Being from the Bible Belt, that’s really saying something. But a man who predicted the unpredictability of tornados, hail, ice, lightning, sideways rain, and the kind of wind we Okies call a light breeze but could be considered hurricane force in other parts of the country will make a believer out of you.
For 40+ years, Gary England was on the news, sometimes for multiple 24 hour news stretches. He calmly guided us through the tense waiting periods of green skies to howling winds to recovery. You knew long before the sirens blew whether or not to get to your “hidey hole” (*cellar) or when it was safe to come out and watch the fun from your roof (complete with a drinking game for each season such as the winter edition, tornado season, or summer of drought and locusts to name a few). In addition to helping countless people drink beer, Mr. England pioneered incredible, ground-breaking technology and research around meteorology and frankly screwed the pooch for all other weather forecasters who had an Oklahoman move to their territory (DC, I’m looking at you!).
And by all accounts, he loved it. Not just his job, but the everything around what he did that embodied his job. On a average day, the man changed the way that weather forecasting is done, but I believe that because of the dedication and calling he had for his work, he reached a pinnacle that few of us get to experience (and saved numerous lives while he was at it).
Mr. England retired last fall, shortly after some of the worst twisters my state has ever seen rolled through and tore the roots out of homes, schools, and livelihoods that have been there since the Dust Bowl. Reading through this great article by the NY Times profiling Gary shortly before retirement, you’ll hear him say that his heart just wasn’t in it anymore. His calling had become his career.
Now many of us may not have found our callings yet, but I know most of us can pinpoint when our hearts aren’t in in anymore. I think it actually comes shortly before the extreme burnout that says “okay self, it’s probably time to find something else to do”. I recently went through something like this where while I still feel passionate about the community and subject matter, I just couldn’t anymore. My heart wasn’t there, because I was just worn down and my calling (a love for curation, planning, and community interaction) turned into a career that I dreaded showing up for. And I’m sad to say that it showed in the way that I planned and executed a few things, from a short term perspective.
As I was reading through some feedback about the event, I was grateful for the things that I could see being a long term success that are now in more “call driven” hands. I can feel satisfied that I laid a groundwork, back when I was enthusiastic and feeling the drive and that I left at a time that allowed the right people to move forward with the next steps.
In an 1867 letter to Harrison Blake, Henry David Thoreau writes that “It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?” I love this quote because it really helps single out a question we should always be asking ourselves as we go about our lives. We shouldn’t just do the tasks and to do lists that make up our daily lives if we have no purpose. And for us to have purpose, I believe you should be following your calling.
So what are you industrious about?