I was a smart kid growing up. Really, I was a NERD. Studying all the time, making all A’s and exceptional test scores, receiving awards... I was known to always have a huge stack of flash cards with me if that tells you anything. In high school, I felt secure in the praise I received from success.
So fast forward to college which was full of jumbled up plans for my future. Changing my major three times, I obviously did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. Once I made it to junior year, I felt all the stress of the future. I felt self-conscious about what I was studying at the time and felt like it wasn’t enough or that I wasn’t using my brain in the way that I was capable of. I tried to band-aid this feeling by taking classes like physiological psychology, anatomy and physiology, cognitive psychology, etc. While I struggled through it, I found that same security that I did in high school when I came out of the semester with all A’s and a great GPA and the satisfaction of conquering hard
classes. I felt smart and successful and I felt good about maintaining that image. In the midst of my “career-identity-crisis”, I applied for nursing school and was crushed when I didn’t get in so I convinced myself that I would eventually get a masters because an undergrad degree in psychology just wasn’t enough.
When graduation rolled around, I decided to take the year to participate in the Salt Lake Fellows program and spend a year focusing on God, in hopes that this would provide some clarity in a career. However, 3 months in and I feel like I am moving further and further away from actually knowing what I want to do with my life. In reality, I am realizing that maybe what I wanted to achieve in life, or felt like I needed to achieve in life, is not what God wants me to achieve in life. The past few months have been hard- moving across the country to a strange city, leaving all of my community, not being a student after pretty much doing that for the majority of my life. I am in a season of grieving all of this, but also grieving that I am being stripped of the person I found my identity in. Seeking a sense of identity, I tend to reach for tangible things, like an “important” job. But as a Christian, we are challenged to seek something, Someone, who is not physically tangible. We are called to put our hope in Christ because He is who gives us our identity, but hoping in Christ isn’t a concrete thing we can grasp.
I’ve realized how badly I desire to have a clear plan of what to do professionally and that this desire includes doing something important, life changing and successful. But when these expectations aren’t met and I don’t have answers about grad school or about a job after the next 8 months, I am disappointed. In this sense, searching for my identity the past 3 months has been painful. I’m sitting in the tension of the unknown and waiting expectantly for God to make His plans clear to me, but I’m learning that this is the tension that we are called to live in.
The cool thing is that God has met me in the tension and I believe that sitting in this unknown place has revealed to me more of my identity than any of my tangible desires have or will. I’ve seen his provision in placing me at a school that is so uniquely fit to my love of the outdoors, art and diversity; in the opportunity to fulfill my wants that are so miniscule, like learning Spanish, being certified in Wilderness First Aid and even learning more about my bike. I’ve seen God working through my job in the empathy that I’ve experienced with my kids and the transformation I’ve seen through having a relationship with them. If I would have skipped this in-between place because I was desperate for success, purpose and identity through a masters or a “successful job”, I would have missed all that God is showing me now. I would have missed the ways that He has gifted me, for all that He is doing at my school, in my life, in these kids- all things that ultimately point me back to Him, where my identity is ultimately found.
So, with all of that said, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life and I don’t know if I will ever have that clear answer. Instead of trying in vain to figure that out, I’m learning to sit in the intermediate where God brings us to depend on Him more. Sitting in that tension is uncomfortable but I am learning to embrace it, seek God in that place and have faith that He will continue to meet me there.
Community has always been hard for me; living in fear of conflict and confrontation, I routinely choose myself over others because it seems easier. In these first two months of Salt Lake Fellows, I have already been forced out of my comfort zone, living in community and therefore accountability. Sin cannot be hidden when you’re never alone.
I brought my dog out to Utah, a semi-unconventional request for a Fellow which caused a lot of anxiety. I knew I was asking a big favor from our directors and it was a long conversation that did not come to completion until just a week or so before I drove out from North Carolina. In light of that, I didn’t want to bother them with any more conflicts, even though I had a big one. My best friend was getting married in October and I had been asked to be a bridesmaid. Although I was unsure of our detailed Fellows schedule I assured my friend I would be there. However, I wasn’t being honest to my friend or my Fellows directors. I have a very unrealistic “everything will work out/be alright” mentality mostly because I am afraid of the idea that it won’t. Fast forward to our orientation retreat where the schedule for the entire year was given out. I immediately turned to the second weekend of October, anxious to see what I would be missing in Utah for the wedding back home. I read “Adventure Retreat”, and immediately knew it was something far more extravagant than our weekly “Adventure Excursion”. Once I was informed that this weekend would entail a trip to Moab for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, my heart dropped. Big decisions kick my anxiety into overdrive. I would have to have a hard conversation and I had to decide with who it was going to be.
Naturally, I sat on the decision for another month, or if I am being honest, avoided calling my best friend to tell her I would not be flying home for the wedding. As an Enneagram number four I tend to dramatize situations, not intentionally but it always happens and I was definitely dragging this out more than I ever should have. I was living in a constant state of anxiety in September, mulling over the confrontation I needed to have with my friend, but not wanting to do so and my fellow Fellows started to catch on. After talking with Rachel and Ben, who are amazing listeners and advice-givers, I bit the bullet and conducted the phone call that had to happen and it was REALLY hard.
ALL this to emphasize how much this program and this community has continually challenged me since the moment I arrived in Salt Lake City, forcing me to be honest and be open and unable to hide my shortcomings. Choosing to join the Fellows in Moab for a 3 day/3 night desert adventure was immediately so clearly necessary for me and I felt secure in my decision to stay in Utah for that time. That weekend marked our group’s two month anniversary which was really sweet because it provided us with three glorious days of much-needed rest from the monotony of the day to day, to just enjoy each other and enjoy creation. Hiking, hanging out and experiencing a new climate and landscape that, I believe, was the first for most of us, was beautiful. And the ability to experience this together was transforming relationally. I was able to have so many edifying conversations and learned in a deeper way, how getting to know others is a never-ending journey and that there will always be depth to uncover and explore together.
SLF Class of 18-19
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative