In high school I took one of those personality strengths tests aimed at helping you discern the best career path. When I finished filling in all the circles with my number two pencil, my dad, a guidance counselor, tallied the results. Turned out the test revealed I’d make an excellent card store manager. Not a doctor or a professor or lawyer. Not an engineer or scientist. A card store manager. I could barely contain my excitement.
Nothing against card stores or managers, of course. But at that point I wondered why I was completing dozens of college applications when it looked like I should pedal down to the local mall and apply for a job at the Hallmark outlet.
Last week I took one of those online “What Career Should You Have?” quizzes. When I was done answering questions like, “Do you prefer the New Yorker or Vogue?” and “Would you rather have Beyonce or the Dalai Lama for dinner?” the test proclaimed I should be a corporate vice president.
While the overachiever part of me was disappointed not to get CEO, I was also a little embarrassed. Some of my friends got wholesome careers like “humanitarian” and “professor.” I mean, what kind of Christian writer is better suited for vice president as her ideal job? Aren’t I supposed to be humble and spiritual instead of eyeing my 401K?
I never set out to be a writer. I was an English major, true. I worked a various corporate and non-profit writing jobs, crafting ad copy and annual reports and fundraising letters. But I didn’t consider myself a writer, a “real writer,” because I didn’t write anything creative. Ever.
All that changed when God got a hold of me. I found myself holed up in the basement at dawn, pecking at the keyboard, my fleece bathrobe tucked around my neck to ward off the damp chill. I was writing a memoir, but it felt more like a mystery — I couldn’t for the life of me envision the ending.
God used writing to bring me back to him, and I didn’t have any idea how the story would turn out – both on the page and in real life. What I did know, though, was that once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. No one was more surprised than I was to discover I’d tapped into a deep passion, one that had lain dormant for more than three decades.
Personality tests and the Strengths-Finder and even silly online quizzes have a place and a purpose. They can offer useful insights and information; they can help you rule out certain paths and guide you toward others; and sometimes they’re just plain fun. But they can’t always illuminate your passion, your God-given dream. Sometimes that passion reveals itself through experimentation, trial and error. But sometimes it blossoms out of nowhere, right when you least expect it, like a brilliant bloom in the midst of February gray.