This can sound something like a strange word nowadays, but as a Catholic, it was omnipresent during my youth, or at least I thought so. When I was at boarding school, the monks taught us about the monk’s life and how one could become a monk. The local parish priest when I was younger was convinced that I had a vocation to the priesthood. During my teenage years I did wonder, but then hormones struck and knocked me for six.
As i would discover, that drive for sex is a powerful thing. I had been introduced to sex by a babysitter and at 9 years old, it is too young and it robbed me of my innocence. But that is another story and I only shared what happened in 2007, and the first reaction of somebody close to me was, well at least he didn’t bugger you. Therefore, it could have been worse, but I can still see the images in my mind as if they happened yesterday. He wanted me to eat his cum, and I said no, I took back the power, and he knew that dynamic had changed. I wasn’t going to be a victim any longer. Not very pleasant, but as that person said, at least he didn’t bugger me. Small mercies…
That was not supposed to take that route. I wanted to stay positive, and it also shaped me and formed me into the person that I am today. It gave me the strength to say that unlike my abuser, this, will, stop, with, me. Maybe I have suffered it, so that others do not have to.
Anyway. Which is English English for let’s change subjects and take a right turn and not be so heavy.
When I was 6, I discovered my vocation. I saw the Guards parading on Horseguard’s Parade on the TV and I told my father that I would do that one day. I would be a musician and play in front of Her Majesty. I would learn the trumpet. My father said why not go with the horn. There are fewer horn players, and you’ll have a better chance of getting in.
So, I did. I learnt my craft and at 16 applied to join the RAF as a musician. The horror in my mother’s eyes as she realised that I was serious, and worse, ready to go in as an enlisted man and not an officer… Everything was done to dissuade me. I had weight to lose, and by summer, I was ready, and even more serious. That Summer we went to the US and southern Canada, which is a marvellous trip but not good if you want to lose weight. My mother’s first husband who died, had been in the Navy, and had started a business with an old Navy friend. It ended up killing him, and i realise now why my mother was like that.
My mother had decided that my vocation was to do my A levels, and then go to university, and study either business, law, or foreign languages. As it turned out, it was not my vocation either. It was in a pub after a Hull Philharmonic rehearsal, that one of my mates from the orchestra, said well you could do worse than sign up. In all fairness, she didn’t stop me this time, and after going through the application processes, I took the Queen’s shilling on the 4th of October 1991. I was 19. I went through basic training and was back squadded due to fitness or rather lack thereof. I went through the process again and almost made it. The problem was that the emphasis was on being a soldier, which is not what I wanted. I wanted to be a musician. One of the lads in my platoon was having a rough time and decided to slit his wrists. He was my mate. Potentially someone I would have gone to war with, and have gladly given my life to protect. I took it very badly. My idea that this might not be my vocation changed. The band that I was about to join had been out in the Gulf during the first gulf war, as had a couple of people form the orchestra I had known in Hull. Some had come back with the traumas still fresh in their minds, like the guy who had driven his ambulance into a minefield, and as he was being guided out could only think about his daughter. One of the guys in the band was found dead, with a hosepipe leading from the exhaust of his car through the window. It was too much for him. Some of the training staff were alcoholics as the advice of the day, was to het hammered, and forget about it that way. The mental health guidance given to the armed forces nowadays was a distant dream. I though probably that for my own mental health it was probably a good idea to get the f out of there. Subconsciously maybe, I failed a combat fitness test, that sealed my fate and off I went back to civvy-street. At least this time it was me deciding bout my vocation or lack thereof. I remember my OC asking me what I would do, and I said I would probably go back to studies and see where it could get me.
I came back hoe and was told by my parents that my father had been promoted and would be changing not jobs but cities also. I was told to move to Newcastle first, and with no real idea of what my future would be made of, I headed off. Didn’t really have the choice. But I do miss my childhood home and city. Hull will always be the place I knew as home.
