A chapter closed

Another one of my sisters got married at the end of last month. Maybe it’s because my sisters are so close to me, so involved in all my most important memories, that I struggle to take their weddings seriously. Every time I have to remind myself that this is real; I stand in the vestibule ten minutes before it all begins pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

Weddings in general tend to leave me a little dazed. They happen so quickly — after months of preparation and flurry and nerves on edge, two people whisper those conclusive words, exchange rings, smile for photographs, hug distant relatives, dance and eat cake, and somehow, in just a few short hours, the Change happens. A bridge crossed, a door closed, a new chapter begun. 

Maybe all big changes are like that. Months and even years of preparation, inner turmoil, questions and fears, and suddenly everything converges in one sharp point. There’s only this moment, a decision, a quick, almost innocuous action, and the rest is what you make of it. 

I find, as so many things draw to an end before I set off on this discernment journey, that I want all of my goodbyes to have meaning, to betray even a fraction of the real thoughts and feelings I’ve been too nervous — or too proud — to show up until now. I’m consistently struck by how little of myself I’ve shared with the people I love most. Why do we struggle to be real with one another? Perhaps it’s more fair to ask, why have I always struggled to be real?

Words just fall flat at a certain point. I’m afraid that’s my only excuse for the long silence on this blog, and for awkward goodbyes in person over the last month. Before certain realities, one has to be silent.

Despite the frustrations, the long bouts of loneliness, the pain of unanswered questions, I have loved my life in the gap, and I’m going to miss it. It’s good to feel the sting of this goodbye; it means I’m not running away. All the best things in life require some sacrifice. As one dear friend reminded me just this weekend, the most important things are also the hardest. 

Please pray for me as I enter formation. Know of my prayers for you (and please feel free to email me with any particular intentions that I can carry with me when I enter in August). 

Friends, readers, I want to thank you in a special way for several wonderful years on this blog. Thanks for your encouragement, your comments, and your particular insights about life as single young adults. This is the last post on Life in the Gap — another chapter closed. I pray that we will all be open to answering God’s call, even as we persevere in the silence for as long as he asks it of us. May we always be generous. May we give our hearts away in love. May we set the world on fire. 

God bless you all,

Mabel

 

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“Delighting in the sons of men…”

“Rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the sons of men.” – Proverbs 8:31

An old spiritual director once counseled me to “seek to delight in the other.” The advice had something to do with openness to dating and letting my guard down, and I’m afraid at the time the words fell on largely deaf ears. That’s not to say they didn’t sound nice in theory — “delight in the other” has a sort of Garden of Edenesque trill to it that’s lovely all on its own.

But to delight in another person, whether romantically or simply as one child of God encountering another, has never come naturally to me. Maybe it feels a bit like taking a liberty. Admiring someone is one thing, because it maintains a respectful distance. Delighting in a thing means immersing yourself in it, digging your hands in it up to your elbows, throwing it in the air and catching it again, tasting it, laughing out loud over it, hugging it close to your chest, smothering it with kisses.

In other words, delight is a shameless, childlike, generally pretty messy process. And one can’t delight in another person without being a bit shameless, childlike, and yes — messy.

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But reflecting on my chosen theme for January, I realized that learning to find the face of Christ in others has to start with learning to delight in them. Of course, this is easy to do when you’re dealing with babies or small children or pleasant, loving people who are pretty obviously delightful in and of themselves. But what about the less-than-delightful people we encounter on a daily basis? The grocery store cashier who looks half dead, the jaywalkers, the drivers who cut you off on your morning commute, the old woman who sits right behind you in chapel and smells like mothballs and whispers all her prayers aloud until you can hardly think.  

Delight can be even more challenging when you don’t feel all that delightful yourself. I realized that in a more poignant way than ever this weekend. I helped to organize a black tie event with some friends, and somehow being in a social situation surrounded by people in their best clothes left me feeling irritable and shoddy. Other people thrive in lively scenes like that; the older I get, the more I want to run away about twenty minutes after the party starts. I’m afraid “delight” was about as the farthest thing from my mind that evening.

But it’s not just black tie social events. I make a point of surrounding myself with delightful people all the time, from my household to my closest friends. It’s a great practice, until I inevitably start comparing myself with them; then I just become sour. And the sourer I feel in comparison with my delightful friends, the less able I am to delight in anybody else. I’m just a quivering bundle of resentment.

Yet it’s that delight in others and even in ourselves as children of God that is the key to real Christian charity–the charity that changes hearts and stays lodged in our memory for the rest of our lives. Just think of saints like Bl. John Paul II: he delighted in people, and people never forgot it.

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I guess the challenge lies in really delighting. Delight can’t be forced. Do we simply go through the motions and hope the real feelings will follow? I think instead we have to go back a few steps and work on other attitudes first — like gratitude, service to others, and charity. And we have to be okay with being like children, unafraid of what others will think of us, unafraid to see and rejoice in the goodness of other people.

