The Best Job in the World: My Own.

Within the last week, there has been a youtube video from the Teen Choice Awards that has gone viral. In this video, Ashton Kutcher tells all the screaming girl fans many things which were noteworthy (if you could hear them around the girls’ ill-placed squeals and screams), including that is name is actually Chris. Who knew?? But among them, there was one thing that he said that resonated with me: 

 

“I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job.” 

 

I think that if this was in any way possible, I would have given him the biggest hug in the world and told him that right now, he was my biggest inspiration. That was exactly what I needed to hear. I probably would have cried and made him extremely uncomfortable, taking “screaming fan” to a whole new level of awkward. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that there’s about a whole country between us, and probably even more security. Be grateful, Ashton. (If you haven’t seen the video, check it out here)

But back to me. First, some back story: on a Friday back in July, my former boss, the one I was so excited to have, let me go because she “didn’t feel I was a good fit.” Not cool. Not cool at all. God and I had many a heart to heart chat about that one. 

So what did I do? I took about a day to wallow in self-pity over my plight (again?? Why the heck is this happening AGAIN???), and then I jumped on the “I-Need-A-Job-STAT” ball. 

By the following Monday morning, I had procured employment as a barista at a local coffee shop. In my mind I was thinking “Oh yeah, I can totally be a barista! I can handle a latte. No problem.” While at the same time: “What the heck?? I’m a nurse! Why am I going to make coffee for a living now??” Suffice it to say, there’s a massive mental battle going on in my head pretty much constantly. On the one hand, I told myself I shouldn’t give up nursing, I worked so hard for it! But on the other hand, I couldn’t (and still can’t) help but feel like maybe this was a sign. Being let go from a job once was a fluke (even though it was for a mistake I made). But being let go a second time…..maybe I’m not actually as cut out for this as I originally thought. Maybe I need to take a breather. I need some time to pray about this. If nothing else, I don’t know that I can emotionally handle the possibility of a third failure or rejection. That’s a hard thing to work through once, let alone twice. 

So now I find myself going to work each day and making lattes, rather than giving medications. On the one hand, I feel much more free knowing that a simple mistake won’t kill someone; it will just screw up a beverage and piss someone off. That certainly takes some stress off.  

And let me also clear one thing up: the coffee shop where I’m employed is owned by a family in the area, and I’ve had several sisters spend time employed there. It’s also been one of my absolute favorite hangouts in Hampton Roads for several years, so working there is definitely NOT a bad thing! In fact, it’s a wonderful thing! I’ve been there about a month, and so far I like the job, I love the people, and I love the atmosphere. Pretty much the only negative is that it’s not a nursing job. But I’m still working that mental struggle out in my head, so right now I’ll stick with coffee and that’s okay. 

But I still have the fleeting thought that “I have a nursing degree. Why am I doing this?” And then I come to the same realization as our friend Ashton: I have a job. That’s a blessing! Many people don’t have jobs, but I do. I am no better than this job, and all I can do right now is try to be the best barista I can be, and give 110% to my job. Why? Because even if I’m not working the most glamourous or the most high-paying job, people notice when I care and when I make an effort. But more importantly, I notice when I care and when I make an effort. I’m my own worst critic, and I want to be able to give myself at A+ in any job, this one included. 

Of course this also gives me much more free time — time which I can spend cultivating all those hobbies I’ve had wilting in the background of my life. I joined my church choir (and thankfully have a boss who is willing to give me every Sunday off!). I played the piano and the guitar for about 2 hours today, and it was GLORIOUS. I spent yesterday spreading mulch, weeding a garden, and planting flowers around a new mailbox. That wasn’t quite as glorious, but it still left a nice feeling in my heart as I was able to send my dad pictures of his now-lovelier garden. I have spent a great deal of time with my family, and for that I am extremely grateful. 