My mother told me to apply for such and such a course and to my amazement, I was accepted. There was one of the students that was in a local TA band, and whilst casually having a pint in a pub, the owner said he was in the same band. I joined the Burma Band of the Light Infantry. This is what I was really after. The music, the ceremonial duties, and playing soldiers from time to time. I still knew how to shoot, and seemed to fit right in. That Summer we went to Gibraltar with our battalion, and O irony struck again. The band I was going to join, was on tour there at the same time. I saw what could have been, but I was happy.
It was that year that I finally realised that the girl in Germany that I had been writing to since the age of 13, and thought I was in love with, wasn’t going to have any future. It was then that I started to become a fatalist. I met a French girl that would eventually become my wife and mother of my two children. Things seem to happen for a reason as if God was giving you a gentle nudge in the right direction. I still didn’t know what I was destined to do. However, I knew that this girl was going to be part of it.
I wasn’t destined to complete my studies and became a proper College drop out. Possibly because I was trying to please others rather than myself. I’m still an occasional people pleaser but with time I am getting better, and soooo over it! We had started to create a relationship out of mutual attraction, a good dose of sex, and actually liking each other as people. Virginie was fed up of the UK and didn’t see her future there, she wanted to go back to France to live, and that she would like me to go with her. I was scared shitless. This was serious and would be a massive change. I spoke reasonable French and even now, my written French is better than my wife’s is, as long as I know which words are masculine and which are feminine. And there was me that thought I was destined to live in Austria of Germany. Guess not.
I still had no idea on what I was doing and what the future held and just seemed to get on with life and settle down into French life. Any idea of vocation and career went out of the window.
We got our first flat, and life just seemed to roll by without any set direction. I had asked Virginie to marry me back in 1993 and she said yes. Nevertheless, it was still up in the air. We went to see my parents in the UK for Christmas 1997, and was told by mother to bloody well get on with it, as there is no point in just letting your life slip by. Be proactive and set a date. We did. It was decided that on the 21st of June 1998 we would get married. In April of that year, Vrginie and I did the Catholic tango and I knew that my destiny was to be a father. We had each bought a pregnancy test, and when I arrived home I was told I could take mine back. From that day, I thought right, here we go. God had intrusted a child to me and my duty was to help him become the adult he was destined to be. My father is somebody who lost his father when he was 11 years old. And when he became my father in 1974 when my widowed mother remarried, he adopted me and was there for the duration. I realise now, that the instant that you become a father, you’re a father for the rest of you life. He had set the bar really high for me, but I have always tried to live up to his example. He is a just man, and always ever so fair. Each time I have disappointed him, I felt so awful each time. So this was my destiny!
I have two children. I love both of them dearly and am trying to do everything I can for them to help them develop into the people that God wants them to become. You can’t un-become a father. It’s part of your very essence. I don’t care about a career, as what I do to earn money does not define who I am. My social rank, does not define who I am as a person. Despite the Army telling me I was weak, I know that through my battles with what life has thrown at me, I have the mental fortitude, and strength, to keep going. I have acquired wisdom. I have acquired knowledge. I still suffer from depression but it does not define who I am. You have to keep going, because others are depending on you.
My son is now the age I was when I left the UK. He too has a French girlfriend, and we like her immensely. I wish them both well, and that they too, find their vocation. I hope part of that is to become parents. I’m ready to become Grandpa, and let the next generation get on with their lives.
2 thoughts on “Vocation”
A really enjoyable and interesting read Ian, if a little shocking in the early part. Something like that occurrence with the babysitter must have been awful and the kind of thing that must take it’s toll on you until you come to terms with it and take control. Was he ever held to account or not?
Your life path seems similar to mine with unexpected turns and choices which completely alter things but which in the end you wouldn’t ever change. I’ll talk to you about mine another time but completely agree that what you do as regards work or how you look or any lifestyle choice certainly does not define you as a person.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I once found him on Friends Reunited in the UK. I sent a message asking whether or not he remembered babysitting for me. I remembered. He saw the message but never answered. I now have closure. I have discovered that a vocation isn’t always obvious and that has played a roll in how I parented my son.