Posted by: mmstanger | May 16, 2010

Mike Speaks: Vocation

“Mike and Martianne’s Montage of Random Thoughts and Sporadic Sharing” reads the line below the blog title.  However, many may “wonder” when Mike “will” actually post an article.  Well, I’ve finally decided that I should contribute something to this blog or risk losing my co-authorship.

The irony of my lack of blogging is that I’m the one that suggested to Martianne that we begin to blog in the first place.  Now, Martianne is becoming a blogging thoroughbred while I, well. . . I haven’t made it out of the gate.  That is about to change.

So, what random thought do I have to share?  Vocation.  As the saying goes, “it’s all about vocation, vocation, vocation”.  Or something like that.  Anyway, if anyone is more qualified on searching for what moves them, please let me know.  I consider myself the resident expert.  You may be thinking, ‘What makes him so qualified?’


I have spent a greater part of thirty years trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  And, let me tell you, I still don’t know.  Oh, I’ve had many ideas.  Major league baseball player, rock star and writer have been just a few of them.  But, lack of talent and desire always proved a major nemesis when pursing such interests.  Some of my “lesser” aspirations were doctor, lawyer, nurse, entrepreneur, history professor, senator, butcher, baker and candlestick maker.  (Okay, maybe not a butcher.  Too messy.)

You name it, I’ve probably considered it.  In college, I was a better advisor to my classmates than any counselor the school could assign.  I knew every major, which prerequisites were needed for it and what possibilities it led to.

Nuclear engineering?  Need to take Statics. (No, not Statistics.)

Medical Technology?  Quantitative Chemical Analysis is required.

Economics?  At this school, only if you prefer Marxist theory.

Which law school is ranked the highest for Environmental Law?  Either Vermont Law School or Lewis and Clark Law School.  Can’t go wrong either way.

Many of my classmates were amazed at my wealth of knowledge.  I could tell you starting salaries and job prospects.  I spent more time memorizing the school catalog than I did studying for the classes in whatever major I was pursuing at a given time.  In fact, it took me 6 ½ years to finish a four year degree.

(Reminds me of the movie Tommy Boy.  The main character sheepishly admits to taking seven years to finish his bachelor’s degree.  Then, he says, “Many people take seven years to finish school.”  His friend retorts, “Yeah, they’re called ‘Doctors’.”)

Well, needless to say, I am not a doctor, either.  I finally finished with a Bachelor of Arts. in Biology.  (Who gets a B.A. in Biology?)  Then what?  I bounced around from job to job, until I did what most 32 year old men do: I joined the Army.  No, not the Salvation Army or the Kiss Army.  The United States Army.  Yep, after Day Zero of Basic Combat Training, I thought that I had finally done it.  I had finally topped myself for the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.  Thankfully, after Basic, things calmed down a bit, and I even got to live in Hawaii for six months.  Maybe the Army did have an upside.

After Hawaii, the Army moved me back to Massachusetts – where I had spent a short foray while pursuing my band thing – and, fortunately, I met Martianne there.  What she saw in me, I still have no idea.  But, we got married and have two beautiful children with one on the way.  Life is going well.

However. . .

I still don’t have a career.  Oh, I have a job.  A government job (no longer with the Army) with good benefits and a fair amount of stability.  That should be good enough, right?  Uh, not exactly.

I know, I know.  As Martianne reminds me so often, I should feel blessed to have that much.  It helps provide for the family.  You can’t argue with that.  But, there is still something missing.  That something is the satisfaction in knowing that I enjoy my job.  I was gifted with certain talents.  (And, yes, I know, writing well is not one of them.) And, right now, I feel frustrated that I’m not utilizing those talents at the thing that takes up the greatest part of my daily waking hours — work.  In fact, most days I feel like I’m just wasting my talents for eight, plus- a-long-commute, hours, pure and simple.

You may be saying, “Do something about it!”  Or “Quit complaining, you ingrate!”  Or you might be saying “I can’t figure out why she married you, either!”

All very valid comments.  And, pretty dead on.  But, missing the bigger picture.

All of us, not just me, have been put here for a reason.  Some have found that reason; many have not.  For those who have found their vocation in a career, I say, “Congratulations!  Don’t rub it in!”  For the rest of us, I say, “Don’t sweat it.  You’ve got a kindred spirit right here.”  Keep looking.  After all, life is a journey and not a destination.

Still, I also can commiserate that what gets lost in the career finding and status building is our identity.  We sell our souls for a few dollars and, perhaps, fifteen seconds of fame on YouTube.  Many times, one of the things people ask when you first meet is, “What do you do?” And, we either answer with pride or with embarrassment followed by an explanation.  Should we be identified by what we do for living?

I don’t think so.  But, it would still be nice to figure out a career that reflects our personal identity instead of denigrating it.  Any suggestions?

Enough about my pleas for career guidance and back to my original intent: vocation.  Vocation is defined as a calling.  Its original meaning was that of a calling to serve God, but it has evolved into a more generic term meaning to find a pastime that moves one to serve a purpose greater than oneself.  As I said earlier, some have found a synthesis of career and vocation, and they are truly blessed.  I have not found that synthesis, but I still feel blessed.


Through my many paths in life, I have learned that it’s not about what we do, but who we are.  I may never find my ideal career, but I have found my vocation, my calling.  And, that is being a father and a husband.  That’s being the camper with my son or the ear for my wife.  That’s being the man my daughter runs to and says, “I luvs you!” with a big hug.

Yep, many may make more money than I.  Others may have a career to envy.  But, no one is richer in family than I.  And, that’s the greatest vocation of them all.


  1. Your vocation is super hero. What! no reference to your roommate WTF?

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