look like if she didn’t push forward.


One day with a new class and a new text, the student almost fell off of her couch entirely after reading something that not only made sense to her, but struck her as being Very Important.  It seemed improbable, at that point, that anything she was reading might be important or even mostly comprehensible.

Through the course of twenty five years, the poem has followed her in her pocket where she kept important various sundry things.  Because the Spanish contains all the nostalgia and echo of the culture from which it came (scroll down for English)…

Caminante no hay camino

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.

and in translation…

Traveler, there is no road

Traveler, your footprints are

the road and nothing more;

traveler, there is no road

the road is made by going along

By going the path is made

And in turning to see what is behind you, 

it’s clear that the trail will never 

return to be tread.

Traveler, there is no road;

Only wake-trails on the waters.


Especially as one graduates college, finding footsteps to follow helps to know what to do next.  But sometimes, there is not a path that is clear to follow, or maybe the path hasn’t yet been tread.  Young people, as they step out of college, as they are trying to figure out what they want to do with their own lives are in the middle of this.

“Vocation at its deepest level is, “This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.”
― Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Ending up in this place has whispers of this.  A dream that even as I gave it up, couldn’t forget.  I couldn’t let it go.  When all the questions were answered about how this would impact those around me, the answer was still, “Go”.

“Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” —Frederick Buechner.

Anytime one follows their own relentless inner call they will have to make their own road.  Anyone who is remembered for being a voice of change had to make their own road.  Our own small lives might not make it into history books, but nonetheless, we all still need to make our own paths.  We have but one gift of life, and an endless number of ways to spend it.

Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (said Mary Oliver)

This collection of observations, learnings and found wisdom tells of an experience I am sure others have done in parts and pieces, but I am not sure has been done before by someone like me and with my own set of circumstances and ways of looking at my surrounds.  So I will make the path by going.  In writing about it, I hope that I will be able to embolden others.  To travel to invent to do art to write…

“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
― Parker J. PalmerLet Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation