Day 225. Another Calling?

I watched Tom Brokaw, the American broadcast journalist, on the OWN Network the other night.  Among the many things he discussed, he talked about how he emotionalalways knew journalism was his true calling.  How, as a young boy, watching the news with his family in South Dakota, he was transfixed.  And even then, he knew it was what he wanted to do.

Clearly he was right, because he is one of the most respected newsmen of our time.  Certainly one of my favourites, along with Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

God, now I am dating myself.  I’ll bet there are a lot of you out there, who don’t know who I’m talking about.  Well, there it is. Would it help if I told you, I was a mere child when they were on the air?  It’s true, you know.

Not that it really matters.  I’m glad I had the chance to see them in action.  I can’t think of anyone I’d stack up against them, now.

But that’s not the point of this story.  Destiny is.

You could say it was Tom Brokaw’s destiny to end up not merely reporting the news, but making sense of it, for almost fifty years.

Not that I’m in any way comparing my talent to his, but I have always felt writing is my true calling.  I wanted to be a writer from childhood.  English was one of my best subjects all through school.  I’ve had a very successful career, writing.  And I love doing it.

But watching the interview with Brokaw, I thought back to a conversation I had last Thursday, with a new client, for whom I am producing a series of videos.  We were in the process of blocking off tentative dates.  When she mentioned a particular Tuesday, I told her I volunteer at a hospital on Tuesdays and am, therefore, unavailable.  She asked what I did there.

When I mentioned the three areas I’m involved in (surgical waiting room, recovery room, palliative care), she responded, “Whew!  Those are all emotionally challenging.”

Can’t say I’ve ever thought of them in that way, but she’s right.  They are.  And now I wonder if being good in emotionally charged environments is another calling of mine.  I have always been drawn to them.

As a fifteen year old in Montreal, I participated in a hospital volunteer program for teenagers.  I did it a couple of times a week all summer, and then again, in the fall.  I absolutely loved it.  Now I’m volunteering again.  In areas where patients and family members are all emotional.  Frightened, sad, tired, angry, frustrated.  You name it.  I never know what I’m walking into.  Yet, I love it.  I really do.  Every bit as much as I love my writing.

The more difficult the situation, the more assistance I feel I can provide.  Obviously I am not a medical professional, so what I can do is limited.

But I can listen.  I can hold a hand.  I can put my arm around a pair of shoulders.  I can silently hand over a box of tissues.  I can do my level best to make sure they get updated with news about their loved ones, in a timely fashion.  I can be empathetic.  I can be calm, and hope my demeanour helps them to remain calm.  I can be as helpful as possible, given the limitations of what I can and cannot say; and can and cannot do.  I can show them I care.  I can show them I understand what they are going through.  I can direct them to those who are professionally qualified to give them the kind of solace, support, advice and information I cannot.

Interestingly enough, it’s not unlike some of the duties I performed when I was a creative director.  Advertising is an industry where emotions are usually running wild, although for very different reasons than you’d find in a hospital.  But understandable, none the less.

Deadlines are brutal.  Unrelentingly so.  Day after day.  Week after week.  Month after month.  Year after year.  Working nights and weekends is the norm.  You get exhausted and run down.  Stress becomes like an aphrodisiac.  It’s what keeps us going.  But it also plays havoc with emotions, emotional stability and relationships.  It’s downright lousy on marriages.

Creative people are sensitive.  More given to emotional outbursts than, say, accountants.  Even on a good day.  And by good day, I mean calm day.  Which are very few and far between.  We’re all insecure, to some degree.  Wouldn’t you be if you stared at a blank screen or piece of paper every day and really had no idea how you filled it up?  Where the ideas came from?  Wouldn’t you be a bit of a wreck if every Tom, Dick and Harry had the right to shit all over your work?  Work you slaved over, like it was a baby you’d given birth to.

So in an agency, somebody’s always having a melt down.  And somebody else is always cleaning up the mess.  Calming folks down.  Employing a lot of the same methods and techniques I have to use in the hospital every Tuesday.