 

Profile No. 23: Will Edmonson

Profiles in the Gap
Will Edmonson
 
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Will Edmonson is a Catholic young adult living in the heart of Dallas, TX. You can follow his personal blog at willedmonson.co or follow him and a group of other Catholic young adults at saintableblog.com.

1) Did you expect this time of singleness? 
No, not really. When I was 19 or even younger I thought marriage was just around the corner and that I would certainly be married by the time I was 25. In my late teens and early twenties, the thought of life after college seemed like a ship leaving port and the safety of a bay that it has known really well over the years; but now the ship has to explore a wider world and expose itself to the dangers that lie in a world somewhat unexplored. I did not see myself being 30 and single. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, though. I’m more comfortable being single now that I was eight years ago. 
 
2) If so, is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing? It’s been exciting and sometimes feels like a privilege compared to my married friends because of my availability and openness to what the world offers to me. I can’t sit at my apartment all day because I’d go nuts, so it forces me to get out and be active in the world (hopefully for the better). I recently started a second graduate degree and I’ve taken on more extra activities and responsibilities just because I have the extra time compared to someone with a spouse. Basically I like the breadth of the lifestyle, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve lived into the strengths of being single rather than wallow in what I don’t have. 
 
3) Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? There’s a sharp divide between my day job and what I do outside of that. I read an article that changed my view on all of this, particularly the idea that ideally we need to find our passion and somehow make money at it. Making money at what I’m passionate about somewhat taints the passion because there’s now a business angle to it. I like that I help teach an RCIA class and read and blog and make no money at it because I don’t have to worry about return on investment and meeting certain financial demands at those things. 
 
Basically over time I’ve become more comfortable with having a day job that I love, but it’s not where I find meaning and purpose in life. It’s one of many things, and I find more subtle ways of living out my faith in that environment while having more explicitly ministerial activities in other areas outside of work. The term “career” means much different things to our generation than to previous ones because of how many things we can do from our home, particularly because of the internet. 
 
4) How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? I saw in college a crossroads of growing deeper in my faith or embracing a kind of agnosticism/hedonism that a lot of young adults embrace in our time out of a lack of thinking about these issues or just general laziness (not to say that all hedonists or agnostics are lazy intellectuals, but people seem to lapse into those belief systems when they stop thinking about God). Young adults are faced with a spiritual famine or a spiritual feast, and that starts in college; the choice is made daily on whether we’ll live into that or not. We are highly autonomous, and we have a ton of free time that we won’t have later in life (until we’re retired at least), so the potential to devote that time and energy to our faith can pay huge dividends later in life and in the present. 
 
5) Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself? If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear? I’d like to write and create more. I know I waste a ton of time on indulgent things that have no lasting value (Netflix binges, video game marathons, staying out too late with friends). I challenge myself to have a disciplined life, and to keep myself accountable in a way a spouse would notice or anyone I would live with would see. The life of a single adult requires a vast amount of self-motivation to be successful because accountability isn’t living and sleeping next to us every night. 
 
I try to use my time to its most potential. To be honest, in many ways this past year was conquering many of my fears and I see them as nascent attempts at lifelong pursuits of mine, one being my blogging and the other being my participation in RCIA and my teaching role there. It’s been a growing year for me, but before that there is fear that’s hard to overcome largely because of hurts and failures we hold onto from our past. Those are legitimate fears in some ways because failures hurt, but it’s not the end of the world, which is something I learned as I got on with life. 

Profile No. 22: Bill Gonch

Profiles in the Gap

Bill Gonch

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Bill Gonch lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area

Did you expect this time of singleness?  

I expected to be single, but I expected a different singleness.

The whole time I was growing up I was an atheist. I had some vaguely defined plans for what I’d do in my twenties, but they all involved my career, interests, hobbies, fun. I figured I’d get married someday, but I didn’t think too much about the timeline. More to the point, I didn’t think of using my twenties for anything other than whatever I happened to want.

Then, when I was almost 22, I learned that God exists.  I remember one night shortly after that: I was looking around at things in my room, realizing that each one of them was held in existence by a direct, constant act of God’s will. If He stopped perpetuating granting existence to my desk…pop! No more desk!

I grabbed my desk. I don’t want to tell you how long I held it.

You see, when I first believed in God, everything changed. I mean literally everything: every single thing that I could see or touch or smell was a different thing than it had been before I knew that God exists. Before, things were just things—they were brute physical reality, and I thought about them or didn’t depending on whether I needed them for whatever I wanted to do.

But now, every thing that was depended on God’s action for its existence. Every thing is a gift from God: rain and sunrises and scotch tape and earthworms and my sourpuss great-aunt. It was like I’d moved to Mars. (Oh, right, Mars is a gift, too.) I spent my twenties in an entirely different world than I’d lived in as a kid. By the time I’d started exploring the new world—which is the real world—any expectations that I’d had up until that time were gone.

If so, is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing? 

It’s been wild. I haven’t gotten married, but here are a few things I’ve done.

