Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's all business, or is it?

I love how words often give themselves away in their very syllables, in the way they sound and how the letters all flow together.

If you ever taken a creative writing course I bet that you've talked a little bit about Anglo-Saxon vs. Latinate words. In short - some of the words that have made their way to the 21st century version of English are predominantly rooted in the latin, or Roman, occupation of England - that is the words of the rulers  - the church, the government, the nobility. And others, are primary rooted in the language of the common people - the people of Angleland. One used an ornate language, the other used a language that was quick and to the point. Together - you've got a complex language.

So let's take a look at a few words - job, career, vocation, and profession

Job - the etymology here is that it's something you produce and then you are done. It's a job. You needed to build a fence, make a sculpture, teach a class, do something - until the job is done. Then it's over.  On a connotative level - it doesn't sound enjoyable. It's purposeful in that it usually has a salary - but it's just a job - it's just something you do.

Career - I didn't see this etymology coming - but "career" comes from the racetrack. In the 1530s it meant "a running course."  This is so America to me. It doesn't surprise me that the word America most often seems to use for our salary-producing endeavors is this one. High schools and colleges have "career planning." We're admonished to have a career - not just a job!  Set a course! Make a plan! Run the race! Finish first? This was teaching for me. I got my degree, my certification, and my government job. Salary steps were outlined for the next 30 years. Retirement plan was good. Pay was adequate. And while the school years were non-stop busyness - we did get a few weeks a year to just chill.  It was a path and a plan and I knew where I was going and what the finish line was.

It was not, however, my vocation.

Vocation - love this word! Literally, "a calling." It has nothing to do with producing anything or having some set course - it's all about the calling. It doesn't even have the need for any kind of salary - - there are so many vocations in this world where the return and reward is anything but monetary.

That's how I feel about my life now - that I have a vocation. Working with a non-profit I get to do a lot of things that I really truly feel are important and that fit with my gifts, skills, interests, and abilities. I do feel it's where I've been called - even if some moments it feels like a job- - and I worry at times about it's potential as a career.

and perhaps one day I'll be confident enough to call it a profession -

that is - - something I can "profess" to be skilled in. ;-)