11 Ways to Find Your Calling
Photo: Courtesy of Norma Kamali
The revelation came with the washing machine. My mother was a supertalented woman who could do anything—paint, build, cook, make costumes. One day when I was about 11, my father gave her a washing machine, and she was so thrilled. I thought, "What? Here's this woman with all this incredible talent, and she's excited because she was given a washing machine?" That's when I said, "I want a career."
Photo: Fred Collins
I think I knew from when I was about 5 that I wanted to be an artist, that that's what I loved to do. I'm so grateful to be able to make a living out of what I like doing best. I really can't do anything else! The idea of being in an office and having to deal with all that…it's a terrifying thought and it helps me make my deadline. But I never feel that I've nailed it. It's an evolving process.
Photo: Getty Images
I remember my first swim with wild dolphins vividly. It was on a watery sandbar north of Grand Bahama Island and they were two young females, spotted dolphins named Roxy and Cindy-Anne (ID numbers 111 and 109 in my study). Swimming, I heard noises—whistles and clicks—but I couldn't really see anything. And then I turned and there were these two young dolphins right there. They did a quick circle around me and sped off. But then 111, Roxy, swam back and hung in front of me, studying me. I felt like she was saying, "Yep, yep, we'll be seeing more of you."
Photo: Courtesy of Cathy L. Lanier
I'm six feet tall, I was awkward as a teenager, and I come from humble circumstances. I became a single mother and dropped out of high school, and I always worried that people would judge me. When I was about 23, I saw that the police department was giving tuition reimbursement to recruits. The minute I walked out the door of the police academy on graduation day, that was it—it changed my entire personality. I loved working with people, and I never judged them the way I feared I'd be judged.
Photo: Courtesy of NASA
On day three or four of my first orbit in space, I remember thinking, "I get to stay up here." It was this sensation of being in the right place. I knew then that I would be back. One hundred and eighty days later, it was still hard for me to leave.
Photo: Lonnie C. Major
The first time I removed a brain tumor, I was a second-year resident. The gentleman I was operating on had lost the ability to talk, to understand language, and to move the right side of his body. But by the next morning's rounds, he was asking for bacon and eggs and was moving the right side of his body. That is a gratification you never get over. I knew then this was what I was meant to do.
Photo: Andrew Eccles
I live my life day by day with a lot of prayer and not necessarily immediate revelations, because I always think God takes his good time in lettin' you know what's doin'.
Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Department of
and Human Services
I am a believer in the need to take a few risks. You don't get a new job unless you put yourself out there. I'm not suggesting jumping off the tops of buildings without parachutes, but having some willingness to say, I don't know everything about this, but, boy, I can learn it as well as anybody, and I can roll up my sleeves and work really hard. So I'm going to walk through that door, and if it's not open I might kick it a little bit and then walk through.
Photo: Courtesy of Masaharu Morimoto
I had two dreams. One, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. The other was to be a chef. Every couple of months, right after my father got paid, we went out to dinner as a family. My father was relaxed, my mother pleased to be out. I admired the sushi chefs, who looked very cool in their starched white jackets behind the sushi bar. That was one of my happiest times as a child.
Photo: Gary B. Garman
I remember going to the park to play basketball with the boys. We were in high school, and I was one of the top three picked to play—me, and two boys. I was like, "This is what I need to be doing. And I want to get better at it."
Photo: Jean-Christian Bourcart
Sometimes you have to descend into the true depths of depression before inspiration strikes. When I was a senior in college, I descended into an incredible funk. I didn't know what I wanted to do after I graduated. Then one day it hit me: I wanted to teach in low-income communities. I knew I wasn't alone in this desire. So I set out to create a national teaching corps. The minute I thought of it, I became obsessed with the idea. I knew this was it.
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