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A Nonfiction Column
By Willie Elliott

Callings from Little Voices

Jeff Brown's book Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation is about how we can listen to and follow our soul's guidance in the midst of life. While the book goes to great lengths to teach us how we can achieve this in our lives, many readers will be reminded of those little voices or those strings around the finger that told them there was something they were supposed to do other than the job they held each day.

Have you not seen people doing other jobs that caused you to pause and consider how wonderful it would be to do that? Brown suggests that there may be just one calling, but it seems to me we have many callings in our lifetime. The problem is the risk (and Brown admits there is great risk in achieving our soul's path) that comes with abandoning one path for another. In the world as we know it there is great pressure to maintain a job and provide for a family and community. Yet the little voices keep coming, and many—if not most—are too frightened or skeptical to follow through on the messages that the voices convey.

So how did my job fulfill my yearnings? I loved teaching... but then there were those days. One day I would say, "You mean they are going to pay me to read books and discuss them, then write about books and other subjects and read those things to one another? What a deal." And then there would be those other days when things outside of these objectives would make me think, "There has to be a better way to make a living than this."

I guess there are few English majors who have not dreamed of writing for a living. We read about a writer hidden away in a cabin dealing with nature and his writing on a daily basis and we think this must be a wonderful life. Or we imagine going to opening night of a new play (a play that would make Tennessee Williams look like a novice) that we have just written, which is bound to have a long run on Broadway.

So how do we handle both our jobs and our yearnings for other things. I guess many (myself included) bide their time and take advantage of any opportunities that come along. When I retired, I was able to get a job with a local newspaper, The Floyd County Times. Now admittedly, this paper is not like the New York Times or the Boston Globe, but it had readership and that is all it takes for a writer to do his best. At a paper such as this one, writers are asked to do all kinds of things; but the niche that I found satisfying to me was writing columns. One of my instructors at one of the National Writing Project sites (Eastern Kentucky University at Richmond, Ky) told the participants to write about what they knew. I wrote about the small neighborhood where I grew up and still live. When I picked up the paper each week, I knew I was a writer. I had proof. There I was, photo and all, telling some silly story or experience. And people called and told me they enjoyed reading my work.

Who hasn't dreamed of being a famous photographer? Now I am not one and never will be, but I did gain enough skills to do weddings and sporting events and things of that nature. I made little or no money but that was not the point—the point was to get the work published; and yes when the prints went home and were put in albums and on the walls they were published.

Since I have a masters degree in English, I often think about how nice it would be to teach at a junior college. So far I haven't done anything to that end, but from time to time the little voice brings it up.

And what about those little instances of serendipity that we experience from time to time. Line dancing would have been way down on my list of things to do, but for some reason one day I was coaxed into doing it (rather poorly, yet still doing it) and for three years I have been part of a group that dances, sings, tells jokes and loves people at senior citizens' centers, nursing homes, veterans' homes and local events.

What little voices do you hear? You might want to read Brown's book. It may give you some additional insights into answering the call of the little voices.

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