An Unknown Future

“What do you do?”

It’s one of the first questions we get asked when we meet someone new. For better or for worse, vocation is how others place us into context: where do we spend the majority of our time? What have we chosen to pursue with our talents? Ask any college senior what his least favorite question is and he’ll tell you: What are you going to do after you graduate?

I’ve always had a plan. Ask my friends and they’ll probably tell you, Becky knows where she’s going, she always has.

I decided early on in high school that I wanted to go to the University of Richmond. I had my application in before the first day of senior year (early decision, of course) and was one of the first in my class to know where I was heading after graduation.

My plans after college weren’t quite as concrete when graduation rolled around but I knew I was going to work abroad and then get my Master of Public Health. I already made a plan with one of my best friends to move back to Boston. I turned my application in for grad school on the very first day submissions opened and found out while living in Tanzania that I had been accepted to my first and only choice: Boston University.

When graduation came for the third time, I thought again that I knew exactly where I was headed. I even had the organization picked out. But doors started to close, one after the other, and I soon found myself questioning whether I was even going to stay in public health.

Three years later, I am working in a good job at BU. I have a wonderful boss who is an unbelievably skilled manager and we work with a truly incredible team.

But let me be honest with you, because as I said in my last post, we really have a lot to gain from each other by sharing these deep truths about our hearts:

I have no idea where I’m headed.

How is that possible? With a master’s degree and a history of planning and goal-setting, I should be steadily chugging along toward professional success. But I just don’t know anymore. Despite my limited experience interning and volunteering with a few organizations, the 8-5 grind is not what I thought it would be.

Or I guess maybe I’m not what I expected to be.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve let my heart become jaded. It’s not that I don’t recognize the importance of my work or that I don’t appreciate the challenges within an organization. i just find it too easy to become discouraged or disenfranchised with the system.

And then I start questioning where I fit into it all. Even back when I was planning and working toward specific goals, I never felt confident in what skills I had to offer. I’m not a finance person, an artist, an engineer, an athlete, a data whiz, a scientist… I thought for a minute that maybe I could be a teacher but that doesn’t really seem to fit either.

Even in my current job, what do I put on my LinkedIn profile? Am I in higher ed or public health? Do I consider my work student services? Curriculum development? Program management?

And where do I go from here?

There’s so much pressure these days to have it all figured out. I’m not looking for a new job right now but don’t you feel like you need to know what is coming next? Someone said in a meeting the other day that everyone wants to be a generalist yet employers are looking for specialists. I see students scrambling to get skills so that they can get jobs. I actually asked a student once if she even wanted to have that skill. Do you REALLY want to do that skill in your next job or are you grasping at it because you just want a job?

We are expected to change careers, not just jobs, several times in our lives. So where does that leave us? How do we plan? Aren’t our careers supposed to be fulfilling? Don’t we have unique gifts and abilities that we have a responsibility to share with the world?

This isn’t one of those posts where I tell you that guess what, I finally figured it out! I have not. And that’s part of the reason I signed up for Threshold this year because it’s really overwhelming to try to figure out what I want to do + what the job market is looking for + what my experience prepares me for. So I’m giving it to God to see what He has to say about it because ultimately, I want to be what He calls me to be, whatever that entails for me in my career(s).

And I’m sharing this with you because even though it’s risky to put it out in public where my co-workers will see it (and I know some of you will read this – maybe even my boss!) and it’s difficult to admit that I don’t have it all together (as I’d love for you all to believe)… I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone on this.

Am I right? Anyone else? Bueller? Bueller?

So that’s my #ShareSomethingReal for today – what’s yours?

Share Something Real

You might not realize it but in our digital-connected age, cyberbullying has become a major problem. And kids aren’t the only victims. My sweet, courageous friend Amanda has opened her heart to the world, sharing her story of weight loss and the bullying she experienced in her teenage years. Partnering with the KIND Campaign, Amanda has reached thousands of people around the globe, inspiring many others on their own journeys to better health and a more positive self-image. 

In her brave openness, Amanda has once again been the victim of harsh cyberbullying. Today, the Maine Sunday Telegram published an article on Amanda, bringing her story to the front page of thousands of Maine households. I’m so proud of Amanda’s courage and faith in a world where people will someday choose kindness over cowardly hate. Please read her story here and feel free to share widely. 

The Gospel emphasizes how God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. By sharing our vulnerabilities, as Amanda has done so beautifully, God can minister to others, reaching deep within us to those dark places that we try so hard to keep hidden.  

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

It’s so easy to make judgments about people we don’t know. It’s even easier to judge those whom we claim as friends and loved ones. And the more we judge, the more we build walls around ourselves, closing out opportunities to connect with each other in more meaningful ways than the superficial relationships so many of us cling to. 

Has anyone ever shared something with you that made you take a huge sigh of relief and say, “me too”? I know this is the experience thousands of people have had reading Amanda’s story. She isn’t touting her perfection and easy success, making the average person feel incapable of ever reaching the same goals. She shares every bump, obstacle and negative thought. She isn’t pretending. And because of this honesty, her success becomes truly inspirational in a practical, I-can-do-this-today, kind of way. Go read her page and you’ll see people leaving comments about how they have taken the leap into publicly sharing their story because of Amanda’s example.

She’s not perfect. And neither are we. So why continue hiding behind our carefully constructed Facebook identities and Instagram-filtered lives? The more we hide, the more it becomes easier to judge and become those destructive cyberbullies spreading hate. When we step outside of our walls, we open up our hearts and that’s when God can really begin His work. 

Let’s take a risk this week and share something real with each other. Choose something that you think others don’t know about you (hint: it’s probably the thing you try the hardest to hide). You can tell one person or hundreds. I’ll post mine on the blog later this week. If you’re into hashtags and such, use #ShareSomethingReal if you choose to share via social media.  

If you’re scared, don’t be. Just remember what God has done through Amanda and draw on her example for courage. You never know who He might minister to through your honesty.