If I had to name my crazy, it would probably have to be a proper noun, as I haven’t really found anything else that fit the bill. I’ve searched for what this thing is inside of me that fills me and spills out everywhere else, but I’ve come up short on the diagnosis. It feels like being overwhelmed by purpose and guilt all at the same time. Sometimes it moves my feet for me towards something that looks like an ocean wave made out of fire. It erupts out of me and leaves me exhausted and glowing like a tiny ember. It feels powerful and delicate. It’s exhausting, but beautiful and terrifying. I feel like this is what ministers refer to as “being called”.
I wouldn’t say I was in any way a special child; I was a deep thinker when I was very young, often agonizing over the realization that life is so short, so fleeting, and so temporary. I was never the kid singled out for any sort of leadership training or very many awards. The few awards I did receive when I was very young were mostly for writing, but as someone once told me, “If you can do anything, don’t write.” I let my voice die for a few decades, being pragmatic, applying myself to occupation in a very concrete way, but I’ve always felt this brooding sort of pull. It feels exactly like purpose, and it’s maddening when ignored.
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning nagged with guilt. Actually, most days are like this. What did I do? Should I have said that? Or even worse, “what DIDN’T I do?” It’s a side-effect of having this kind of crazy. Perpetual guilt and a leftover feeling I can only sum up as “If you’re not afraid right now, you’re probably a fool.” It’s like being a leaf in the wind… with a propeller. The world swirls and vibrates with the energy of a Van Gogh painting and I can see how each thing is interconnected. It’s beautiful and it gives me faith.
Faith, when doing this type of work (passionate justice types of work), is like a thick rubber band stretched between 2 pegs that are about ¼ in. too far apart. It’s thin and taut, twanging when brushed up against. The sound is as loud or as soft as you make it. It’s always right there on the verge of breaking, leaving you a crying mess on a floor, then just as you feel it slipping, you stand up. You scream at the top of your lungs in the world’s biggest, emptiest room. You fight for that faith with a howl that will leave you spent and exhausted. The energy around you swirls, and faith answers you. It brings the peg 1/8 of an inch back in and gives you something to hold back on to.
I’ve met other people who feel this way, so I know that I’m not alone. People are called to things; causes, concepts, God, work. People who are called to something describe all kinds of maddening experiences. No matter how folks describe it, there is a thread, a feeling inside of there that I recognize every time. It’s a duality of both power and fear. It’s a feeling of awe, like something that deserves to be trembled before, mixed with a calm that’s equally unsettling. Essentially the feeling of 2 tremendous, opposing forces at the same exact time. In each and every description, I feel the thing as I experience it, and no amount of words will ever truly do it justice. People who feel it see it in one another, and we recognize each other like old friends. It’s the burning desire to try to right an injustice.
I think that there is a reason that humans tend to use the symbol of scales to represent ideas concerning justice. Scales look like what a “calling” feels like- 2 forces, in motion, balancing, trying to find equality. I find that a lot of people talk about this feeling in reference to religion, which also makes total sense. People are called to do the work of the Lord, or called to serve a higher purpose. Ask any clergy person how they ended up going into their work, and you will get the story of a calling. I’m not a person of any specific religion, so I tend to refer to “The Universe” as this giant polar energy attempting to strike balance, but trust that I mean it in that same, exact way. I’ve just given it a name, a language, a way to discuss it with others.
Feeling “called” is as old as humanity. That’s why there are so many things written about it in every single language, in texts as old as language itself. When you feel called, you know it. It feels like something has taken over your body, and you might even find yourself telling someone else “I might be losing my mind, I’m about to *insert crazy sounding uphill battle here*”. It’s being called to action, and it feels like you’re being moved by a power beyond anything your humanity has ever known before. You may cry. You may feel angry. You will definitely feel overwhelmed. Then the ball is in your corner, and you choose whether or not to “answer the call”.
If you do answer the call, I want to prepare you to have every piece of your faith tested at any moment. I want to prepare you to have your heart broken no less than once a week. I want to prepare you to be resilient, and to see, to catch that moment when you’re about to do something that terrifies you- learn what that feels like. It’s how you know something big is about to happen. It’s a unique feeling, hard to explain, but it’s like the ground is shaking, metaphysically, like a glacier is coming up behind you. When you feel that, it means that you’re about to change the course of something forever. You’re literally about to change the fabric of the future. Folks who have felt it before are likely reading this and shaking their heads, and folks who haven’t yet are saying “Holy crap! That sounds like a crazy person!” All of us head-shakers know it sounds crazy.
When you have a calling, it defies any normal logic. Sometimes it feels like a crisis, sometimes it feels like a compulsion. When young people say they “want to change the world”, that is exactly what they mean- they’ve been called or they are waiting for their calling. Nurses and Doctors often feel called to their professions, so being called takes many forms that don’t have to be religiously related. I’m still thinking of a nice pet name for my “crazy”, but until then, I’m just going to think of it as my “calling”, and add one more piece of writing describing the impossible to a long list of better pieces that came way before mine.