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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“Go, sell what you have…”

Getting compliments on your personal belongings takes on a whole new meaning when you’re about to get rid of everything you own. In recent months I’ve made more than one loose acquaintance — including my doctor — very uncomfortable when I eagerly asked, “Do you want it?” after they told me they liked something I was wearing.

A good friend who is also hoping to enter religious life this summer put it so well: getting rid of your belongings in preparation for religious life is like standing on a precipice looking into eternity with everything that has always distracted us suddenly behind us. There’s nothing left: just me and the Great Unknown. In fact, as he pointed out, everyone will end up at this moment at some point in their lives, we’re just getting there a little earlier.

I keep running back to that scene in the Gospel, when the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He has kept all the commandments, but he knows there’s something more. And Jesus looks at him, loves him, and says, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk. 10:21). The young man’s reaction — going away sad because he had many possessions — has always broken my heart. In the past few years especially I’ve found myself wanting to shake him. You’ve just been offered the world, I want to shout at him. How can you walk away?

But here I am, faced with a similar invitation, and every day there’s a little twinge. That little porcelain boat from the Dollar Store my sister gave to me for Christmas back in 1991 — it’s a silly trinket, but I’ve carried it around for years, and I admit to a tremor at the thought of letting go. The baby blanket my five-year-old self used to use as a royal robe when playing dress-up … my books and my piano … so many of things we take for granted, right down to the use of that comfortable word, “mine.”

Yes, even letting go of “my” friends is proving to be a lot harder than I ever expected (and I never fooled myself that it would be easy).

God doesn’t ask any of us for halves. That’s what I’m facing in so many concrete ways right now. When he asks us for everything, he means everything. (And by the way, he asks all of us for everything.) He pushes us past the point of comfort, even past discomfort, to that place where the tears start and we cry, “But I can’t!”

This isn’t relegated to those of us discerning religious vocations. We’re all called to this. It’s part and parcel of the Christian life, dare I say, of being human. When you feel you’ve done enough, you’re wrong. There’s no such thing as “enough” for the soul that’s marching towards heaven. The question should always be, “All right, Lord. What now?” Because we can’t give him everything in one action, once. We’re temporal creatures, constantly moving from one minute to another, so giving our all must also be a temporal thing, an act repeated at every moment until we finally reach eternity.

And when you get right down to the nitty-gritty doing of it? It’s epic.

 

February Profile: Mary Powers

Profiles in the Gap

Mary Powers

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

Did you expect this time of singleness?  

I did not expect this time of singleness, though I didn’t know what I would expect either. I thought I’d marry just after college (at 25) like my mom. I  kept waiting expectantly when I was in my early twenties for “the one.” While I’m still waiting, there hasn’t been a dull moment yet. If I had had gotten married earlier, I wouldn’t be able to do all that I am doing now, so in the end my singleness has been a blessing. It’s funny, for a while I kept praying for my husband thinking, “There must be something that he’s working through that God hasn’t brought us together yet”…and then a couple of years ago I realized I also had  things to work on, too. So maybe I’m the one God’s still working on! Either way, I know it’ll happen in God’s time.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career?

Yes, definitely.

I work in the pro-life movement in DC, so there’s always something happening that I can help with or work on within the movement. I began working with pro-life students and now work in pro-life politics. Within each area there are such important groups of people to reach with the beauty of the pro-life message. It truly is the human and civil rights movement of our day, fighting for mothers and the rights of their unborn children. Both students and politicians are on the frontlines of the pro-life movement in different ways. Students are working to help their peers choose life on campus, reaching the most vulnerable in their community to show them the love and acceptance they hunger for. Politicians are on the front lines as leaders in their communities, in Washington, D.C., and the media as candidates and legislators working to protect Life at all stages. Each requires unique resources and constant encouragement and support. Even though I’m stuck behind a computer for most of the day, I’ve still assisted them in obtaining those resources in a small way.

