A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

The Life We Imagined

Posted on: August 7, 2015

My son and his cousins—all but one of them now in high school or middle school—have started thinking about their future careers. I know one wants to be a veterinarian and another, a paleontologist.

For some of us, the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question lies years in the past. But maybe it’s time to revisit it.

When we were in high school, or maybe college or university, we had a vision of what our future would look like: the career we’d pursue, the neighbourhood we’d live in, the kind of person we’d like to marry, and the kind of person we’d like to be.

How close are we to living the life we imagined? Could we get closer to it?

I don’t mean fulfilling a youthful dream of having a huge house or an expensive car or a bottomless bank account; I’m talking about being the person we wanted to be and fulfilling our vocation.

In about a month, students from JK to PhD will be returning to classes. Programs will start up and new opportunities will arise. It’s a great time to look back at our old hopes and dreams and look ahead to the shape of our future:

  • If we wanted to do work that makes a difference in the community, do we? Changing jobs may not be the answer; we could instead look for volunteer opportunities with a community organization as a friendly visitor, gardening helper, race day volunteer, food bank worker, and more. We could encourage our office to give back to the community by contributing money and/or expertise to a good cause.
  • If we wanted to stay in touch with a few close friends, do we make the effort to really keep in touch? We could go beyond sending the occasional e-mail to meeting up for coffee or yoga classes, taking weekend walks or attending pro sports events, forming a book club or going fishing, or taking part in workshops or joining a weekly recreational league (bowling, golf, soccer, hockey, and so on).
  • If we wanted to make time for family, do we put our family at the top of the list? We could make family dinners a priority, do chores together, attend Mass as a family, and find activities we can all enjoy (game night, movie night, mini golf, etc.). No cell phones or PDAs allowed.
  • If we wanted to live a life in keeping with our values, are we succeeding? We could look at our budget to see if we could give—or give more—to charity. We could favour experiences and stop accumulating stuff. We could make an effort to choose more eco-friendly, fair-trade products.

As a parent, I know it can seem selfish to think about our own aspirations, as though only our children’s hopes should matter once we start a family. But take a look at these words from the Catechism:

  • Work honours the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him…Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the spirit of Christ. (s. 2427)
  • In work the person exercises and fulfils in part the potential inscribed in his nature…Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community. (s. 2428)
  • Everyone has the right of economic initiative; everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all, and to harvest the just fruits of his labour. (s. 2429)
  • An increased sense of God and increased self-awareness are fundamental to any full development of human society. (s. 2441)
  • True development concerns the whole man. It is concerned with increasing each person’s ability to respond to his vocation and hence to God’s call. (s. 2461)

Before we slip back into routine in a few weeks, maybe we should question whether the life we’re living is the life we’re called to live—and whether we still hold certain hopes and aspirations in our hearts because the Lord put them there. I pray that we take some time to consider and pray about it.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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