How do we figure out our life’s work?  What is my calling?  Why do some people seem to be ignited by their work and others not so?  How do I know what mine is?

Today I had the opportunity to speak to the great folks at New Balance at their corporate headquarters.  New Balance has been a sponsor of Girls on the Run International since 1999.

I was emotionally moved several times today, as I spoke to their group, by just the mere fact of my“being there.”   I remember when New Balance came to Girls on the Run…the organization was serving approximately 250 girls.  Certainly not enough to merit their generous support of our program…but I believe they saw something in our program…something not yet tapped but that was certainly on its way.

There are days, when the travel, can be overwhelming, or the number of emails, un-returnable…but all in all, I am so completely in awe of and grateful for my work…that these feelings tend to become nothing more than a glorious representation of the fortune I feel having found my “life’s calling.”

I am asked, several times a week, how I “founded” Girls on the Run or why I started it.  The truth is it found me.  I believe the spirit of our program has been in existence for generations (and in multiple forms) and was searching for a willing human to bring it forth.

In 1996 I hit bottom…lower than low…to a point of no-thingness.  Once emptied, hollow and without definition, the spirit of our program had an opportunity to breathe into me, the core values of itself…love, compassion, action, joy and liberation.

Now that I’m fifteen years into Girls on the Run, I can with wonder and amazement look back upon and see the various telltale signs and urgings by the Universe/God/Higher Power/Divine to bring me to precisely where I am now.

  • My concern for Jenny…the new girl at our school consistently picked on and bullied.  Jenny was tall, wore glasses and was smart.  I could not understand why girls could be so mean and vowed that if I could, I would protect Jenny from the unwarranted attacks.
  • In sixth grade, organizing the “pant suit” revolution at my elementary school.  I saw boys run, jump and play on the playground and on the monkey bars and felt as if the dress code requiring us to wear dresses, limited our access to the same play, fun and rights the boys had.
  • Organizing a summer playschool for the five year olds in my neighborhood.  I got my first “paycheck” in seventh grade, managed my first budget and put together a week-long curriculum which included games, music and nap time.
  • I ran for student council president at my high school.  I was the first female to win.  That in and of itself didn’t matter a lick to me, but the truth is, I wanted to create a culture on my school campus where all spirits could thrive.  I believed strongly in the “power of the people” and with the help of our dean of students implemented the school’s first honor code.
  • I taught high school chemistry, but wasn’t moved as much by that, as I was by the number of girls who would gather in my office, each day during every one of my free periods or during lunch.  I believe these girls felt and knew they were safe to share their questions, thoughts and fears with me.  I honored the experience and was honored by their faith and trust in me.
  • I got my Masters in SocialWork… girls were attracted to me and what I could provide them.  There was a win-win relationship each and every time a young woman would enter my office.  Eating disorders, relationships issues, battles with low-self worth or addiction issues…they would seek my counsel and I honored the opportunity and their bravery in sharing their vulnerabilities.

This list goes on…each a small wink from the Universe, suggesting the course of action, next step, door I should open to proceed toward my life’s calling.

So when Girls on the Run found me, it was just another wink.  It could have been any one of the experiences that passed before it.  I could have been called to be an activist, a childcare provider, a politician, a teacher, or a social worker…each experience like a bead upon a necklace, creating the knowledge, space and willingness within me to recognize  and activate the call of my work.

There is in our culture, at least I see it, an expectation that we land upon THE thing we are supposed to do…for our life’s work…right out of college.  We prep our children with algebra, social studies, literature and computer skills (all needed by the way), but interlaced through all that education is this belief that these forms of knowledge will bring you to a college major which will lead you to your ultimate career.

I wonder if there isn’t an opportunity, to in addition to these skills, help children/adults examine the themes of the work they have had…talk about what ignites their spirits…connect the dots and find the overlap between their first job and their most recent working experience (and everything in between)…to find hidden there the calling…the one that is perhaps tucked away behind the major, the career, the job…the calling which waits patiently, for the right time, the right place to  wink itself from the Universe and into reality.

What do you think life’s calling is?  How did you find yours?  What are the thematic “dots” to connect in the work, experiences, opportunities that have come your way?  How are they connected?  Let’s talk about it.