And most importantly, I can spend more time in prayer, which is probably the best gift of all through this. I still don’t know what the future holds for me, and I’ve flip-flopped through many possibilities, but I know one thing for certain: God’s got this. This happened for a reason, and while I might not see it now, it’s part of a massive plan that will all work out in the end. 

But right now, He’s blessed me with family, friends, a roof over my head, food to eat, and a source of income. 

For what more could a girl ask? 

— Virginia

 

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True greatness

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 I was seventeen years old when I finally accepted that I would never be a virtuoso pianist. In a teary afternoon practice session, I gave up on Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1*, after a six-month-long battle with two-octave jumps and finger-twisting arpeggios. I closed the book and put it away, for good. I couldn’t do it.

It had nothing to do with believing in myself, trying harder, or making more time for practice. I had simply stumbled upon a piece of music I wasn’t equipped to perfect, and the admission of defeat tore a hole in me about a foot wide.

To this day, I have to battle a green flicker of jealousy when I see other people, especially young people, succeeding where I failed. I’ll stand on the sidelines and cheer for incredible athletes, gifted dancers, amazing singers, strong speakers, and almost (almost) anyone else who really shines in a particular field. But I spent my childhood dreaming of the day when I’d “go for gold” on the piano, and I’ve never quite forgiven myself for not having it in me. It’s especially hard to accept when other people do have the talent I wanted.

ImageWe’re treated to a barrage of “believe in yourself” messaging as we grow up. “You have it in you,” we’re told — if we only dig deep enough.

And maybe self-doubt did play a role in my falling-out with the piano, but you know what played the bigger — more decisive — role? My own level of talent. Granted, I was good on the piano. If I practiced more, I still would be, and could always find decent work as a music teacher or playing in a church somewhere. But I wasn’t great. And instead of graciously accepting my abilities for what they were and putting them to good use, I buried them.

It’s yet another of life’s many paradoxes that we can let pride and jealousy thwart our good ambitions.

This has been a recurring theme in my life: If I can’t be great, I’d rather not bother. I still catch myself at it, in so many areas. I will never be a fast runner, so why bother jogging at all — even though it’s good for me? I’m not the best writer out there, so how about I quit the charade and let the better writers say it for me? I’m not even the best friend, so why don’t I stay at home with the blinds drawn and let other, more loving people answer their phone calls? Heck, I won’t even sing karaoke because I’m not bad enough to be funny or good enough to be entertaining.

The idea of pouring myself into any endeavor and still coming out the other end only mediocre chills me to my core. Is that what real humility is all about, then? Cheerfully accepting that God may have given you only one or two talents, and he still expects a return on investment?

We so often think of ambition in terms of achieving greatness, but that shouldn’t be the point at all. The right kind of ambition is only about using what we have to do the greatest good we can right where we are. For some of us, that might be nothing more than playing hymns on a nursing home piano on Sunday afternoons, or teaching seven-year-olds the basics of theory. It won’t win the acclaim of millions, it probably won’t even get you noticed, but those aren’t the things that matter.

What does matter is running the race, fighting the fight, and hearing at the end the words that will make it all worth it, all the sweat and struggle and smallness: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

–Mabel

*In case you’re curious, this is what it’s supposed to sound like.

Guest Post: When to Leave

Today’s guest post takes a hard look at a really hard issue — figuring out when to move on from a job that’s not good for you. We all know people (or maybe we are that person ourselves) who struggle with finding fulfillment at work. So often we stick it out in jobs that make us miserable because we convince ourselves that there aren’t any other options. “This is what I’m good at,” or “I can’t make money doing what I love,” or “I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m good at, so I might as well stay here” or “I really just want to get married or find my vocation, so this miserable job will have to do until that happens” … any of that sound familiar? 