I’ve met incredible friends—people who are so good that they make me want to be better. Some people I know are so good that it frightens me, the way Aslan frightens the Pevensie children in Narnia.

I’ve sat with homeless men in a park late at night, giving out sandwiches and talking about our families.

I’ve learned—maybe it’s shameful that I needed to learn this, but I’ve learned—that homeless men have families, that they see them and care about them.

I’ve helped a man get off the street and into a homeless shelter.

I’ve learned that the devils who keep men on the street are beyond my power to defeat, and often beyond those men’s power, but not beyond God’s power.

I’ve organized church groups.

I’ve learned that I’m really bad at organizing church groups.

I’ve learned to pray the Hail Mary.

I’ve learned that one of Mary’s titles is “Exterminatrix of Heresies,” and that there’s a painting of her beating down a demon with a giant club.

I’ve been one of the crazy people who prays the rosary outside of abortion clinics, and I’ve learned that the stereotypes of those people are very far from the truth.

I’ve seen a woman approach an abortion clinic and then change her mind, deciding to bring her child into the world, because of things that my friend said to her.

For three years I lived with the Blessed Sacrament in my house. In my house!

I’ve counted among my friends men who wear brown dresses, giant rosaries, and no shoes. I’ve learned that they’re called “friars,” not “monks.”

I’ve become the godfather of little boy whose soul is immortal.

It’s been wild.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? 

I’d have found a lot more if I’d listened to what God was telling me.

There’s a passage in A Man for All Seasons that has been playing in my mind for the past several months. Richard Rich has been seeking a position in the government from Sir Thomas More, but Thomas refuses, believing (rightly) that Rich does not have the moral fiber for an intrigue-ridden court. Instead, he offers to appoint Rich to a teaching position. He says, “You’d make a good teacher, Richard. Perhaps a great one.”

Rich: “But who would know?”

Thomas: “You, your students, perhaps your colleagues, God. Not a bad public, that.”

I came to DC to work in policy two-and-a-half years ago. I thought it was the right move…and at first it was. My employer has an important mission and I work with wonderful, talented people; I’ve learned an awful lot from being there. But it’s been clear for a while that policy is not what I should be doing. For a couple of years now, I’ve felt a pull to return to school, get a Ph.D. and, well, be a teacher. At the end of this past summer the Lord hit me with a series of hammer-blows: it was time (past time, maybe), to apply. Lord willing, I’ll start classes in the fall. It doesn’t feel too good to be in the same spot as the villain in one of your favorite movies. But now, for the first time, I have a strong sense of vocation. I’m finally doing what God intends me to do. That does feel pretty darn good.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 

Goodness! You might as well ask, how does oxygen play a role in your life?

I mean that pretty close to literally. Faith gives me joy in good times and strength in hard ones. Faith constitutes the world: by it I know that each person I meet deserves my love and compassion and respect because each person is made in the image and likeness of God. I’m not sure I’d agree that it plays a role in my outlook: it’s more that faith is the very grounds by which other things can play a role. It’s not one of the things out there in the world, but the means through which I understand anything else that’s in the world. Faith is the pair of eyeglasses that lets me see the world clearly, and my soul comes with the same fine-print notice as my driver’s license: “Restriction: corrective lenses.”

Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself? If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?

I’d talk to more people. I’m very shy, and I have a hard time knowing what to say to people whom I don’t already know well. It’s an INFJ thing, I guess. But when I do meet new people, I’m always glad to have done it, so I’m trying to be more outgoing.

I’d write and publish more. Ray Bradbury once encouraged young writers to write a story every week for a year, because “No one can possibly write 52 bad stories in a row.” I’ve decided 2014 will be the year I get my fiction published, so I’ll be writing a lot and submitting things I’ve never submitted before. I’m just hoping I don’t prove Ray Bradbury wrong.

Finally, I’d listen to God more. It’s weird—I listen a lot when I’m talking with other people, but when I pray suddenly I’m doing all the talking. Talking in prayer is easier than listening…after all, if you’re just sitting there listening, pretty soon you find yourself thinking that you need to pick up some chicken cutlets on your way home, and how are you ever going to finish that report by Thursday, and—darnit—you left the dishes in the sink again, and hey, that girl by the Mary altar’s pretty cute. And then your mind’s entirely distracted from God and it’s time to start over on your page of Francis de Sales and see if you can salvage a bit of this Holy Hour for some actual prayer.

But I guess distraction isn’t the real reason I’m afraid to stop talking in prayer. The real reason is that sometimes, when you stop talking, God starts.

Profile No. 21: Dustin Siggins

 Profiles in the Gap

Dustin Siggins

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 Dustin Siggins is a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area. 

Did I expect to be single at the age of 28-and-a-quater? Simply put…no.

I had my first crush in September of 7th grade, and at 15 started looking for the right woman to marry. I figured it would take some time to find the right young lady for me, and by the time I got out of college we’d be ready for marriage.

