As I am about to enter my fourth year writing about my soccer journey from the United States to Russia to Sweden and back home, I am often struck by the feedback I’ve received. Readers have related how some of what I have written affects them, and their comments have also given me new topics to ponder. They have all led me to consider why I do what I do.
About a month ago, I got a message from Kathy Takahashi, an avid soccer fan and player of 38 years. In considering the various stresses I face as a professional player, she wrote: “There has to be something more enduring than simply love of the game. In pondering this, one word keeps coming to mind: calling.”
I considered what Kathy had said. What does it mean to have a calling? Does everyone have one or only a select few? How many people never find their calling? Or how many do, but it is disguised in a way that they don’t realize?
I have a group of friends who often have conversations about their jobs and whether or not they are happy. A lack of fulfillment is often the cause of stress and a catalyst for conversation. I follow the discussion, but as I sit there, leg muscles aching with a sense of satisfaction from my day’s work, I realize I have nothing to add. I’ve taken for granted that although I have my ups and downs, I know I’m doing what I’m truly meant to be doing.
Recently, I’ve started training with a couple of experts in the Washington area, and I wake up early every morning excited to get to work and motivated about what they are helping me achieve. I leave each technical session with Kris Ward with a renewed sense of how much better I can be. And I walk out of the gym after having worked on my strength, speed and explosiveness with Chris Gorres of Explosive Performance feeling exhilarated because I am unlocking my athletic potential.
My friends discuss a simple formula to identify positive work (and life) situations. Think of the times at which you feel the greatest sense of achievement, productivity and joy. Then, using specific examples of those times, break them down to the most generic form of the activity or action that caused the wonderful feeling of success. This is the type of situation in which you can identify your calling and find fulfillment in nearly any field. I considered the application of this concept to my own life.
I love to take a grand vision, a brilliant final product, and break it down to the basics — the most doable steps to achieve it. The idea of progress, maximizing potential, and doing so in a methodical way are almost addicting feelings to me. I am obsessed with the daily steps that give life to a far-off goal. That is why I always say how much I love the journey, and not just the destination.
Takahashi also told me about her work. “And, in many ways, it wasn’t really about me, but rather about something bigger than me,” she said. “I want my work to matter; I want it to make a difference in the lives of others; and I want it to last.”
I agree that part of one’s calling involves the feeling that there is meaning beyond mere personal achievement. Every young player who refers to trying a challenge from my YouTube channel and every bit of feedback I receive about these articles are gratifying because they emphasize my connection to people through this sport, and the influence I can have by simply sharing my journey with others. I want people to feel, through witnessing and reading about what I do, that all dreams are attainable if you have a realistic timetable, and approach things consistently and efficiently.
Kathy said: “Maybe both fear and passion are part of calling. The fear of failure and the pain I might encounter in doing something so far out of my comfort zone terrified me, but the joy I experienced in the work itself was what kept me there.”
I agree. A calling doesn’t mean it comes easy and doesn’t mean it isn’t terrifying to go down that path. A calling resides in the things we are drawn to do for some reason outside logic and understanding. It is the processes about which we are passionate that come naturally to us. It is through our calling that we can make the most positive impact on the world around us. My calling happens to be not only playing the beautiful game, but attempting to share the nuances of my journey with those around me.
I happened to intuitively know my calling when I was 9 years old. Some of my friends are discovering theirs at 27. And other people may find theirs much later in life. Some are able to make theirs a source of income, others find it in a hobby and still others’ calling is to be a parent or loved one. There’s no right answer to Kathy’s question, but everyone does have an answer. It comes in what excites us and terrifies us and makes our life worth living.
Do you know your calling?
Yael Averbuch, 27, a native of Montclair, N.J., will be playing this coming season for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League.