As a note from the LifeInTheGap bloggers, bear in mind that these single years are YOUR years. It’s time to figure out who you are, what your talents are, and what makes you feel fulfilled. If you’re spending 40-odd hours a week in a job that makes you miserable, maybe it’s time to reassess. Why have you been given this time of singleness? Are you using it to your best advantage, for the advantage of those around you, and most importantly for the glory of God? Or are you stuck in a rut, just waiting to “see what happens” with your life? Remember the parable of the talents. God hands out the resources, but he doesn’t necessarily spell out how you’re supposed to invest them. That’s up to you to figure out.  And there’s absolutely no shame in being single and doing work that fulfills you. There’s also no shame in taking a job that pays less (as long as it’s enough to live on) if it’s something worthwhile that utilizes your God-given abilities. 

When to Leave

By Trena Pilegaard 

I just got out of a four-year relationship. It was a pretty sorry affair, not abusive physically, but I have suffered emotional trauma from stewing in a passive aggressive environment. In the end, I had even started to question the healthy image I had of myself. Perhaps I am too young. I don’t have any relevant experience. Perhaps I don’t know what I am doing. I stopped putting any exceptional effort into the relationship because I never received the encouragement I needed to continue, nor did my exceptional efforts seem appreciated. The only reason I stayed was that I was terrified of leaving.

And now comes the clincher, this wasn’t a romantic relationship, this was my job. Does it sound familiar now? Have you been in the same kind of relationship? The average American spends 40+ hours a week at his job. If he doesn’t own the company outright, that is 40+ hours of being under the direction and control of another person. If that person is a good leader, this won’t be a problem. You’ll grow and thrive under good direction, you’ll move upward and forward. Your supervisor will expect to see marked improvement and growth and invest in your growth. He’ll encourage your ideas and, even if he doesn’t use them, encourage you to bring more ideas to his attention. Of course there are positions that, by their nature, may be static. A good supervisor will make sure that even these professionals will receive the development they need so they don’t stagnate in their work.  But if you’re in a bad environment with bad leadership, no matter how kind the people are, 40 hours a week will wreak havoc on you.

There is only so much passive aggressiveness a person can take before they break, and early this spring I reached a breaking point. Before I had always found reasons to stay. I can’t find another job. The pay is sufficient. It’s a bad economy. I need the insurance. I should be happy to have a job, there are a lot of people who don’t. I don’t know what I want to do. If I just try harder to be happy… I just need to smile more. I could find a million reasons to stay. But I didn’t listen to the most important reason for leaving – I was completely miserable. 

In different circumstances the reasons I had for staying in my job would have been good – for instance, if I had others dependent upon me or if America was in the equivalent of the Great Depression. But the fact of the matter is there are jobs out there that would make me happier and help me develop my talents. We aren’t in the Great Depression, bad economic times to be sure, but there is still work to be found. And I am a free agent; the only person that is dependent upon me is me. I may starve or have to set up camp under the Key Bridge, but I don’t have to worry about providing for dependents. (And even then, I have an amazing network of loving family and friends, so if I ever find myself under the Key Bridge because something like WWIII has broken out, there will probably be a few of us there together – so even then I wouldn’t be alone.)

It got to a point where it was either my sanity or the job. After a lot of encouragement and prayer from family and friends, I chose sanity. Now it seems so silly to me that I thought there was a choice at all. I should have left a long time before I came to this crossroad. It was amazing how quickly doors started opening as soon as I made up my mind to leave. I was accepted to grad school, I had not one but two jobs offered to me without even applying, and as soon as people found out about my plans, I had their unwavering support and prayer. 

So how do you know when it is time to leave your job? Pretend you’re a fish in a man-made lake, perhaps a river that has been dammed. As long as the water is clear and fresh, and you are able to enjoy your surroundings, I’d say you’re good. With the clear water you should be able to see your goals and move around freely. But when the water gets murky and stale, and it’s hard to see, get out. Not only are you left vulnerable to predators you can’t see, but you can’t even see where you’re going. As soon as I gave my letter of resignation it was like I had opened the doors of the spillway on the lake. Fresh water started flowing in again and stale water was washed downstream. 

