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Midwinter Musings: A Lifetime of Vocational Discernment


Your Seton education helps you achieve your life goals in a flexible but focused manner by keeping vocational discernment a continual and intuitive process.

Unlike many of my colleagues and family members, I live for winter.

Once the temps drop and days shorten, my attention naturally turns to manning the woodstove.

For me, it is a preferred task, one that I simply enjoy. If you heat with wood regularly, you know it’s not a simple matter of throwing a few sticks and a match into your fireplace and kicking your feet up. It’s quite the opposite. Much planning for each winter takes place in order to support the wood-burning. It is also a bit of an art and habit to start, stack, and maintain the fire.

So, what does all of that have to do with the guidance department?

Answer: Life goals.

Finding Perspective

As you plan for your academic and personal future, the goals you identify now for yourself are important and should remain in perspective as you move forward in life. Your goals do not have to be huge or outlandish. What they need to be is meaningful—that is, meaningful to you.

We live in an age where, everywhere we look, we are inundated with some type of lifestyle marketing. From conventional car commercials to our peers posting on social media, most everyone is telling us what we should think and how we should live. Academia and university is not immune to this trend.

Don’t get me wrong, salesmanship is a part of life. Some of that can be and certainly is a good thing. Ideas and new things can inspire us.

But the world environment is such that it is easy to get distracted from our own goals and perspectives and become obsessed with someone else’s.

Don’t do that. Have goals that you consciously define for yourself. Stay focused.

Focused, but Flexible Discernment

The world needs each of us as we are, as we were created to be—to serve and love God and do the good. How we accomplish that in our vocations is given to each of us to discern and decide.

I was fortunate to achieve what I considered some lofty personal goals early in my working life. After doing so, I discovered that what I had identified as a life goal was in reality unsatisfying and overly stressful. It led me to hands-on work and later to education.

The point I wish to make is flexibility should be considered when developing your life plans. If you choose to be a baker right out of high school, great. It can be for a time or it can be forever. Sometimes you need to pivot. In the end, it is totally up to you.

And then sometimes a vocation chooses you. It just resonates. Not long ago I became well-acquainted with a talented chef specializing in high-end French cuisine. (Note: Friends who are 5-star cooks are good friends to have.)

Soon thereafter I learned that before becoming a chef he was a glass sculptor. His work is now in museums in various parts of the world.

When I asked him what attracted him to glass-blowing in the first place and then cooking, his reply was loud, short, and followed by booming laughter: Fire!”

But he was serious. Fire was—is—his medium and he uses it to create art.

To Conclude

All of this is a long way of saying that vocational discernment is a continual as well as an intuitive process. It’s critical to be discerning, to keep an open mind, and not reject a life path outright if the reason somehow does not seem grand enough. Conversely, taking note of and being responsive to what personally satisfies our needs are equally important.

Simple things, whether it’s working with fire or heating with it, can be enough to sustain you, give you joy, and create meaning as you go about your life. Your Seton education will help you with the rest.

About Nick Marmalejo

Nick Marmalejo
Nick Marmalejo, a history major, graduated from Christendom College in 2001. He holds a Virginia Teacher Certification and lives in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and three children.

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