I also volunteer in my parish by teaching CCD. I started by teaching 1st grade for two years and then moved over to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who will be receiving their sacraments this year. Even though it’s difficult to give up beauty sleep on Sunday mornings, it’s so fulfilling. Seeing their excitement when they understand a piece of the faith or watching them recite prayers that they’ve memorized in front of the class is just so awesome. The first year I taught, there was a boy in class who was so difficult. My co-teacher and I were pulling our hair out every class trying to get him to sit still and not play with the toys in the classroom while he was supposed to be listening/reading/working on projects. But then, just after Christmas, we took a trip to Church to look at the manger, and as all the kids were battling to view the manger scene, I looked over and saw this trouble-maker peacefully praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I thought, “Wow! Who would have thought?” Ha! God is so good. I never cease to be amazed at the progress each class makes and the knowledge they soak up. People you think aren’t listening the whole year end up answering questions in the end that surprise you. It’s great. It makes the challenges that much more tolerable.

I also sit on the National Alumni Board at the University of Dallas and help coordinate UD activities in DC. It’s so fun to help continue the UD community here and foster relationships between the wise alumni in the community and those who are new to the area looking for work or internships. It’s also great to meet UD alumni doing amazing things—and meeting them in the most random places! I love hearing their stories. It’s always like meeting a friend at the Capp Bar on campus. I will never forget being new to DC, looking for a job, and connecting with a UD alum on the Hill who was a Chief of Staff for a Senator. He was so kind. His door was open and we chatted for 45min about UD and then had a brief conversation about jobs and his thoughts on what I should do. After that, with each new job, his door was always open and I constantly received invitations to his bible study or lunch on the Hill. He has since passed on, but it is my goal to continue his “open door” and be the person that people can go to for help—even if my connections aren’t as big as his. After UD gave so much to me, it’s nice to be able to give back.

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

Faith plays a major role in my actions and outlook. Following God’s plan and doing what He wants me to do is paramount. He seems to know exactly what I need all the time! It’s wonderful. I once read a letter in Flannery O’Connor’s Habit of Being where she described the Church as a Mother and said that, because of faith, we can sleep peacefully in our Mother’s arms. This is exactly how I view life. Even in the darkest and most turbulent times, we can sleep peacefully with the knowledge that God has everything in control. We are called to not only live and preach the Gospel, but also to trust in His will. We have so many wonderful resources to use and share as Catholics that it’s hard to stay silent. You just want to keep talking about how awesome life is!

And as hard as it may be, our faith helps us to see life in a different way. It helps us never give into the darkness that secularism often brings. I often feel that Winston Churchill’s “never give in” speech explains that well: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Why shouldn’t we give in? Because we have something so much better…and an unimaginably wonderful place to look forward to.

Profile No. 25: Travis Rinn

Dear Readers, 
It has been such a privilege to receive so many profiles over the past month and a half. I never expected this project to turn out so well…and to be so rewarding! I’ve enjoyed reading the stories and reflections of other people living in the gap, and I hope you all have too. While the regular profiles have come to an end, I still have more…and I will be posting them over the coming months. If you haven’t been profiled yet but would like to be, please send me an email (single dot lifeinthegap at gmail). I’m always delighted to get new profiles, and eager to share them. I would also still love to receive good, thoughtful guest posts. Guest posts can be about anything related to life in the gap, as long as they’re told from your personal perspective and describe something from your own journey. 
Starting this week, we’re back to regular postings from yours truly (a.k.a. “Mabel), and maybe we can convince Virginia to share her thoughts with us now and then as well…
The theme for the rest of this month will be seeking the face of Christ, especially in the most vulnerable. With Christmas past and the March for Life almost upon us, it seems like a good time to explore that seeking that should shape and inform our lives. 
I’m looking forward to a great 2014 with this blog, and thank you as always for reading. 
–Mabel
Profiles in the Gap
Travis Rinn
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Travis Rinn is a software developer living and working in Austin, Texas. 
Did you expect this time of singleness?

I always thought I would be single at this age. I had the notion that I should establish a career before marrying.

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 thought that if I chased wealth first, then the girls would come, and after that I would find a Catholic one and worry about all this God stuff later. As it turns out, the Holy Spirit bonked me on the head in the middle of amassing that wealth, and now my plan is all out of order. So no — it’s not what I expected at all, but what I expected wasn’t what I should have been going after. I guess you could say the change is pretty exciting.

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

I did seek fulfillment in my career, but I have come to realize that it is only part of fulfilling the role that God has for me. I’ve tried to take a more balanced role since coming to that conclusion.

