Robert B. Stafford
Dr. Rehg, THEO 100
“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.” Those words were spoken by President Ronald Reagan outside the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington Virginia. Those words have been a comfort to me for a long time or at least up until about a year and a half ago. It was at that time that I really started to doubt what it was that I was doing. It is now that I must step back and take stock of what it is that I have learned while on the journey to vocational enlightenment. In his book “Let Your Life Speak” (Palmer, 2000, p. 1) Palmer makes reference to a statement made in a poem by William Stafford, “Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” This is a most interesting question and leads me into the answer of the first question posed by the instructor. In point of fact I find that the first chapter of Palmers book happens to “speak” to me the most. Is what I do, what I am? The answer to this question for me, for a very long time was yes. Now it so happens that I find a different answer to that very same question.
For the better part of a decade I was a Marine, that was me, I was Private, Lance Corporal, Corporal and then Sergeant Stafford. My entire world was my vocation and that world defined the very fabric of my being. I lived, slept and ate my chose career! And then the epiphany, or maybe that’s not the best way to put it, there was a silent grumbling from somewhere inside of me that screamed “this can’t be it.” For those that have been midway in our careers and had this happen, this becomes an almost earth shattering moment. A moment almost like being in the dark without a light to guide us.
Up until this class I have been in a lateral daze, like being sucker punched. This class has helped me realize that while you are the sum total of you experiences and individual talents your job may not be the end all to be all. I was continuing down a path that I was no longer suited for, like Palmer and Dr. Rehg, the difference between myself and them was I had no council of elders or a good intentioned boss to ask me questions of fire me. I was succeeding and felt guilty and didn’t want to quit, I just knew I had to. Of all that I have learned from this course, I believe that getting to know one’s self and overcoming the temptations of ego is the most important. By overcoming yourself and the need for recognition you find who you really are. Palmer’s journey to the realization that he was not the president of a university was an outstanding example of truth to one’s self. For most of us the need to succeed is paramount. Being placed in positions of authority are important to us, no one wants to be a cashier forever right? Well the answer to that question very well may be YES; yes I do want to be a cashier.
Maybe some people come to understand that their particular gifts do not lend them to other things. Not everyone is going to be “The Leader” some will have to be subordinate to others and yet still lead in their own realm. I see the changes to my own discernment of vocation in the story told by Palmer. I was good at something and was able to do the job and wanted to do it, but why, a picture on a wall or photo in the paper as Palmer describes. If this is the reason then it’s perhaps the wrong reason. I have for a long time been relatively aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. I have also used them in various ways in order to further my own interests and have felt guilty for having done so. I have for a long time used them for the benefit of others, this in of itself is nothing to be ashamed of however, if you neglect using these gifts to better yourself, you then do yourself a disservice. This “period of instruction” as they