Trena Pilegaard is a first-year grad student at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She blogs about lifestyle, favorite things, and other bits of randomness at Sacred Monkeys of the Vatican as she lives out this craziness called life. 

 

 

Guest Post: When to Leave

Today’s guest post takes a hard look at a really hard issue — figuring out when to move on from a job that’s not good for you. We all know people (or maybe we are that person ourselves) who struggle with finding fulfillment at work. So often we stick it out in jobs that make us miserable because we convince ourselves that there aren’t any other options. “This is what I’m good at,” or “I can’t make money doing what I love,” or “I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m good at, so I might as well stay here” or “I really just want to get married or find my vocation, so this miserable job will have to do until that happens” … any of that sound familiar? 

As a note from the LifeInTheGap bloggers, bear in mind that these single years are YOUR years. It’s time to figure out who you are, what your talents are, and what makes you feel fulfilled. If you’re spending 40-odd hours a week in a job that makes you miserable, maybe it’s time to reassess. Why have you been given this time of singleness? Are you using it to your best advantage, for the advantage of those around you, and most importantly for the glory of God? Or are you stuck in a rut, just waiting to “see what happens” with your life? Remember the parable of the talents. God hands out the resources, but he doesn’t necessarily spell out how you’re supposed to invest them. That’s up to you to figure out.  And there’s absolutely no shame in being single and doing work that fulfills you. There’s also no shame in taking a job that pays less (as long as it’s enough to live on) if it’s something worthwhile that utilizes your God-given abilities. 

When to Leave

By Trena Pilegaard 

I just got out of a four-year relationship. It was a pretty sorry affair, not abusive physically, but I have suffered emotional trauma from stewing in a passive aggressive environment. In the end, I had even started to question the healthy image I had of myself. Perhaps I am too young. I don’t have any relevant experience. Perhaps I don’t know what I am doing. I stopped putting any exceptional effort into the relationship because I never received the encouragement I needed to continue, nor did my exceptional efforts seem appreciated. The only reason I stayed was that I was terrified of leaving.

And now comes the clincher, this wasn’t a romantic relationship, this was my job. Does it sound familiar now? Have you been in the same kind of relationship? The average American spends 40+ hours a week at his job. If he doesn’t own the company outright, that is 40+ hours of being under the direction and control of another person. If that person is a good leader, this won’t be a problem. You’ll grow and thrive under good direction, you’ll move upward and forward. Your supervisor will expect to see marked improvement and growth and invest in your growth. He’ll encourage your ideas and, even if he doesn’t use them, encourage you to bring more ideas to his attention. Of course there are positions that, by their nature, may be static. A good supervisor will make sure that even these professionals will receive the development they need so they don’t stagnate in their work.  But if you’re in a bad environment with bad leadership, no matter how kind the people are, 40 hours a week will wreak havoc on you.

There is only so much passive aggressiveness a person can take before they break, and early this spring I reached a breaking point. Before I had always found reasons to stay. I can’t find another job. The pay is sufficient. It’s a bad economy. I need the insurance. I should be happy to have a job, there are a lot of people who don’t. I don’t know what I want to do. If I just try harder to be happy… I just need to smile more. I could find a million reasons to stay. But I didn’t listen to the most important reason for leaving – I was completely miserable. 

In different circumstances the reasons I had for staying in my job would have been good – for instance, if I had others dependent upon me or if America was in the equivalent of the Great Depression. But the fact of the matter is there are jobs out there that would make me happier and help me develop my talents. We aren’t in the Great Depression, bad economic times to be sure, but there is still work to be found. And I am a free agent; the only person that is dependent upon me is me. I may starve or have to set up camp under the Key Bridge, but I don’t have to worry about providing for dependents. (And even then, I have an amazing network of loving family and friends, so if I ever find myself under the Key Bridge because something like WWIII has broken out, there will probably be a few of us there together – so even then I wouldn’t be alone.)