Now, then, here is the million dollar question.  Do you think it might also have been my calling to be a social worker?  Or a couples’ therapist?  Or a hairdresser?  A manicurist?  A divorce lawyer?  I have no idea.  Just wondering.

Do you ever wonder about what else you might have done?  If you weren’t doing what you are doing, that is.

18 thoughts on “Day 225. Another Calling?

  1. And you manage to bring all of the above traits to your comments/observations to the offerings of those who post which I for one am most greatful. (Hope this makes sense)

  2. You made me laugh out loud with this line: “Wouldn’t you be a bit of a wreck if every Tom, Dick and Harry had the right to shit all over your work?” I may even have occasion to quote you today.

    I agree 100% with your parallels between your “real” job and your volunteer work. A great creative director would be a great counselor. Perhaps a career coach. Or a teacher. Any job where you’re tasked with helping someone be their best. (Thanks for reminding me why I chose this job.)

    By the way, Tom Brokaw spoke at my Poli Sci graduation in 1991. While I don’t remember his exact words, I do remember he talked about doing the work you are called to do.

    • For sure you can relate. :). It’s true, though. Sometimes I wonder how we Remain functional. You’re right. We are coaches and teachers and counselors. That’s a huge part of the job; and one I have a feeling you are GREAT at. Wow, it’s neat that Tom Brokaw spoke at your graduation. The topic is obviously important to him because he talked so much about it during the interview. And of course it is important. Your job is where you spend the majority of your time. You should love it; and it should be your calling. How lucky are we, huh?

  3. Fransi – that’s why you’re such a great writer, you understand and find the humanity in the situation. I think the root of all your roles is the same, and if you had found yourself in any of those roles, you would have applied the same insights, and then probably you would have gone home and written something beautiful about it.

  4. I think everyone has certain traits, talents, skills and so on…that can benefit them in specific types of work…but how they answer that pull is up to them, since nowadays there are about a billion different jobs to choose from and a lot of overlap between their required skill sets. Just like you mentioned, between being a creative director and a hospital volunteer – not two things you’d often put together!

  5. To take a stab at answering your question: It would not surprise me if there were situations in your developmental environment that either called for or demanded nurture. I think the “formative years” is a very apt term for youth because of how the accidents of circumstance that affects us during those critical periods in turn affect many of the things we can be attracted to or that color the way we approach our tasks in adult life. This is not to deny the fact that some of us are born with certain inclinations as well. I am glad you found a constructive means to apply those nurturing and empathetic traits. I have seen some cases where nurture has been applied in a parasitic extreme way by keeping others in a state of dependency in order to service an individual’s perceived need to be needed.

    On another note: I admire what you do, and how you write, because that empathetic trait shines through your words as well. They say a non-fiction writer can communicate how it is, and a story teller can communicate how it feels. You have mastered both it seems. Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy your posts.

    • Thank you so much. I’m thrilled you enjoy my posts. I am a product of an extremely nurturing family, and had an idyllic life. Trust me, I say “thank you” every day. So maybe it’s just in my genes. I certainly had lots of examples to follow. And my mother volunteered for years and years and years. It’s because of her I was exposed to it. Not that she ever forced me into it. I loved hearing her stories about her experiences and wanted to do it, as well. I like people. I like hearing their stories. And I find helping people very rewarding — whether it’s helping a young writer or art director become the best they can be, or helping people deal with difficult situations.

  6. Before I read your question at the end I thought of a dear friend who is a family therapist in private practice. I sense the same traits in you, Fransi. Patient, empathetic, relatable and a stable and strong presence…just like my friend. Those traits are so important in counseling and in writing. Terrific post.

  7. I have the privilege of often yelling one of my favorite quotes: “Deadlines are emotional abuse” 🙂 And emotional empathy can go a long way toward easing the path to the finish line. Your post should be the foundation of everyone’s approach to other people. A little kindness and caring gives gifts to both parties.

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