Re-Routing: Why the Wrong Road Doesn’t Seem So Bad at First

wrong road beautiful beam of lightI went down the wrong road because I was afraid to go in the direction of my dreams.

I became a teacher because I wasn’t sure how to be a writer.

It’s actually not that simple, though.

For a time, I’d convinced myself that I was actually on the right path to my dreams.

In some ways I was, which is why it gets complicated, and why so many people stay on the wrong path for so long, often losing sight of where they’d originally hoped to go.

My mission for this series is to help you determine if you’re on the right track, or if you need to do some re-routing like I did. So, I’m going to explain how I became convinced that I was going in the right direction.

The signs can be a little ambiguous, so we have to be discerning.

Here’s why the wrong road didn’t seem so bad at first.

The wrong road flows easy.

I could be confident that each step I took was a sure one. Updating my resume and submitting applications was something I’d done dozens of times. I understood the process. It was clear, and it made sense.

We tend to go where it’s comfortable and familiar, rather than where we need to go to achieve our goals.

Then I really felt the flow when all of my efforts were rewarded.

I equated success with proof that I was on the right track.

Surely God wouldn’t give his blessing if I was headed in the wrong direction, right?

Well, that’s what I thought.

But now that I consider just how many jobs I can get (the economy not withstanding), I realize that success is not always God’s way of validating what we do. Humans have been successful at some pretty crummy things.

Just because I can get a job, doesn’t mean it’s my destiny to turn that job into my lifelong career.

Just because I can get a job, doesn’t mean I should take the job.

Misplaced Passions.

I actually love teaching.

In fact, I still do it part-time.

But I don’t love being a teacher as much as I love being a writer.

That’s why it was wrong to spend 80 hrs a week doing teacher work, only to fit in writing whenever I could.

When I looked for jobs during that last semester of grad school, I was inspired by the opportunity to work with inner city youth.

I was inspired by the chance to share my passion for reading and writing, to help students discover what reading and writing could spark in their lives.

I wanted to give back to the community that did so much to shape who I am.

All of those things are noble, but all of them could be accomplished without making teaching my full-time, professional career. Teaching was just the obvious choice.

During my interviews I often explained that teaching was the perfect synthesis of my passion for people, reading, and writing.

But notice I didn’t actually say that my passion was teaching!

A lot of times we look for the safe way to approximate our passions rather than pursuing our actual passions.

We often settle for a path that’s merely parallel to the one we truly dream of traveling.

Talent or Calling?

Just because we’re good at something, doesn’t mean it’s our calling.

We often feel pressured to stick with what we can already do, when our true calling may be something we haven’t even learned to do yet.

Too many students are told to major in something they’re good at. That advice by itself is misleading.

The truth is, we’re all good at many things, and we can all learn to be great at many other things.

We shouldn’t just consider current skills, we should also consider aptitude, potential, latent abilities that may be dormant due to lack of practice.

People tried to convince me to stick with full-time teaching because I was good at it.

We may be skilled at something, but that doesn’t mean we have to turn it into a full-time profession.

It’s not enough to settle for what we’re good at.

We should pursue the paths that motivate us to be great.

The wrong road will often mirror the right one, but it’s still the wrong road.

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14 thoughts on “Re-Routing: Why the Wrong Road Doesn’t Seem So Bad at First

  1. Sarah,

    To me, this is your best post thus far. What an insightful, intelligent, illuminating piece that reflects wisdom way beyond your years. Not everyone understands the difference between a passion and a “calling”. Thanks for sharing this. May your road to success have few “detours”. 🙂
    Jennifer Brown Banks recently posted..What’s Your Biggest Writing Related Stress?My Profile

  2. Tasha N. Braggs on said:

    Sarah…wow! I am in awe at this blog because it is just what I needed to hear. My love has always been writing and journalism. I am very interested in people and being a resource for others. As I reflect on somethings, I am realizing that this is why some things didn’t work out.

    Question: Is is good to have a multiple # of things your talented or called to do?

    -How do you know “truly” your calling?

    Love it and look forward to more discussion.

    • Such difficult questions, Tasha! So glad to have you jump in on the discussion, btw.

      For your first question, I don’t think it’s a matter of whether it’s “good” or not to have more than one talent or calling. We definitelyY have multiple talents. Not sure if we have more than one calling. But then again, what is a calling, anyway? Perhaps God gives us multiple talents so that we are equipped to execute our calling. I think we’ve used the words so interchangeably for so long that we get confused about what we should be doing with our lives.

      As for your second Q, that’s what this whole series on re-routing is about in a way. The idea is that most of us already have a sense of what our true calling is. The difficult part is having the courage to answer it.

      So, yeah. We’ll keep hashing this out!

  3. This is an excellent though-provoking blog, and there are times when I thought you were inside my head! I teach full-time, and write part-part time. I love teaching AND writing, but I want to devote more time to writing.

  4. Sarah–

    You are absolutely right! When one is blessed by many talents and interests, it can be difficult to “decide” among them, especially with outside opinions and the acknowledged practicalities. We can think of ourselves as “Renaissance women”–not called upon to “choose” but expressing and enjoying many types of calling. I am good at teaching, cooking, organizing, paperwork, sketching, listening, being funny, making music . . . These I engage in intermittently, but my greatest joy, like you, is writing. I agree that we must listen inside for what makes us happiest and follow our strongest desires. As we do, we cannot help but help others. More power to you as you follow your writing star!

    • Thanks for the added insight, Noelle! I love how you can embrace all of your talents and passions yet still know that one thing in particular calls to you the most. So often we hear people say things like, “You’re a great cook. You should be a chef!” But we can’t possibly make full-time careers out of all the things we’re skilled in. Isn’t it enough just to be a great cook, without the pressure of then having to make a living from it if you don’t want to?

      Love your site, btw. We must keep in touch.

  5. You had me at “success is not always God’s way of validating what we do.” Excellent post and full of the kind of encouragement so many writers need to hear.

  6. Ditto on most of the comments above. This insightful post pulls at many a heart string – mine included, of course. Looking forward to seeing more from this series.

    • Hey Sabriga! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Your opinion is so valuable because I feel like I know where you’re coming from now that we’ve both discussed our writing and writing goals, etc. I look forward to the growth of =)

  7. I just found your site – love it! It is exactly where I am right now – God is good. I am “Called” to tell stories – acting, photography and WRITING and I’ve accomplished all of that on a pro level but I always had my Full-Time gig as my main source out of fear. Time to let it go and let God transport on the wings of my God-given abilities.

    Rock on!

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