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Personal Vision: Finding My Vocation

The condensed edition of my story is that Ula Kuras, photo editor at World Pulse contacted me in October 2010, about obtaining usage rights for a photograph of the Women’s Garden in Kabul, Afghanistan that she had seen on Flickr.

The journey that led me to the World Pulse online community is more circuitous.

On March 20, 1975, a U.S. Air Force C-141A Starlifter crashed into Mount Constance, on the Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State killing all sixteen servicemen on board. Among those onboard were three USS Coral Sea sailors who were returning home on leave. One of the sailors was my dad.

I was in my junior year at Alameda High School and had just turned 17. I had four younger siblings between the ages of 10 and 16. My mom was devastated. She remarried within a short period of time to a 60‘s hippy-type, Volkswagen Bus driving, part time Methodist minister. A man who was almost the complete opposite of my dad. In retrospect, I believe that she was overwhelmed at the prospect of raising five children alone as a young 34 year old widow.

One of the immediate effects of losing my dad was that career planning; taking vocational aptitude tests, consulting with guidance counselors and filling out college applications was put on hold. I had no idea what to do next. I enjoyed competing on my high school track and cross country teams. International affairs interested me. I thought that I might like to work for the United Nations. In a moment of desperation I even made an appointment to speak with a Navy recruiter.

Bored at my job at Winchell’s Donuts, I bought a ticket on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train to Seattle. I rode the blue Schwinn bicycle that my mom had given me for high school graduation down the Bicentennial bike route from Seattle to San Francisco.

I eventually went to work at the Post Office as a letter carrier. In 2001, I enrolled at Arizona State University on a re-entry scholarship where I earned a BFA in photography.

My mom and I talked a lot about my struggle to find a fulfilling vocation.  

On one occasion when I arrived at her apartment she had typed up a 'prayer to St. Jude for employment' which she presented to me;

‘Lord Jesus, my desire to work is itself your gift.  You made me with talents so I could shine your light to all the world.  Send your spirit to guide me to work that will provide security and joy and most of all the ability to serve you in love...’

I was inspired to apply for the Voices of the Future citizen journalism training program because I want to do ‘work that will provide joy and the ability to serve.’ I would like to be an investigative journalist of the caliber of veteran journalists Seymour Hersh, Joe Nocera and Matt Taibbi.


YAOtieno's picture

I salute your mum

Hi Susan,

I salute your mum for saying prayers for you and the tough situations you have been through. It is never easy being a widow anywhere in the world. I am glad you are getting inspiration from her prayers!



A candle looses nothing my lighting another

bouchmd's picture

Interesting Story

Hi Susan,

Thank you for taking the time to share your story. It is always hard to write about a loss and to persevere through it. I applaud your strength!


Deewai's picture

I think you have a lot to

I think you have a lot to offer :) Continue the good work.

Maria_T's picture

Great story!

I think many can relate to your story of looking for a fulfilling vocation. Good writing!


Lisa T's picture

Best of luck!

Thank you for sharing your story! I wish you the best of luck in your journey and I hope you reach all of your goals as a journalist. I look forward to reading more of your journal entries!

jujujoint's picture


i found your article thru a search engine, looking for a tool to help my daughter zero in on a vocation. she has similar desires and skills as you (wants to be of service, while having her needs met; she's also a photographer). i appreciate your posting this, and have recommended it to her.

thank you!

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