Each month Abington Library will feature a favorite book from a faculty, staff member, or student. They will give a brief synopsis of their chosen book.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
Reviewed by Jennifer Methvin
One common experience of all students in higher education is the quest for finding one’s vocation. When we were children, most of us had quick and inaccurate answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As adults, the reality of spending a lifetime working makes the stakes for answering that question much higher. Make no mistake, even some who have been in a career for twenty years can often find themselves questioning what they want to be when they “grow up.”
Parker J. Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (2000) is an excellent read for anyone who is wrestling with finding the right pathway to a good living and a contented and impactful life. It is a short read, just one hundred and nine pages, but a book that should be read slowly, with an open mind, and with time for reflection between chapters, if not between pages, paragraphs, and sentences. His thesis is that our true vocations are within us, but we listen to the outside voices more than we take time to listen to and examine our own inner voice. This leads many of us to choose careers where we try to survive instead of vocations where we can thrive and make a positive contribution in our world.
The book is autobiographical as much as instructional. In it, Palmer shares openly and honestly about his struggles with clinical depression and burnout. He was writing about “work-life balance” long before the phrase became ubiquitous. He also talks openly about his faith, but he does so without demanding that the reader adopt or even accept his faith. If you look at Parker Palmer’s complete canon, and I hope you will, you will find that he has to write honestly or not write at all. His works are like a walk in the woods or an afternoon spent leisurely on the porch: they make the reader take a deep breath and self-reflect. I have read Let Your Life Speak no less than a dozen times over the last twenty years. I learn something new about myself each time, and I come away refreshed and reenergized.
I am fortunate that I stumbled into community college work and blessed that this work is a vocational fit for my particular proclivities and limitations. I wish the same fit for each student and employee at the campuses of ASU-Beebe and recommend Let Your Life Speak as a helpful read for anyone searching to find, or seeking to refine, a rewarding and meaningful vocational journey.