Over the next several years, I was met with disappointment after disappointment. Starting in February of 7th grade – 1999, which was when the aforementioned crush and her boyfriend of several months broke up – a string of failures found me at every turn. At one point I was 0-17. For you non-sports fans, that’s zero “yes” answers and 17 “no” responses to my asking girls on dates.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I analyze. A lot. More on that later.

Finally, for a period of approximately eight months, good luck was mine. I dated a young lady for a month – she was vacationing for the summer in my hometown – and then dated my then-best friend for several months. The end of this latter relationship left me quite depressed for months, a state of mind that was finally broken by the stress and distraction of Basic Training after high school graduation.

I entered college quite optimistic about dating. My string of bad luck was over, if the prior year was any indication! Alas, by the time I graduated college I had dated one young lady for a month, and that was about it. Turns out, being an abstinent, pro-life, weekly attending Catholic made me a radical even among my fellow Catholics.

Thus it was that by the time I was a junior in college my regular commentary on dating was that I had accepted that I was going to be the 80-year old virgin. I told people I would make a movie out of it, and make lots of money – the PG version of “The Forty-Year Old Virgin.”

When I came to D.C. my optimism had rebounded, especially as I learned how culturally and geographically unaware I had been. Here I was not a radical, extreme Catholic – who knew the Northeast was more liberal than the rest of the country? Not me, at the time – and I hoped I had matured enough to change my dating luck around.

Again, luck was not mine. Turns out women don’t like it when a guy shakes hands on a first date (something I have remedied since). The Southern women found me a bit…blunt…and too intense. And despite my preference to become friends with a young lady before formally pursuing a relationship, my personality was putting me so far in the dreaded Friend Zone it was like being in the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by sharks. With chains.

In other words, women liked being my friend. But not my girlfriend. (Though this has its own advantages – the benefits of friendship, the benefits of hanging out with very attractive women, and none of the emotional stress of trying to date said friends.)

In 2011 I utilized online dating for seven months, and finally started “playing the field.” Effective though these tactics were, they never felt comfortable, though online dating did lead to a short-lived long-distance relationship. And then, finally, luck was with me as I dated a woman for almost five months and almost fell in love with another later in 2012, despite the brevity of the second relationship (two months). In early 2013, one of my closest friends and I discussed dating, but because of our religious differences we decided to simply maintain a very close friendship.

So where does this leave me, as 2014 nears? It’s been a tough year, I’ll admit. My younger siblings are both getting married next year. The average age of marriage for men is 28, which puts me behind the eight-ball, and for most of my life I’ve thought that guys who are unmarried in their late twenties are losers or have gigantic personal flaws. And the constant discussions of discernment in the Catholic community mean the subject is dating is always on my mind.

However, tough times allow for growth, and this year has also been one for large personal growth in certain areas. They include:

  1. A priest told me in July that our goal in life is to be a saint. Everything else helps us on that path. It was a good reminder about priorities.
  2. Despite rumors to the contrary, I talk far less than I want to. The filter between my brain and mouth is gigantic – which should scare those of you who know how much I talk. I find this filter necessary to strategize how best to talk to people in life, especially since my default setting is to be extremely choleric, and this can alienate people. However, a friend recently told me I should not worry about filtering because of what other people might think. While we all have our flaws, by being so tactical, I am not being who God designed and intended for me to be. To a degree, I’m letting the flaws of others dictate my behavior, which is not productive for anyone.
  3. Clearly, I am someone who analyzes and thinks a lot. While this is naturally part of who I am, and thus does not paralyze me as it might others, it can also create an inefficient style of behavior. As my friend Isaiah once put it: “Dustin, I love you, but you have got to learn to take yourself less seriously.” To put it another way, by thinking and analyzing so much, I’m essentially trying to control my life to a fault, instead of putting it in God’s hands.

In short, I need to learn to relax and go with the flow instead of always trying to create the flow. For example, my one romantic idealistic trait – wanting to be one of those old couples that’s been married for 70 or more years – may need to take second-fiddle to the rest of my life. And rather than get frustrated when people who don’t follow key Church teachings get engaged and married, while I follow them and remain single, I need to remember being a saint is the first and foremost goal.

Marriage is not a competition I have to win. We’re trying to be saints. Comparing myself to my siblings, or the average age of marriage, is to miss the forest for the trees.

So where am I as we enter 2014? Frustrated, absolutely. Recognizing that even at the age of 28 – a full-fledged adult – I have a lot of growing up to do? Grudgingly, yes. I’m trying to not miss the forest for the trees, and remember that people mean well when they say contradictory things like “Be yourself, but be low-key,” or the falsely uplifting “The right girl is out there for you!”

