The other week, a person in the military (not my husband) said, “I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t want to serve their country in the military. It seems selfish to me that anyone wouldn’t want to do that.”
Pretty bold statement, but I had to really think about it. Was he right? Is it unpatriotic and cowardly for people to want to enjoy all of our freedoms without fighting for them?
And then I thought about how I, personally, would perform in the military. Oh, that’s not a pretty image. Trust me, you do not want me on the front-lines of war. I can’t even go to a gun range without having a minor panic attack. Sure, there are other ways to serve in uniform other than direct combat, but there’s basically no position that I could fill successfully. Maybe I could surprise myself, but as far as what I know about myself after 28 years of life, I am not cut out for a career in the armed forces.
After completely rejecting that image of myself in uniform, my response to the pro-military person was that God gave us all different talents for different reasons. If your talents align with serving our country, then that’s absolutely a commendable and selfless career choice. But if your talent is teaching, teach. If your talent is creating art, create art. If your talent is numbers, crunch numbers. If your talent is writing and drinking wine, start a blog.
Not all of our talents and subsequent career paths are cut and dry, but they certainly don’t all point in the same direction. This applies to both the paths among different people, as well as the multitude of possible paths you can follow, individually, in pursuit of any one of your talents. This diversity a great thing. We need that variety of what people bring to the world, or else society wouldn’t function.
Respecting the differences between our talents is important, but perhaps the more challenging task is recognizing and accepting our own abilities in the first place.
For me, recognizing my talents was/is pretty easy. I can sing. I can write. I can talk to a brick wall. I can attract aquatic predators. I can text without looking at my phone. I mean, honestly, my God-given talents are hardly subtle. But people with obvious gifts like me– which tend to be artistic, since that’s what culture notes as “talent”– are often left wishing them away.
Flashy talents are impressive, sure, but they usually don’t lend themselves to particularly stable or straightforward careers. This goes for cake decorators, dancers, florists, painters, creative writers, professional eaters, etc. Everyone who can naturally do one of those things really well probably wishes they could naturally find satisfaction in being a rich accountant instead. Trust me, being born artistically gifted sometimes feels more like a curse, especially in terms of the bank account.
Then there’s the other side of the table. The businessmen and women. The accountants, data analyzers, store managers, real estate agents, government consultants, financial planners, account executives, and all of those other people in professions that actually pay money.
[Doctors, winemakers, pilots, criminal lawyers, and about 5,000 other career folks fall somewhere between these two sides of the equation, because their jobs are pretty cool, but also pretty practical. But most of us aren’t doing anything that “cool” and lucrative at the same time, so I’m really just trying to reach the majority here.]
People with talents that lend themselves to 9-5 careers often do the exact same thing that artists do…they wish their talents away. Actually, many of those people don’t even see their talents as talents at all. They think, “I have this stable career, but what am I good at?” Well, hiya, you’re good at whatever you’re doing to make all that money, so you should probably reassess your definition of talent. Talent can be having the patience to teach yourself new things. Talent can be developing relationships with clients. Talent can be singling out great investment opportunities, writing winning proposals, or successfully managing groups of people.
Talent comes in many, many forms. The point is to appreciate and develop the talents God gave you, and not compare them to talents of others (both in the insecure or the self-righteous way). Sometimes coming up with ways to utilize your abilities can be tough, but if you spend time pinpointing your gifts, then pouring yourself into them– you’re bound to be successful.
Oh, I should mention that just as talent comes in many forms, so does success! Pretty much everything– and I mean everything— has a fluid definition. Perspective is everything, so step back and find a new talent you didn’t even know you had. Then rework the idea of “success” if the one you’re using right now constantly leaves you distressed.
And to those of you in the military– THANK YOU for being willing to use your gifts in a way that betters the lives of people you’ve never met, and for a country that will be effected by your efforts for generations to come.