Vocation and Place

I have been in my new region, but temporary apartment, for almost seven months.  I have finally been able to locate myself in regional space.  I live in an area called the North Shore.  But throughout much of time here I have been trying to decide where I want to locate myself more specifically–where do I want to buy a place to live?  Do I want to live in one of the more urban environments—Salem or Lynn—or in a small town like Ipswich?

Since reading the book Make Your Job a Calling by Bryan Dik and Ryan Duffy I have been thinking about the connection amongst these choices, vocation, and sense of place.  I have lived in many different kinds of environments:  houses in small towns in the Midwest; remote New Zealand island; high rise apartment in Hong Kong; manor house in rural England; small lot houses in an intermediate-sized American cities; suburban apartments and more urban apartments;  dormitories;  a condo;  rural line settlement in the Southern U.S.  No wonder I have trouble answering the questions for myself—What is my preference?  Do I want to live in an urban setting, a rural setting, or a small town setting?

Dik and Duffy make several comments that have gotten me thinking.  They say:  Work needs to be a good fit for you, but also for your life and its transitions.  Your calling, or work links you to the larger community and provides an arena for using your gifts with purpose for the common good.

When I look through the list of environments where I have lived, I realized that it wasn’t the particular environment that was key to my satisfaction, but rather its connection to my work.   My work has connected me to a community in a place.  My satisfaction and choices have been made based on how it will fit with my work and my family rather than something inherent to “type.”

I have to say that I am a bit unsettled by the idea of moving to a place without work to shape my engagement with the larger community.  I think I would feel a bit “placeless.”  Because of my work here I have become connected to the public library system through a collaboration, met many people involved in science-related industry who represent the local economy, and had lunch with colleagues in similar positions at other institutions close by.  I’ve met people connected to local historic preservation and met local politicians because of some of our programs.  My sense of the place has grown through this growing network that arises out of my vocation.  What would my encounter with the North Shore look like without meaningful work?  Would I just know where the shopping centers and restaurants were?

There is something inherently satisfying about meaningful work that deepens your understanding and connection to a place.  I live on the North Shore.


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