So what should I expect out of life right now? I don’t do “New Year’s Resolutions,” as self-improvement should be a continuous process, but I think I’m going to prioritize a few things this year:

  1. A friend gave me a piece of advice recently that I’m going to take into consideration: Rather than focus on multiple aspects of life at the same time, try to focus on one aspect to make it as successful as possible. She suggested one’s career path, and indicated this would be a good idea in order to be happier, and happiness is attracting to the opposite sex. I think I’ll take her advice, with a twist – prioritize everything but dating, and let the dating happen as it will.
  2. I’m going to work on being more aware of why I act as I do. I always apply my friend Ben’s advice – “Don’t care what people think, but don’t give them reason to think badly of you” – but I’m going to try to keep the latter mindset balanced with greater emotional awareness.
  3. A retired priest advised me to just be Dustin. Let’s see what that looks like, rather than being “Dustin who’s constantly being hard on himself.”

In the end, the goal of every human being should be to walk on the path God has for us, and be happy regardless of what life throws at us. We should be whole people as much as we possibly can – and, in my case, if a cute girl walks across my path, life’s a little more attractive right now. And if she becomes my wife, my ability to walk on the path of God’s Will will be more complete than it was before our paths crossed.

Profile No. 19: Brett Manero

Profiles in the Gap

Brett Manero

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Brett Manero is a young professional and Theology student living in Washington, DC.

Did you expect this time of singleness?

Hmm, yes and no. Yes, because I knew that I’d need (and want) my 20s to be a time of exploring, growing, and preparing. No, because like the rest of us, part of me imagined that I’d be settled by now! But thank goodness I’m not, because I know that being single at this very moment is exactly what I’m supposed to be. It’s a perfect place to say, “Lord, here I am, I come to do your will.” And knowing Him — He’s full of surprises.

Is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing?

Right after my college graduation, I stayed in Scotland (where I studied for my undergraduate) to work for six months. I remember praying one evening and almost catching a glimpse of my coming 20-something’s, and what a roller coaster ride it would be. I knew it would be a time of “changing seasons” — different career experiments, grad school, relationships, friendships, etc. I knew it would feel tumultuous at times — that it could be a time of great excitement and joy, but also great challenges and disappointments. I wrote a short story shortly after college about going through your 20s; in it I describe it as a “lonely decade.” Lonely, because you’re not quite settled on things like vocation and career yet, and “getting there” can be quite a hike. But that’s part of the fun.

Overall, it’s been as I expected it to be. However, I certainly never expected to live in Washington, DC. My older brother and sister lived here and I didn’t want to “follow in their footsteps” by moving here. But, as often happens, God had a different plan — and here I am, and I can totally see why I’ve been here.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it?

Absolutely. I work for the Church, so the work we do is of course fulfilling. Getting to know so many other young Catholics through work has been a phenomenal blessing. When I eventually am working in a secular environment, that transition from being around the Blessed Sacrament and a Catholic presence all day will be weird! But we’re called to go out into the world to share our faith — in the workplace especially. Pope Francis has reminded me quite a bit about that.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult?

My faith guides my life! Being Catholic is awesome. I came back to the faith during my college years after growing up as a “halfway Catholic.” I can’t imagine life without it. Trusting in God — that He’ll guide and provide — is key.

“Build Up For the Future.”

My best friend in college, a Protestant, said this to me years back. I see my 20s as a sort of “springboard” for the rest of my life — to grow spiritually and professionally, to prepare for my vocation in the long-run.

One of the best pieces of advice my spiritual director gave to me a few years ago was: “Pray the Rosary for your future spouse. Offer it up as a sacrifice for her.” So, a few days a week I offer that prayer.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that, with God, it’s impossible to predict the future. He is so full of surprises and loves to open (and close) doors for us. I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now — still in DC, somewhere else — but I try not to stress too much about it. He’s got it covered.

If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?

So much to choose from. I would travel again. I’d go on some kind of a missions trip to the Middle East to help the persecuted Christians there.

Vita est pulchra! (Life is beautiful)

Profile No. 17: Morgan McFarlin

Profiles in the Gap

Morgan McFarlin

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Morgan McFarlin is a Pro-life Missionary on college campuses in Illinois. She blogs at Follow and Believe

Did you expect this time of singleness?

No, I did not. Not at all. I fully expected to be either engaged or nearing engagement by the time I graduated from college. Some of this expectation came from how my parents’ love story had played out, but never did I imagine that I would be nearly two years post-undergrad and single.

I struggled all through college watching my friends meet their future spouses. It was something that I so inherently desired, and to be one of only two single folks in my friend group caused me to think there was something wrong with me. Essentially, I began to base my worth on my relationship status. I spent years searching, hoping, and waiting for my life to begin. All because I was “alone.” Sometimes I want to go back in time and slap my former self across the face. If only I’d attempted to live in the “now” rather than for the future…

Only recently have I fully come to truly enjoy and embrace my life…yes, my single life. But even more than that, I’ve stopped allowing my relationship status to define who I am. My life is good, just as it is. And actually, I’m perfectly content being single. I’m really loving my independence, and since I travel a lot for work, it’s nice to be able to pick up and leave whenever. Plus, this period has been really great for investing in my non-romantic relationships. Making friends post-college can be tough, but that’s pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to grow as a person. Of course, if Mr. Wonderful walked into my life today, I’d be overjoyed…but clearly, if we aren’t together right now, it’s because God has other plans.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career?