It got to a point where it was either my sanity or the job. After a lot of encouragement and prayer from family and friends, I chose sanity. Now it seems so silly to me that I thought there was a choice at all. I should have left a long time before I came to this crossroad. It was amazing how quickly doors started opening as soon as I made up my mind to leave. I was accepted to grad school, I had not one but two jobs offered to me without even applying, and as soon as people found out about my plans, I had their unwavering support and prayer. 

So how do you know when it is time to leave your job? Pretend you’re a fish in a man-made lake, perhaps a river that has been dammed. As long as the water is clear and fresh, and you are able to enjoy your surroundings, I’d say you’re good. With the clear water you should be able to see your goals and move around freely. But when the water gets murky and stale, and it’s hard to see, get out. Not only are you left vulnerable to predators you can’t see, but you can’t even see where you’re going. As soon as I gave my letter of resignation it was like I had opened the doors of the spillway on the lake. Fresh water started flowing in again and stale water was washed downstream. 

Trena Pilegaard is a first-year grad student at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She blogs about lifestyle, favorite things, and other bits of randomness at Sacred Monkeys of the Vatican as she lives out this craziness called life. 

 

 

The wrong kind of ambition

It has been a running joke throughout my life that when you pray for humility, God will answer your prayer. The joke was usually on someone else, so I never had much trouble laughing at it.

But even as I was laughing, I was also praying — or begging — “Lord, do make me humble, please, but be nice about it.” Translation: Make me humble, but don’t let me make a complete buffoon of myself in a public place.

That’s what I thought I meant, anyway. I thought I wanted to avoid falling down the stairs, ripping my skirt in an awkward place, saying something completely stupid in the office, or finding spinach in my teeth after a long conversation at a party or a business lunch. Marilyn Monroe

All of those things are true, of course. Recently, though, I’ve been forced to acknowledge the deeper meaning in my prayer: I’d like to be humble, but I’d really rather the rest of the world not know what I have to be humble about. I will privately admit my faults and failings and whisper my sins through the confessional grate on a regular basis, but I’d like the matter to end there. Surely my fallenness, characterized by so many rough edges and biting words and debilitating sensitivity and a temper that flares up at the slightest infraction, never hurts anybody but myself. Surely I can be humble without my friends and family members and roommates and co-workers knowing that I have faults.

This is a crippling way to live. It’s also lonely. And looking at it in light of our month’s theme, what does it do to a career?

Believe it or not, trying to appear perfect in order to succeed at a career is something of a non-starter. I say this looking back at two jobs in which I should have put myself out there, or stood up for myself, or even suggested ideas with more courage, but held back for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and jeopardizing my own advancement. I put myself through the ringer in both those jobs because I was afraid of looking foolish or incompetent. It makes sense to want good references and a solid performance record, but those things should never come at the expense of your sense of self. It got to the point where being really, really good at my job was where I derived most of my sense of worth. And that led to me working 12-hour days and throwing in weekends for good measure because that soul-sucking need for validity drove me to take on things I should simply have refused.

Pride kills ambition, oddly enough. That was my lesson, and one I’m still grappling with as I try to establish a more balanced relationship with my career and my future goals. It’s good to want to do great things, to have dreams and plans, but a person is always more than her greatest aspirations or her carefully honed five-year plan. “Doing” only accomplishes so much. And quite simply, even the most competent individual has limits, and yes — areas where she could improve. Going after that image of perfection becomes an ambition in itself, and since nobody’s perfect, it turns into a futile, exhausting endeavor.

I didn’t realize how much I’d succumbed to this bizarre mutation of ambition until one Sunday afternoon this past March. Those of you who know me know that I’d hit a pretty low point by then. I was driving home from church (and skipping out on a brunch with friends) because I had about four hours of work to do, and a phone buzzing with emails from writers wanting to know when their pieces would go live, and if I could please change the third sentence in the fourth paragraph to say “x,” and would it be a huge problem to take out the second to last graf entirely, because it’s too political…etc., etc. I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, unappreciated, and incredibly lonely. I’d been feeling all those things for months, really, but it just hit me like a ton of bricks on that cold afternoon. I had never been so miserable in my entire life.

