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I Followed the Path

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When the only project that interested me was a book on discerning a new path in life, I probably should have known that my job in publishing was not going to last. But we don't always see what is right before our eyes. Luckily, I had some help along the way, in a form that I don't think my employers could have expected.

I was working as an assistant editor at the time, with the mandate to find authors for our program and a very vague idea of how to do this. By chance, I came across a passage from Sister Joan Chittister, fortuitously given as a reflection for my birthday -- We are what we are, but the gift of self unfolds as we go, often slowly, always with surprise -- and I could not get it out of my head. I took a shot and reached out to her, and I was thrilled when it turned out she had plans to write on just this subject.

And so was born "Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy." And so died my career in publishing. Because working on Sister Joan's book I came to see that editing was not my call. I learned to respect my discomfort as an editor and my deep sense that there was something else I was meant to do, and it no longer seemed so necessary to stay in the safe position that I knew. The spirit was calling me elsewhere, and Sister Joan helped me to see that God did not desire that I fight this feeling, actually quite the opposite was true -- God wants us to trust ourselves.

I started to pay more attention to what energized me, finding myself most engaged in the act of listening to others and in psychology night classes I was taking, and so I followed this feeling of connection and decided to go back to school to train as a counselor. Perhaps most importantly, I started to see this search in a spiritual context, and to believe that my interests and my gifts had a meaning beyond happenstance, a sense which continued to grow with time.

I was accepted into a graduate program and enrolled, and was set to start before "Following the Path" even made it to stores, leaving me with the challenge of telling Sister Joan that I would not be there to see her book through to release (a conversation no editor wants to have).

She was not upset, however, to my great relief. She laughed and gave me her blessing. And I learned that later she told the team, "This book must be good, it convinced my editor to quit!"

I can't think of a better endorsement.

John Burke is a graduate student in mental health counseling. He previously worked as an assistant editor at Image Books, where he acquired Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy by Sister Joan Chittister.