Growing up as a baby-loving Irish-Catholic, I never gave much thought to the idea of developing a “career.” Sure, I always had ambitions and dreams, but above all, I desired to be a wife and mother.

So, imagine my surprise when I realize that this “stepping stone” job I got straight out of college happens to be what I now believe to be my calling. I love my work! I’m currently based on an Illinois college campus, working to build up pro-life leaders. How awesome is that? Every. day. I have the opportunity to make a difference. I’m actually living the unconventional ministry lifestyle that I longed for in my early collegiate years! Who would’ve thought that those dreams would have been fulfilled?

As content as I am now, when I first acknowledged the love I had for my work, I was a little freaked out. After all, I’d only ever planned on working temporarily before having babies and being a stay-at-home mom. This threw a bit of a wrench in my plans! But that’s the thing about our plans: God loves to mess ’em up and redirect us toward His original plan.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult?

My everyday life requires me to continuously trust that the Lord will provide (support raising, anyone?), and my love life, or lack thereof, is no exception. Trust is ultimately what it all comes down to. Worry and fear comes from a lack of trust in Our Lord and His goodness. After all, if I totally and completely trust that God won’t forget about me, why would I need to worry or fear for the future?

But I can only be at peace with where I’m at in life by choosing this peace daily. It is a daily challenge to choose peace over fear; to choose peace over worry; to choose peace over frustration and bitterness. In the same way that I choose to be at peace with my “singlehood,” I have to make the daily choice to trust God and His faithfulness. I have to choose every single day to allow Him to guide me instead of my feelings. Every day is a struggle to step into the unknown and see where He takes me.

Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself?

More than anything, I’m just trying to take this time to continue becoming the best version of myself. I still have a long way to go, and some days I hope that Mr. Wonderful takes a bit more time to find me so I have longer to prepare. Many singles, myself included, tend to think, “I’ll finally be complete when I’m with my future spouse.” But really, God should be the only one who completes me. And in the end, shouldn’t He always be my main man? 🙂

Profile No. 15: Kara Eschbach and Janet Sahm

Profiles in the Gap

Kara Eschbach and Janet Sahm

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I had the privilege of chatting earlier this month with Kara Eschbach and Janet Sahm, the founders of Verily magazine, who kindly agreed to be included in the December profiles on Life in the Gap. In particular, I asked them about what motivated them to go after the things they were passionate about — to take the risk and launch their own business — and how we can view this time of singleness as an opportunity, not a burden. (-Mabel)

What was the catalyst for launching Verily? Did being single affect your decision to go for it?

Kara: I was in a lucrative, comfortable job in finance, and while I was happy there, I wasn’t exactly passionate about it. I actually moved to New York City to take that job, which was definitely exciting. But I wanted something more meaningful. So when this idea for a startup came up, it just sort of made sense. I quit my job in finance and switched to magazine. I’d been doing a lot of writing in my previous job, and the financial background really prepared me to run a business.

And yes, I think being single did play a role. I realized it was one of those “windows” in life – the right time to do something like this, when I had no other things tying me down. I had no kids or family commitments, no mortgage…nothing saying I couldn’t take a pay cut and work really hard to make this a success. But there are windows like this throughout life – like older adults whose kids have all moved out, life is just full of times when it’s possible to make a decision like this. So why not go for it?

Janet: I was working a good job as an assistant in New York. I mean, it paid the rent! As a new graduate I was privileged to gain some experience in the fashion industry at Elle, and I quickly saw that to become a fashion editor in that kind of publication, I’d have to devote myself to 10 years of slave-driving work. I wanted a well-rounded life, not to become the typical obsessed career woman. Still, fashion is  my love.

Even while working my assistant job, I was thinking and praying about starting my own magazine. I wanted to start a publication that had more meaning, and let me be myself. My 9 – 5 job actually gave me a lot of freedom, too … outside working hours I could write and focus on honing my talents. It really gave me the freedom to be creative.

You two launched Verily together – and it’s been a big success! Does having friends on the journey with you make it easier?

Both: Yes! We were casual friends when we first started throwing around the idea of launching a magazine, but after working together on this project for the past couple years, we’ve definitely grown closer. We’ve definitely found that friends, especially for those of us who are single, become surrogate family. They’re the people you have meals with and celebrate holidays with when you can’t make it home to see your family. A community of friends is so important to living a happy, fulfilling life. Granted, that community is always changing as people get married and move on to other opportunities, but that’s part of the beauty of it, too.

What advice would you give to other young adults in the gap who are struggling with what to do next?

Kara: It’s typical to sit around in “the gap” just waiting, instead of figuring out what it is we really want to do. So often we’re waiting for things to be obvious, or for the perfect scenario, or we feel like we have to have a plan. I took a job in New York, not because I’d always wanted to go there, but because when it came up I thought it might be interesting, and a good platform for other things. Only once I got here did I discover other things I was really interested in, that got me to this point.

