All my life, I have heard and read of people who had a true vocation, a calling to this or that field whether it be medicine or the priesthood or public service, among other fields. I have rattled around in life looking for mine. I was not ready when I went to Florida State University in 1965, after graduating from high school. I have always been an academic overachiever, but I went to university without a clear plan or a clear calling.
I have been a librarian, a nurse, a member of the armed forces. That latter was for a number of years the closest I have come to feeling that I had a calling I enjoyed the Coast Guard, and felt like I was part of something that made a difference. But after that was done, after arthritis took me out of active participation, I felt once again like I did not have a calling.
Another reason I was not ready out of high school to find my vocation was that I had been raised in a traditional family in the 1950s. Girls were not "supposed" to aspire to more than either being at home or being a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse. I broke one of those taboos many years into my adulthood by enlisting in the Coast Guard, and I also shattered my family's notion of the character of women in military service. However, what I had really been discouraged from pursuing was my desire to be a journalist. Girls just did not do that (never mind Nellie Bly or Margaret Bourke-White or Adela Rogers St. John). It was a long, long time before I was able to revive that dream.
My first attempt at actually being a writer was in fiction, since I had lost the dream of being a journalist. I was a member of a local writing group and an online writing group. I tried various genres and methods, having some short stories published in little magazines, but just not finding a fiction voice. Then I turned to non-fiction. After my first book, a history and critical review of a television series, I floundered for subjects, and then I found genealogy. After getting a genealogical education through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I then found a subject: a guide to sources for Florida's colonial, territorial, and state censuses. That book was published last year.
Work on that book led me to the University of North Florida, first to brush up on my high school Spanish from forty some-odd years before, and then one thing led to another, and I found myself on a path to a second bachelor's degree with a double major in history and Spanish. Now I am about to finish that up. I will graduate at the end of the 2012 spring term. And as I have blogged previously, I will be starting work on a master's degree in history in the fall.
This path has been something strange and wonderful. Associations, opportunities, nearly all my class work has in one way or another led me to study the history and families of St. Augustine, Florida, during the second Spanish period (1784-1821), or has contributed in some way to my investigation. I have become enchanted with the place and the people -- though some of them at times behaved in less-than-enchanting ways. But even rascals should have their stories told. All my education, including the genealogical education, seems to have led up to this area of study. I feel like I have been taken up by an inexorable current, and cannot escape from it. Nor do I want to.
I have found my vocation.