This realization brought on a bout of hysterics that I’m embarrassed to admit out loud, let alone put in writing. It’s a wonder I made it home in one piece, I was crying so hard. I cried my way through the first full hour of the afternoon’s work. That night I cried myself to sleep. And I realized over the course of the following few weeks that I needed to change direction. This iPhone-cradling, crazy-eyed aspiring career woman with a job that looked great on paper and an interior life that had gone to pieces was not the person I wanted to be.

1999WorkingWomanWhich inevitably led to the question, who exactly do I want to be?

I’m still working that out. I’ve taken a job that leaves me more room to be and I’ve set about re-establishing a toe-hold in endeavors aside from work and I’m trying very, very hard to cultivate a sense of self-worth that has nothing to do with a solid resume, or strong references, or what other people think of me. I’m not perfect, in work or anywhere else in life. And the only way I can move forward and accomplish anything of value is by getting my head wrapped around that fact, letting other people see it, and taking each new day as a brand new opportunity to work on my rougher edges and continue to strive to become the best version of my imperfect self.

–Mabel

Guest post: Ambition — friend or foe?

This guest post comes courtesy of Mary Powers, who works in the D.C. area, and does a lot with political activism. She “gets it” when it comes to dealing with ambition the right way. Should we foster a spirit of ambition, or does being a good Christian require us to stifle it? A great reflection for all of us, whether we struggle with too much ambition or too little.

And today is the feast day of one of our all-time favorite saints, an atheist philosopher, convert, Carmelite nun, and Auschwitz martyr, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. JPII’s sermon at her canonization in 1998 will stir you to the depths. A great saint to turn to when discerning the proper place for ambition in our own lives as professionals in the modern world.

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Recently, ambition has been on my mind. I know a number of young adults who are feeling restless in their jobs or professions and are searching for work with more meaning or their next big step. Naturally, as young adults, it seems that this will be a part of life until we are more settled (especially for those of us in our “turbulent twenties”).

Working in politics, I have seen ambition and competitiveness corrupt people, not necessarily illustrated in their actions (or lack thereof), but in how it has affected them. Their entire personality changes, their inner person seems to succumb to this need and want for success and fame.

As I analyzed myself, I found that I too was ambitious and very competitive. Since I had seen what I did not want to become, I instead tried to keep my ambition in check and move forward without too much ambition, fearing I’d hear people say, “She’s ambitious!”

But, in looking into ambition further, and discussing it with friends, I’ve discovered a new outlook on it.

First, like any good Thomistic Aristotelian, I have to start at the beginning of the argument and ask, “What does the text say?” What is the actual definition of ambition?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, ambition is a strong desire to achieve something; a strong desire and determination to achieve success. So ambition is not an end. Ambition is a means to an end. If a person is ambitious, they are working hard toward a goal or vision that they hope to achieve.

Determining what that end goal is is the first step in ensuring whether a particular ambition is a good ambition, or if it will eventually negatively overcome the individual. Essentially, if the goal that a person is working toward is selfish, what would that ambition be working toward? A goal that is completely for oneself: immature and self-seeking. Contrast that with a goal that is good, and you find that the person is using every means necessary to further an admirable goal, a goal that will serve to benefit more people than just himself.

With this understanding, each Catholic Christian is called to be ambitious. Our goal: To sanctify ourselves so we can not only be good, but be saints and, in addition, bring the Truth and Light of Christ to the world—especially for those who need it.

