There’s VOCATION and AVOCATION and it’s important to know the difference.
A Vocation is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified.
An Avocation is an activity that one engages in as a hobby outside one’s main occupation.
Many years ago, I went to college bound and determined to study both theater and astronomy. I dreamed of heading into the vastness of space one day and then perhaps starring in my own made-for-TV movie about it. But interests change and class selections are sometimes swayed by what your boyfriend is taking. And finally realizing that astronomy is mostly math and physics. While I have a healthy appreciation for both, I certainly didn’t want to spend my life nose-deep in numbers.
My boyfriend at the time was a pre-med student. He knew exactly what he wanted to do in life. He wanted to become a doctor, just like his father. And he wanted to specialize in gastroenterology, just like his father. And somewhere along the line, I decided to major in biology, just like him, even though I had absolutely no aspirations of becoming a doctor.
Now before you think my college major was simply a tagalong major so I could see my boyfriend, just wait a second. I actually had a deep love of animals and thought that majoring in biology would be a clear path to teaching sign language to chimpanzees and perhaps becoming the next Jane Goodall.
When I explained my interest in zoology to my advisor and asked him what I should do (referring to the types of courses I should select), he looked at me and replied with all seriousness, “Transfer to another school.”
That wasn’t really a possibility for me so I made due with the courses that I thought might help me: Limnology, Herpetology, Tree Ecology. I ended up spending time doing research, in a lab and in the field. And then I took my love of the outdoors into the classroom where I taught science at the middle school level for a year.
Then I left and never looked back.
My calling in life was not to be a scientist but I use my scientific thinking in my every day life and in all the things I do. And more than anything, it’s made me appreciate the great big world outside. I look up. I look down. I look way up and way down. And I’m always amazed at the things I see that nobody else does.
These are things I try to capture with my phone. I take pictures and I show my son (either in person or on the phone) and I teach him a little bit about the world around him. We talk about moths and butterflies. We’re both fascinated and grossed out by slugs. And we’re total birders.
All of these things are part of the reason I am so incredibly proud to serve as a National Geographic Kids Insider. Think of it as an ambassadorship but for me, it’s really just an extension of my vocation that became my avocation.
Right now, there is an awesome National Geographic program going on for you AND/OR your kids. (I think you should do it together personally!)
It called The Great Nature Project and it’s an attempt to capture and showcase the biodiversity in the world. It’s pretty simple but I thought I’d give you my own directions.
GO OUTSIDE! Sometimes people forget that great big wonderful world outside. Go enjoy it. This is my favorite time of year!
Bring your smart phone with you. Yes, you can use a “real” camera but your phone is always with you, always ready to capture that unexpected slice of nature.
Look up, way up. Look down, way down. Look for unusual plants, animals, flowers, and yes, even insects can be interesting.
Tell your subject to smile and snap a pic.
Upload it to Flickr, Twitter, or Instagram and tag it with #GreatNature.
Want to get your kids in on the action but know they’re not ready to be “online”? National Geographic has you covered. For kids under the age of 13, there’s NGKids My Shot. The best motivation is that they can help set a Guinness World Record (if they submit their photos by September 29th)! Kids love that sort of thing. (And make sure you tag your kids photos with #NGKInsiderGNP)
Of course, I’m a science nerd and I love taking these kinds of pictures anyway. I’m working on getting my son to appreciate all the creepy crawlies as well as the fuzzy wuzzies.
Now, tell me your favorite photography subject whether it’s animal, vegetable, or mineral!
P.S. All photos peppered throughout this post were taken by me on my iPhone and uploaded to Instagram.