The Inadvertent Discovery of a Calling

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I spent Wednesday morning bellied up to a table in Starbucks, chatting with a lovely reporter from the Lansing State Journal. She wanted to know about ONE and Ethiopia and how in the world a random girl, living in relative obscurity in the Middle of Nowhere, Michigan had come to be a part of all this.

These were the easy questions.

The hard ones are always more like, “Wait, you didn’t grow up on a farm? How did you become a hog farmer?” and “What do you like about the hog business?” Over the years I’ve come up with a decent spiel for the former, but the latter was new to me and made me splutter something incoherent in response.

I tell you this, because after our meeting I discovered an article on, of all things, Buffalo Mozzarella and it resonated deeply with me; my inability to articulate how this came to be, and more importantly why it continues.

[Craig Ramini] spent most of the last decade working in Silicon Valley, where his specialty was hooking up hot young programmers with the big corporations that needed their digital services. In the summer of 2009, however, at age 51, Ramini had an epiphany. He decided he wanted to change his life, and he proceeded to do so in a very Silicon Valley way: he stuck Post-it notes all over one wall of his house to form (as he put it) “a Mind Map of happiness and fulfillment.” Three clusters of Post-its emerged: large animals, entrepreneurship and Italian food. (Ramini’s grandfather, an immigrant from Italy, owned an Italian restaurant that Ramini spent a lot of time in as a child.) Buffalo mozzarella, Ramini realized, was a hole in the market that happened to lie right at the intersection of his happiness clusters. Although he was not, at the time, a great fan of cheese, and he had never interacted with a water buffalo, he decided that this was his new calling.

Craig and I probably couldn’t have any less in common if we tried. In order to be me Craig would have to be considerably younger, blonde, female, carrying fifty additional pounds of junk in his trunk, and have had absolutely zero previous affiliation with Silicon Valley. Among other things, I’m absolutely sure of it. There’s also, for instance, that little detail where I have never once laid eyes on a water buffalo, let alone milked one. But at the same time, there’s a connection there, one that made me literally laugh out loud in the middle of a crowded Chipotle Mexican Grill upon reading that last sentence.

“He decided that this was his new calling.”

She decided that this was her new calling.

It’s the same sort of connection that had me smirking to myself as I read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly in bed last night and came across a passage where she’d crossed out ‘breakdown’ to describe an emotional turning point in her life and replaced it with something along the lines of ‘life changing event’. The kind of connection where our lives intersect at certain general themes and then go on their merry way.

And for me and Craig it’s the points where a calling materializes out of thin air — or post-it notes — and somehow has us dedicating many years and dollars to something that, by almost all accounts, is utterly crazy.

Ten years ago I’d have probably scoffed at the idea of a “calling”, but today I can’t think of a better way to describe how I ended up here. And the inadvertent discovery of it, by chance and one of those ‘life changing events’, will go down in history as one of the best days of my life. I suppose what I really like about the hog business is that it called me.

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