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

For a while, it didn’t play much of a role at all. I was the guy who skipped Mass to watch the NFL pre-game show. Later, through the meddling of the Holy Spirit, I came to realize that it was in fact the most important thing and should inform everything I do. I try to put my Faith first in everything now. It makes all the difference.

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 use my time to benefit God. And in particular, I have given a lot to the young adult community as a leader and coordinator of various groups and projects. I have some software ideas (games and Catholic apps) and no time to write them, and if I didn’t have little concerns like bills and a mortgage, I would love to take a few months off to build one of them. Maybe some day…

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. 18: Claire

Profiles in the Gap
Claire
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Claire is an anonymous Catholic blogger in the UK. She blogs at Everything Is Grace. Follow her on Twitter, @CCGraceBlog.
Did you expect this time of singleness?
When I was a kid I had a lot of plans and expectations as to what would be happening in my life at the age of 25. I had envisaged a big beautiful house, a lovely husband and at least one bouncing baby on my knee… The actual picture of my life is vastly different from this. If you must know, I recently moved back in with my parents, I don’t drive, I don’t have any prospective boyfriends, and I work two part-time jobs in a city that takes me three hours traveling to and from everyday. This was all very unexpected. I may have had a little crisis moment before my 25th birthday where I thought, “Where have I gone wrong?” But I realise that I am probably the happiest I have ever been in my life. Nothing is perfect, nothing is the way I want it to be. But this is what God has made it, and it is the best thing ever.
What did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing? 
I did not expect this time of singleness. I completely assumed that my life was going to go along the same path as everyone else I knew and looked up to. I am not going to lie and say that I am over the moon that I have not fulfilled my goals, but as a priest friend reminded me of this week, it’s not about my goals. My plan is not the plan, His plan. Jeremiah 29:11 is something I try to learn from on a daily basis. God does have a plan, and it could be similar or completely different to the plan teenage Claire had, but whatever it is, He will be executing it in His own time. Meanwhile, what’s happening right now is keeping me with a smile on my face. I am safe, warm, well-fed, nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, surrounded by people I love, and growing into such a beautiful relationship with Christ.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? 
Ahhh the career question. I work for two different charities – a non denominational pro-life charity and a Catholic charity. All things aside I love what I do. I love the people I work with and for. I love the potential of the places I work in, and what they could do in the future. I love being part of the journey. But I can honestly say this is just a moment in time for me. I dream of bigger and better things. I want to work with people. I want to own my own business. I want to make people happy. I want to bring people closer to Christ. Again, these are a lot of things I want! But it all depends on what He wants.
How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 
My faith essentially forms everything about me. I am a very optimistic person, and I believe that this optimism stems from a knowledge of the life God has built for me, and the promise of life with Him forever. I know that anything that goes wrong is not really the end of the world, and I know He looks after me. Having faith means I look at everything very differently — from what I eat, to what I do, who I hang out with, the situations I can get myself into…. down to random things like the charities I can support and the people I vote for. People look at faith as something restrictive, but I see it as something incredibly freeing. Having a life of faith has opened so many doors for me, created so many opportunities and made me who I am today. It definitely reassures me as a single woman. I look at my peers who don’t have faith, but who are single — they throw themselves at every man/woman with a pulse, they crave attention, they crave love, and they look for these things in all the wrong places. I know that Christ loves me more than any man ever could, and I learn each day that this love is enough for me, and anyone that comes along will have to slot in with that love.
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?
Faith is a challenge and a half; anyone who says it’s easy is talking crazy talk! Picking up the crosses of my life and dealing with them is a challenge. Praying — having a daily conversation with Christ — is a challenge. Blogging is a bit of a challenge for me… and trying to find time to blog is a challenge in itself these days.

If I didn’t worry about being a failure… I would start my own business. I don’t know what it would be though, so some thought would have to be put in that…. I would also put videos on Youtube because I really admire Youtubers (Shaycarl, CTFxC, Datev Gallagher, HeyKayli) and how they inspire many people. But a realistic thing would be to put a photograph on my blog and show it to people I actually know “in real life.” That is a huge challenge to me. But until I get the courage for that…. it’s anonymous blogging all the way.

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. 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!