When my aunt passed away, I inherited a little black journal of my grandfather’s that she had kept. It’s just big enough to hold in one hand, the paper so soft and thin, and his light, somewhat cramped penciled handwriting is fading with the years. He died just months before I was born, and all my life I’d been told how much alike we were, so this little piece of him, traveling to me from across the decades, was a treasure indeed.
One day, I started to read it. Though I hoped for insight, outpourings of the depths of his soul, I got entries like this.
Fri February 7, 1947
Worked 8 hrs today, which went by very well.
Pay day. Fair all day.
These were the makings of life. There was the birth of dad’s eldest sister, years before he was a thought. There were fair and warm days working in a shipyard. There were days work went well and days it went slow. There were days of cultivating gardens and visiting family and, occasionally, missing the bus.
My grandfather was a simple man. He went to a Bible college in New York, wanted to be a preacher, somehow made his way from New England to Florida, and supported his growing family by working on ships and in orange groves. He never drove. His kids played marbles in the dirt road.
And my parents have made a similar way, though perhaps with a little less education and little more money in the end. My dad joined the Navy, spent a few years in Puerto Rico, married my mom, worked a couple jobs before persistence landed him at a local phone company. Forty years, five company name changes, and a slew of new technologies later, he still loves it.
My mom worked in retail and grocery stores until I was born. She stayed home to raise my sister and I. She homeschooled us and drove us around and made sure her little family ate three meals a day. Sometimes she talks about things she wanted to be when she grew up, but she sees the blessing and the hard work of being a mom.
It seems they didn’t make as much of calling as my generation does. We’ve been told we could be anything we want to be if we get a degree and dream big, live life like an adventure, center ourselves in an epic story.
They told us we deserved more than a mundane 9-to-5, that we could do more, dream more, that it’s somehow noble to quit your day job to travel and write and play songs and dig wells. That your story could be more.
More epic. More lasting. Like your own personal Odyssey. Like immortality can be earned.
Well. Let me tell you.
We are none of us entitled to our own epic story.
We are in one, but we are not one. We are the walk-on extras in the grand tale of the universe. We are living in our microcosms, but floating in and out of the scene.
Of course, we do live them. Some of us do enjoy the call to go do grand things. But some of us write our smaller, no less important stories in eight hours of work a day.
Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, freelance writer, and spiritual director. Her words have appeared at She Reads Truth, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms in 2015. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband Chris, where you can find her enjoying used bookstores and good coffee.