I keep a running list in Blogger of little things for inspiration. Old fortunes from cookies, quotes from books I read, that sort of thing. I realized today I have nothing particularly interesting to say, and actually remembered the list, and thought I’d put it to good use.
“What do you want to be?”
“I would like to be myself. I tried to be other things but I always failed.”
Trying to explain my thoughts on this without people reading the wrong things into it is proving difficult. But I’ll just start where I start and see where it takes me.
Since I was 16, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Before that I was trying to decide between being a teacher, a psychologist, or a lawyer. (Yeah, I know that last one is pretty laughable.) But once the whole ministry thing came into the picture, it all came into focus and became clear rather quickly. And that was the path I was on from that point.
So when I graduated college and started working full-time in my chosen profession, it would make sense that I had some sense of arrival, that I was finally “there.” And I think there was some of that, though it’s hard to say really, because the situation in the church went downhill pretty quickly and most of my time involves memories of the arguments people had and the hurtful things they did to each other. Thankfully, I was almost never caught in the crossfire, but any personal growth and maturing or accepting adulthood that I might have done got put on the back burner, so to speak. And then I moved to Minnesota and into a job where I was very unhappy and really began to question if ministry was right for me. But (to put it in the nicest, healthiest way possible) I was delivered/removed from that situation (OK, I was fired, if you want to split hairs) and the next… six months were more about recovering from that than they were about evaluating my career path. I took the next job for two reasons: it was temporary, and it was part-time. All I knew was that I couldn’t commit more than that to a church, after my last experiences. My “temporary” position lasted nearly 3 years, and I’d still be working there if I hadn’t taken a proactive stance on my future.
Back around Christmas 2004, after several conversations with people (who know who they are and that they’re partly responsible for major life changes that ensued), I realized that I didn’t want to be working at the any longer, but that I needed a way out and a new direction for my life. I ran through the possible careers that involved working with teenagers. I’d already tried several different social work venues through volunteer opportunities, and really wasn’t inspired. Psychology wasn’t the way I wanted to go either. I suppose I could have thought about coaching or music lessons or something along those lines, if I had any amount of talent in those arenas to be able to make money at it. When teaching crossed my mind, it felt right. It was, after all, the part of my ministry jobs that I enjoyed the most and spent the most time on (much to the chagrin of many junior high boys, who would have rather played football in the parking lot all night long). I tried to be smart about the decision, job shadowing to see if I could really do the work all day long (having now worked full-time for five years and knowing what I could and could not handle), talking to teachers, going to the preview night at my chosen school…. And all the signs pointed to moving forward.
Once accepted to Hamline, I turned in my resignation and waited for time to pass. And it did. And then I realized I needed to take some time off, that I’d jumped a bit quickly into the grad school thing and needed a breather. It wasn’t that my decision was wrong or I was doubting my new career choice, but that I needed to take a step back and just be me for a while.
Part of leaving the that I was looking forward to was not attending services for a while. Years upon years of required attendance at 1-2 services every Sunday plus all the special stuff, on top of four years of required chapel attendance in college, just meant I was a bit burnt out on the thing. And I wanted it to be a choice again, something I wanted to participate in, not something I felt like I had to do. Worship should be a joyful choice, not a task or a job. For the most part, I have really enjoyed Sundays off (with the exception that it is sometimes hard for me to remember when Monday comes, because I can’t define Sunday by early morning services anymore). I’ve been to exactly two services since May 22nd, and at the moment really don’t feel compelled to go. And I’ve already blogged about a bunch of this, so I’ll just instead of repeating it all.
That was a very long, roundabout way to get to this statement, which I will explain right away.
When it comes to “being myself” these days (see inspiring quote), I am feeling quite lost.
This really isn’t the personal crisis that it could be, I suppose. I mean, I don’t think about it all that often. It doesn’t keep me awake nights. I don’t have weird dreams that when I throw the symbols into search engines they give me interpretations that are bizarre and confusing. In fact, I haven’t had a single conversation with anyone about this (that I know of, at least). So really, it’s not all that big of a deal.
Life is good. I am happy. I have job security. I have good friends who are willing to put up with my melodrama and listen quite well, and then, at the right times, smack me upside the head. (They’re also very fun to hang out with – girls, we need some margaritas one of these days – , perhaps when we go shopping to spend your winnings?) My family continues to amaze me and get healthier as time goes on. I actually met a boy, despite my complete inability to make new friends or talk to strangers or generally interact with people (OK, that was quite the overstatement – I’m just a little shy, OK, a lot, and have a touch of the social anxiety, not enough to put me into panic attacks or anything, just enough to avoid people… often). I have a new direction for my life that, while I’m not currently pursuing, makes me happy and I will find fulfilling (I can handle being in a holding-pattern of sorts with that for now, since it is self-imposed and greatly needed for my emotional health and sanity).
But having defined myself for so long in terms of church and faith and belief, and trying to come up with new ways to define myself, has left me a bit without a working definition. I no longer feel like I’m on a path (even if the path gets rocky, or one gets turned around and doesn’t know which way is coming and going, or one comes across a fork in the road and doesn’t know what to do). I’m in the middle of a field. A really big field. Generally, I can tell where the field is (to use the analogy, I could get specific in terms of North America – United States – Minnesota). I can’t see the edges, and it doesn’t really seem like there’s a right or wrong way to go about things. Climbing the trees is fun and all (maybe there’s even a swing to spend an afternoon in the breeze on), but at some point, if I’m going to get headed towards a goal of some sort, it will be helpful (one might even say necessary) to know where I am. (I hear directions work best that way, if you know both the starting point and the ending point.)
It’s like Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan, whose hair I am still jealous of) says in You’ve Got Mail:
Sometimes I wonder about my life. … I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.
Good night. (Well, good afternoon. After all, it’s only 12:07.)