During my phone conversation with my sister yesterday, we talked about how happiness and ultimate purpose - when identified - is what drives us. I started to reflect on how my own happiness and (what I believe is my) purpose has influenced my journey so far.
All of us have different motivations and ultimate goals in life. The calling is usually something more general, similar, and motivated by a pursuit of happiness.
"I want to provide for my family- seeing them safe, secure, and content makes me happy."
"I want financial freedom so I can travel and see the world and find happiness in every place I go."
"I want to volunteer so others can have warm food in their bellies at the end of the day, which makes me feel warm and happy."
We all have a calling that is more or less motivated by this fulfilling positive reward. How we choose to answer those callings, however, differs based on the knowledge, skills, interests and tools we pick up along the way. A lot of those factors are determined by our environment but the main driver is something I haven't yet learned to describe quite accurately. All I know is that it comes from inside.
I am a first generation Filipino-American whose parents both found professions in the medical field. My mom originally wanted to be a physician but her parents could only afford to send one child to medical school, so she opted to let her gifted, talented, intelligent younger brother (she is 1/3 children) have that opportunity. She pursued a career as a registered nurse to make some money for her family alongside my dad. As I've grown to see her more as a person than just a mother or caretaker, I notice how her calling and purpose also tended towards happiness. I notice the slight smile she has when someone presents her with a problem and she has a solution. I have seen her generously take and house friends and family. She provided them with a safe, clean, positive environment to stay until they have regained strength to go back out into the world without even asking how long they will stay. She provides laughs and smiles to her friends who present their struggles. I've seen the tenderness in her eyes as she strokes her grandchildren's cheeks and soothes them to bed... working as a nurse is one of many areas in her life in which she is able to use her "love and care" skills to her advantage (because these days life costs a bit of money).
My dad is a born businessman. He is sociable, funny, smart, confident, and willing to put himself out into even the most awkward situations just to make conversation and, eventually, make a sale. I've seen him befriend the most introverted, soft spoken, and shy people and maintain those friendships throughout the years. He can sell anything and has found work selling water, vacuum cleaners, clothes irons, but eventually found that he flourished selling medical products for pharmaceutical companies. He was the plug for baby formula, flu medicines, and more specialized medications for kidney and heart conditions, among many others.
Needless to say, I grew up with a heavy medical influence. On the days my dad had work and had to also take care of me, I'd tag along with him to his sales regions, wait in the (running) car while he talked to physicians in their clinic, and sometimes go into the clinic and shyly stand in the corner or read magazines while he finished up visits. I went on small medical missions with him and his doctor friends in Mexico where they provided free health clinics monthly for those who couldn't afford regular check ups with a general practitioner.
I saw first hand the magic that a doctor could provide by just holding space, listening with deep compassion, and provide actionable tips and answers to the problems presented. Genuine gratitude exuded from each person after they walked away with a baggie of multi vitamins, fever reducers, and a stool softener-- items typically found in the average American household.
Throughout my life, I've eventually picked up skills that I'm now able to present on my resume as "hard working" "studious" "fast learner" "timely" "professional" "organized"
and things that don't quite fit onto a job resume like
"empathetic" "intuitive" "caring" "enjoys meticulous things""finds joy in small moments" "reconnects to the breath" "trusts in the plan"
I've also continued to foster my curiosity and interest for the human body which eventually led me to pursue a career in medicine. On my way to medical school, I stumbled across the importance of nutrition and lifestyle in the management, prevention, and even reversal of some diseases. I want to say it was my intention to live as closely to my morals and values and also a whole string of events that led me to trying out the vegan diet. Immediately, I dove deep into the ethics, environmental implications, and health effects of a plant based diet and decided to learn nutrition formally so that I would feel more confident recommending it to others in a future professional practice. So there was a connection between wanting to promote internal and external peace as well as health benefits. How fitting for my personal calling!
I also had a sister who was interested in yoga introduce me to a few yoga postures and take me to some of her classes as a young adolescent. My background in gymnastics, soccer, and running helped me grasp this way of movement quite quickly and eventually became a physical activity I enjoyed doing throughout my undergraduate. I wanted to learn more so after I graduated college I treated myself to two rounds of yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. I learned not only more about the physical benefits of yoga, but also of the mental and spiritual aspects that I have only ever heard about. This was something very new to me and quite pivotal, in retrospect, of my evolution. I enjoyed this experience so much that Rishikesh is one of the places I still consider my heart home. Without realizing it, I picked up yet another skill for my calling.
After those trips, I became a registered dietitian, got my first "big girl" job as a clinical dietitian and at the same time dove deeper into my nutrition practice. This time I wanted to know more about eating as it pertains to our psyche. To keep it short, I had an eating disorder and went through intense treatment as a teen. From there I learned that not only what we eat (nutrition) is important but also how we treat our bodies with respect to eating (mind) is important. I decided to learn more about Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is not a "diet," but a framework which involves listening to your body cues, respecting your hunger and fullness, and truly incorporating balance and moderation. It's another form of yoga in the way that it asks us to connect with our body cues, signals, and inner wisdom when it comes to eating (and not eating).
Today, there are so many people who know what to eat but not how to regard themselves and their bodies. This lack of connection really disrupts their quality of life. Similarly, there are so many people who know what to do when they feel ill but not how to avoid it in the first place or how to manage it in a way that is more in accordance to their natural bodies.
When I really think about my path, I see that everything I've gone through has been like little stepping stones to get closer to my calling. All the things I've done, all my side hobbies and peculiar interests, all my trials and tribulations, the books I've read (and been tested on), the people I've met, been hurt by, hurt, loved, lost, cherished, and valued... they are all part of it.
Right now, I know I don't know much. I'm young. I have many years of life ahead of me.
However, when I'm asked to think about the life I want in the future, I visualize one in which I create magic by holding space, listening with deep compassion, and providing answers and actionable tips to help others live more in accordance with their truest, best selves.
I am so grateful for all the small pieces of my life (interests, skills, hobbies) that have and that will come together to create this beautiful picture.
What's your big picture? Maybe you haven't quite gotten it down, so if that's the case- what brings you happiness? What drives you to do what you are doing? I'd love to hear about it!
Until next time,