My advice for anyone in the gap? Walk through open doors. Even if they don’t look like what you thought you wanted…you never know where they might take you. Expand your network, meet people, and see what comes of it.

What if discovering and pursuing my passion just isn’t an option right now?

Janet: Even if you find your job monotonous and you don’t love it, there are endless possibilities for living a meaningful and fruitful life. Get involved. Start a discussion group to talk about controversial issues. Get involved in your church. Volunteer – and do it regularly. Use this time of freedom to become a more integrated person. Join dance class, a sports team, or a language class. Get friends together regularly to teach each other skills you already have, like photography or cooking.

Push yourself. There’s so much to read, to learn, to give. The more you can go outside yourself, the better. You learn to give of yourself and to love.

So often we take our identity from who we were in high school or college. We forget that we’re still growing, that we’re always growing and changing. Don’t throw away chances to grow and develop your character and yourself.

Kara: Don’t discount your current job just because it isn’t your dream. You’d be amazed at what you’re learning and developing that you don’t even realize. And much of it will come in useful down the road. My finance background prepared me to run a business. Janet’s background gave her lots of professional development, which she is able to use now, along with her creative talents. So many skills are transferable – so don’t write anything off as a waste of time!

Profile No. 14: Ashton Mallon

Profiles in the Gap
Ashton Mallon
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Ashton Mallon is a campus minister living and working in Northern Virginia. You can read some of her other great writing here.
Did you expect this time of singleness? 
I think I have known in my heart from a young age that the Lord would give me as much time as I needed to prepare me for whatever Vocation He has in store for me. At the same time, I also know that at times I can get impatient with every passing year. I have always understood, in my heart, that I am not perfect yet, so I expected to have years of being single that can prepare me for my vocation and spouse. I grew up not dating often, and only dating intentionally, so it comes naturally in a sense for me to embrace singleness.
If so, is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing?
I am very appreciative because very rarely do I get frustrated with being single; it must be some extra grace! Rather, I have always seen it as a time to grow into the person that God desires me to be, the one whom He desires me to be to my future spouse. I honestly am not one to make too many expectations, because the Lord always seems to surprise us in life.
If I were to look back, though, and then look to now, I do think that being single is what I thought it would be. It consists mostly of dating when I feel called to, continuing to discern my vocation, and most importantly staying plugged into prayer and the community, particularly through friendships. This is what I mostly imagined it to be, though to be honest, I wish that I was able to have more time to meet new people. I work in ministry, which I absolutely love, but it does mean odd hours in my schedule and often means that other (most!) things come after my students. In an ideal world, I would appreciate more time to spend meeting other women, dating, and or visiting religious orders to discern better. But, I wouldn’t want it any other way–the Lord is working beautifully!
Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? 
I work in college ministry and I absolutely love my career! To be honest, I sometimes forget that it is a “career” because I go to work every day to, what feels like, just hang out with friends. Much of my job is spent personally growing so that I can continue to be an example to my students of what it means to seek after Christ and allow Him to fulfill you…. it’s intimidating! My only goal is to inspire them to desire and pursue Christ, hopefully first by my own example. The conversations I have about their questions inspire my own faith; the Bible studies I have led enrich my own relationship with Christ; the situations I help them work through remind me of what I need to be doing in my own life, how much more I need to depend on Christ, and how much more I have to grow. It’s beautiful!
How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 
Faith plays a monumental role in my actions and outlook! I honestly could not name much else that does. All that I do, all that I think, and all that I am is because of and influenced by my relationship with Christ. When I am struggling with loneliness as a single young adult, I turn to Christ. When I am trying to discern a relationship more seriously, I pray even more. Particularly as a single young adult, I feel that I have even more need to depend on my faith because it is a difficult time of decisions; jobs, housing, relationships, morals–it all has to flow from my prayer life, community, and beliefs.
For me in particularly, working in ministry allows me to see my faith as a crucial aspect to my single life, because I am able to be almost radically available to share my faith with my students, something that I know I will be unable to do when I am in my vocation. Faith motivates my choices, since sometimes there is no one else there to help you (I am not married or part of a community, so it’s often me and God). Faith and my relationship with Christ motivate my discernment of my career, my charity towards and relationships with my housemates, fulfills my loneliness, and strengthens my pursuit for a spouse, amidst so much else.
 
Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself? If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?
Some challenges that I give myself during the time of being single are not allowing myself to get too discouraged. It can sometimes take more prayer than I would like, but when I really think about how much God loves me (as corny as it sounds!) I am reminded that this loneliness is only a reason for me to draw even closer to Him; to perfect myself through His love and grace, and to let HIM lead the way.
Another challenge I give (though I need to be better about following through…) is to make time to hang out with people. It’s difficult, but it’s important. Particularly as a single woman, I think I need to be better about going out and meeting people, cultivating those friendships, and possibly even meeting people of the opposite sex … what a concept!
If I didn’t have to worry about failure, I would also go to more young adult things to meet new friends… I just get so shy! I would also like to speak in public more often. I love speaking about femininity and chastity, two great passions of mine. I come alive when I give talks on retreats, and I feel so encouraged in my own faith journey when I do. I also think that when I share about my prayer, my relationship with Christ, or about things that I have come to believe and love, I just see myself so strengthened in those areas and I love trying to inspire that in others. Ultimately, I would just put myself out there more–ask more people to hang out, etc!

Profile No. 11: Trena Pilegaard

Profiles in the Gap

Trena Pilegaard

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Trena Pilegaard lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area. 

Life is always in some kind of gap: the gaps between yesterday, today, and tomorrow; physical gaps of distance between loved ones; the gap between breakfast and lunch; gaps between work and home, between conception and birth, between birth and death. We are always swooping between different gaps like electric lines between poles while riding in the car. Sometimes the swooping makes you feel nauseous, and other times it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world.

I think that the gaps aren’t holes that need to be filled, just obstacles that take some thinking, prayer, and trust to get over and around. Singleness is a gap for me that I am learning to navigate. This life is becoming comfortable to me and, if it is the life that God has planned for me for the rest of my time on earth, I am happy to live it. If I said an extended life of singleness is my dream, I’d be lying. But this time has been consistent with my dreams so far. I distinctly remember planning my life in my head my senior year in high school and thinking that I couldn’t possibly have the time to be married before the age of thirty, there was so much I had to do first. To that end I purposely told myself I couldn’t date in college, I knew life would have too much for me to do to be married right away.

Even now, with a few struggles of adulthood under my belt, my life has exceeded my wildest dreams in so many areas. If someone told me at sixteen that I would have an opportunity to spend three years in Europe after college, I would have died of joy right there. Likewise, the sheer amount of amazing friends that I have strewn across the world is also something I never could have imagined.  Other times I am simply overwhelmed with the beauty of this life I lead: starlight nights in the Blue Ridge Mountains, fall colors here in DC, a summer spent on Lago di Lugano, standing in St. Peter’s Square, snow-capped Sierras. Sometimes I find myself with tears in my eyes because I cannot believe that I am so blessed to have been chosen to live this beautiful life when so many of my generation did not survive the womb. Sure, there are days when I wonder if I will die alone surrounded by cats (which is terrifying to me because it would mean that so many things have gone horribly wrong – I am allergic to cats and don’t really count them in my list of favorite animals, and, for heaven’s sake, why are they at my deathbed?), but I know in my heart that will never be the case. Even if I remain single to the end, I am confident I will never be alone or unloved.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that when navigating single life it is important to remember that I remain my number one priority. Once I am taken care of, then I can help others. I can hear the gasps of shock now. “Oh, but that is so selfish. You should never put yourself first, always put others first.” But Christ didn’t say to put others first, He said to love your neighbor as yourself. If I don’t love myself, the person I am right now with every aspect of me in consideration (and this includes being single), how can I love others as Christ asks? As a single person my primary responsibility is me.  It is easy to forget this when you become wrapped up in living life, a 9-5 job, and just generally trying keep your head above the water. But, if I don’t check up on my spiritual, physical and emotional needs, then I am failing in my responsibilities to myself and will only hinder my ability to help others.

This means making sure that I am working towards a life that I find fulfilling and satisfying. If I am going to be supporting myself by myself for an indefinite amount of time, then I need to be happy in what I am doing. It’s taken a few years and a lot of tears, but I think I am finally on that path! It also means that I am actively pursuing adventures that I enjoy and things want to learn more about. I love ballet – so I found a ballet studio and started taking classes. I’ve scooped up opportunities to study French, to broaden my mind by extensive reading (name that quote!), travel to give myself perspective, and exposing myself to as much culture and life as possible. I see all these things as important tools in developing and caring for me. I have found that the more I am able to know myself, the more I can offer others around me. I am healthy, so I can physically volunteer to help others. I am intellectually sound, so I can offer good advice or help solve the problems life pitches. I am culturally literate, so I can help introduce others to all the things that help make life beautiful.

Loving the single life is an act of the will. Love is always an act of the will, just sometimes it is easier than others. And this life, with all its freedom and charm, isn’t easy. There are hard decisions to be made, by yourself. There are meals to be eaten, by yourself. There are nights to be spent, by yourself. Loneliness lurks around every corner – if you give in and let yourself be lonely. The trick is not to. I find myself often praying for the courage to continue, and that prayer has always been answered.  Sometimes it comes in the form of a phone call or note from a friend. Or in the realization of how much I have, like the full night of deep sleep that so many mothers crave. Or it’s when a friend says she has tickets to my favorite band, and I am free to drop everything and go. Until God calls me to another way of life, you can be assured that I am going to keep loving this beautiful and blessed life!