On Ringtones

If I were invited to give a TEDtalk, it would be about the existence of a ‘One True Calling.’

A calling, by definition, is a strong urge towards a particular way of life or career, a vocation. People often refer to it as something they were “born to do”, and something they will always be able to succeed in. Finding this is akin to finding oneself and one’s place in the world. Somehow, I do not believe that such a thing exists for everyone.

With each phase in life, our passions change. Beliefs we had as children rarely make it to adolescence untouched, and opinions formed in high school are more than likely to change after exposure to the ‘real world’. Our priorities affect our decisions, and it is only natural for these to change at each stage of growth. We cannot predict the future, so we have to make the best decisions we can, based on our current environment. Some are fortunate enough to be able to pursue what they believe is their true calling for their entire lives. However, there are so many instances where people are forced to change their lives due to the circumstances they find themselves in.

Often, a true calling may not be feasible. Playing the tuba might be the one thing that gives you ultimate happiness, but unless you are the very best in your field, you won’t be able to sustain yourself, financially or emotionally. Some people may dedicate their life’s work to a cause, only to find, in the end, that it wasn’t worth it. The concept of the ‘mid-life crisis’ comes to mind here. You can chase your calling to the fullest, but eventually, a time will come when you reach a stagnant point. You have faced every hurdle, reached the peak, and cracked the code to success. All that’s left is to do the same thing over and over again, for the rest of your life. Upon reaching this stage, it is only natural for the initial enthusiasm to fizzle out, and for feelings of emptiness, boredom, even, to creep into one’s mind.

There are enough people, who, after an experience with a social issue, an accident, or other life-altering event, re-evaluate their priorities and realize that there are many things they have taken for granted. With the rapid advancement of technology, many conventional industries that require human involvement are being destroyed. Someone’s true calling may have been in hospitality services, but thanks to the internet and increasingly tech-savvy tourist destinations, this is no longer a career that holds much opportunity at an interpersonal level.

In all of these cases, the logical response is to explore other fields and causes, to find a new calling, or to find a new way to apply the original one. Sometimes, this requires skills that a person doesn’t already have. While it is never too late to learn more, it can be difficult to start afresh, owing to factors such as age, health, family, finances, and plain habit. The crucial choice between acquiring skills and interests that are highly specific to one sphere, or ones that are not as in-depth, but applicable to a large variety of areas, is one that is usually, often unknowingly made at a relatively young age.

As a high school student, I am expected to have at least a vague idea of what direction I want my life to take, career-wise. My interests, both academic and extra-curricular, play an important role in shaping my future. The Indian education system is such that towards the end of high school, one is to narrow down the courses they take, taking fewer, but highly specific and rigorous subject classes.

I have not, however, been able to find my “One True Calling.” My own interests are varied- I love English, reading and writing. I love Biology, nature, and the details of what exactly makes us alive. I love world politics, law, anthropology, and economics graphs. As a pure science student today, I did not appreciate the value of all of these subjects until they were removed from the curriculum. While science definitely interests me, I crave the ability to study other fields as well, and I know that I am not the only one who feels this way.

Conventionally, a calling is associated with a single, independent sphere. In today’s dynamic world, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. There are many new careers that involve the applications of more than one conventionally independent field of study, like astrobiology, musical healing, and computational life sciences, to name a few.

I’ll admit that it figuring out what exactly I wanted took a lot longer than it may for most, but even if I don’t have one set field or aim, I’ve done justice to myself. Maybe someone’s true calling is the pursuit of knowledge, which is limitless. Maybe you don’t actually need to ‘find yourself’ to succeed. Maybe all you need to do is do everything. Being the “jack-of-all trades” is frequently associated with the words “master of none”, but the entire saying “But still far better than the master of one,” is frequently forgotten.

Finally, I’d like to remind my audience not to discount the importance of the unconventional. The lines between fields of study are blurring as the world develops, and the demand for people educated in more than one sphere is definitely on the rise. Besides, a well-rounded personality will be able to apply their skills to a multitude of careers, and will have a unique point of view on issues that the world faces today. Whether you have one calling or seven, acting upon your interests will surely give anyone a lot to contribute to society.


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