I recently saw a Facebook meme with a quote from Pope Francis that read, “Dear Young People, Do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you. Do not be afraid to dream of big things!” This is so true. Not only are we called to be ambitious with our own sanctification and in our journey to Heaven, but we are also called to dream of great things and bring Christ’s light to the world. Perhaps God hasn’t shown you how you will achieve this (both sanctification and your exact path in life), but each of us is called to this goal. God didn’t give us ambition to do good in order for us to bury our desire to use our talents; rather, he gave us our talents so that we can use them for all to see in order to bring people to Him.

So often it is easy to fall into disillusionment, because we lose track of our goal, or because we aren’t sure what God’s mission is for us. As a person who likes to tell God what I would like to do, I know how hard it is to discern what He is calling you to do and where to go. I recently told a friend of mine (half jokingly) that I was going through an existential crisis. She responded by showing me an explanation of existentialism (picture below) and I realized that really, in life’s most difficult and restless moments we are not going through them alone.

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We’re not called to freak out and go into panic mode (which I so often do), but to go to God to ask what he thinks we should be doing. What should we be striving toward? What is my goal? Discerning a path forward can only happen and be completely realized with God’s help. We are not solitary beings randomly placed in our station in life. We are loved, willed, and necessary* for our community and society as a whole, only actualized by reliance on God’s Providence.

As I was searching the internet for the definition of ambition, and seeking an answer to the question, “Is there ever good ambition?”, I came across a prayer in a chat room on this very topic:

Prayer of Gratitude

I asked God for strength that I might achieve
I was made weak that I might learn to humbly obey
I asked for health that I might do greater things
I was given infirmity that I might do better things
I asked for riches that I might be happy
I was given poverty that I might be wise
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life
I was given life that I might enjoy all things
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered
I am among all men most richly blessed.

We have every resource we need to use our ambition in order to work toward our goal and telos (ultimate end). But sometimes we have to recognize the fallacy of the resources we think we have. Using our talents and relying on God, we can turn restless ambition into a driving force toward a goal that reflects the mission that God has placed on our hearts.

Now, about discerning that goal. . . .

Mary Powers lives and works in Washington, D.C., and is a recent graduate of the University of Dallas.

* From Benedict XVI’s first homily, 24 April 2005,
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050424_inizio-pontificato_en.html

It’s not ‘my time’

I’ve been doing an unprecedented amount of grumbling lately — both inside my head and outside it — about lots of things, but especially about time.

This guy and I have a lot in common these days.

This guy and I have a lot in common these days.

I don’t have time to work out.

I don’t have time to clean my room or do my laundry (and even when I get it washed I never seem to get it folded or ironed).

I so rarely get any time to myself.

The work day takes up so much time and I seem to waste so much of it.

I climbed into my car at the end of the  day yesterday and set off with a sigh, half thinking about my time and wondering where it all goes and why I always feel so guilty about the way I use it, and half thinking about my evening plans and whether or not I’d remembered to pack comfortable shoes. (My toes were pinched in the heels I’d been wearing all day, but I didn’t have time to dash home for a quick change.)

Over the past two weeks I’ve been using my commute to listen to C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters via YouTube recording on my iPhone, and I plugged in the latest chapter and turned it on. For the record, I love listening to books on tape read by British actors. Maybe it makes me feel intelligent, or maybe I just love the accent, but a book on tape is only half good unless it’s read in that sweet, snobbish, slightly ironic accent. 

And wouldn’t you know that the chapter I happened to be listening to was chapter 21 (or Letter 21, if you’re being exact), which deals precisely with demons making their “patients” feel peevish by allowing them to assume that their time is their own. 

It may be odd, but nothing makes me feel better about life, the universe, and everything quite like realizing in my darker moments that God is laughing at me. That all the issues I’ve been taking so seriously and assuming are my own responsibility aren’t really anything at all, and will I please just let go the reins and remember that nothing I have is my own, not even the hours I schedule so carefully day after day and let myself get so worked up about. 

 

My time is not my time. It’s a gift. And I should start treating it that way.

Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for the needed reminder.

-Mabel

To Boldly Go….Where??

I find it appropriate that the monthly topic for August is career-related. Me and my career…we’ve been battling it out lately. I’m in a bit of a career crisis, if you will, and I’ve really been struggling lately with what I need to do right now.

Do you ever feel like whatever you’re doing at any given time is just a stepping stone? Like you get into a job and you think to yourself in the back of your head (or the forefront), that no matter how awesome the job is you’re not going to stay there forever. And there’s no reason or no logical thinking, it’s just how you feel.

I have always felt like that. I don’t know if it’s insatiable wanderlust or if it’s just me being impatient, but I’ve never really felt like I could stay at any job for years and years and years. Perhaps it’s a sign that I haven’t found the right job yet. Or perhaps it’s something I need to work on in myself. I don’t know, and it’s something I’ve prayed about – A lot. And my prayers keep pointing back to one thing: Africa.

WHOA. *Screeching halt* Go back a minute…….What? Africa?? Have I lost my mind??? Maybe I have. But this isn’t a new idea for me. When I was freshly out of nursing school, I had a nagging in the back of my head that I should go and do some mission work somewhere. They always need nurses in the mission field, right? Well for one reason or another I have never been able to do it (mostly financial reasons; I have way too much debt to be able to take any time off from earning money). And I always sort of regretted that. Or resented it. Or both.

Well that nagging has come back. It never fully went away, but now it’s plaguing me. And by God’s grace, a door has been opened to allow me to be able to spend a year with no income. So now the search begins. Did you know that there is this thing called the Catholic Medical Mission Board? Because there is. And I applied. I applied to a year-long position in Kenya, not knowing exactly what I’ve gotten myself into, but knowing full well that it’ll be hard and unlike anything I’ve ever done before.

Now I haven’t heard anything from them (it’s only been like 3 days since I applied….maybe I’m a little bit impatient?), but that’s also not the only Catholic mission hospital in Africa. So I’ll keep trying until every mission hospital over there has turned me away.

That being said, please please PLEASE pray for me! Pray for my discernment here, and pray that if it’s God’s will it will all work out, and that if I am able to go, that I don’t get eaten by a lion. Or a cheetah. Or trampled by a wildebeest. Also, if you have any pointers or ideas of where else I could look, or who I could talk to, please let me know! I’d love you forever.

And as always, I’m praying for all you, dear readers.

–Virginia

August’s theme

I can’t believe it’s August already. Didn’t we just start June or something? Did July even happen?

Well, the calendar doesn’t lie. 

So it’s also time for a new theme. This month we’ll be taking a look at career and our attitude toward the work we do every day. Is it a stepping stone on the road to great things, or simply a regular paycheck? If your daily work doesn’t drive you, what does? This topic is especially poignant for me right now, as I enter a fourth month in a new, new job, after a whirlwind year of leaving a great job in search of growth, and getting lots more growth than I ever bargained for. There’s been lots of good in it and I’m thankful to be where I am today.  This year has forced me to realize, as I’ve written before, that I am more than my job, even though I love what I do. I am more than my carefully polished resume. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have goals for my future career, or take pride in my work, even though it doesn’t define me. As in all things, it’s a balance.  

We’ve already got some great guest posts lined up, looking at one talking about ambition and another that tackles need to “break up” with a bad job when it makes your life unbearable. More guest posts are, as always, welcome! And please feel free to email us or reach out on Facebook or Twitter (@mb_baker and @Miss_Ladybug87) with comments, suggestions, or anything else. (As long as it’s nice and/or constructive.) 

Also, a shameless plug for the Facebook page — if you haven’t already, please “like” us to keep up with latest posts and other sundry things we post from time to time. There should be a “like” button in the sidebar, for your — er — “liking” convenience. Encourage your friends to like us, too! 

As always, thanks for reading. And have a blessed August. 

–Mabel