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.

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Profile No. 20: Arleen Spenceley

Profiles in the Gap

Arleen Spenceley

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Arleen Spenceley is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times and author of a forthcoming book about love, chastity, and sex, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Fall 2014. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.

 

Did you expect this time of singleness? 

Ultimately, yes. In short spurts (mostly while getting to know guys I thought were good for me), I might have expected to be married, or engaged, or at least in a marriage-bound relationship by the time I turned 28. But if I put a lot of thought into how I’ve spent my 20s so far, that I am single today was pretty predictable. It was college first, and then grad school, and then the book I’m writing now. Since grad school, I’ve found myself saying “THIS is the busiest I’ve ever been,” and saying it with increasing intensity with every passing semester: “No, THIS is the busiest I’ve ever been – for real, this time.” That isn’t to say people can’t meet and love and marry each other while they’re busy, but that I didn’t go a lot of places where meeting a guy was likely. One semester, I worked 32 hours a week for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor, took one or two graduate level classes, and wrote a book proposal, while living, working, interning, and going to school in four different cities. It is solely the result of how awesome God is that I survived that, and for the best from a bunch of perspectives that I didn’t try to date on top of it.

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

This season of my thus-far single life is not what I expected. It is way crazier and more fun and scary-in-a-good way than that.

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

I do find fulfillment, in part, in my career. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from theologian Frederick Buechner. It says, “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” Writing is my passion, and there’s a lot of fulfillment found in getting to do that professionally, and in doing what I can to learn how to get better at it. What makes it better, though, is getting to merge it with the world’s greatest need. What I see as the world’s greatest need is an education in a better way to live, as modeled by Jesus, who makes living a different kind of life worth it.

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

There is a stigma attached to single life sometimes, as perpetuated by single people and by people who think everybody’s supposed to be married, and just as erroneously, that everybody’s supposed to be married by a certain age. My faith is the umbrella that covers everything in my life, which is why I’ve averted adoption of these attitudes. An old, viral article about early marriage I read once said marriage is a formative experience, in which spouses grow, and grow up. I think the article implied that people who don’t marry particularly young forego that growth, but I totally disagree. Every day is a formative experience. We’re all going to grow, no matter our states of life, if we’re willing.

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

For various seasons in my single life, I have challenged myself to go without stuff that previously had been staples for me. I called 2010 “My Sugar Free Year” because I gave up all food that had added sugar in it (with the exceptions of bread and condiments). I spent several years without Facebook or Twitter or texting. I probably will come up with a year-long challenge for 2014, but I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do or give up. I really, really, really like a challenge, especially if it requires asceticism. Voluntary self-denial is good practice for parts of life like work or marriage or parenthood, in which we have to put other people’s needs before our own. Plus following Jesus always requires self-denial, and this is kind of a way to improve my ability to do that.

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 think I worry about fear itself more than I worry about failure. The part of the fear of failure that stops us from pursuing stuff isn’t the potential for failure, but the fear. I hope in my life to do a lot of what Harriet Lerner writes about in her book The Dance of Fear: “When you avoid what you fear, your anxieties are apt to worsen over time…. If you fear rejection, you may indeed need to accumulate more experience being snubbed.”

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 #6: George Jin

Profiles in the Gap

George Jin

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George Jin is an engineer living and working in the Washington, D.C., area.

Hey all!

So Mary Beth approached me and asked me to reply to some of her questions for the project that she has. I thought it was a great idea, so much so I didn’t mind taking a few minutes out of my day and sharing bits of myself in her project. Just a bit of info about myself, I am a graduate of the University of Maryland with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Hope you all enjoy!

Did you expect this time of singleness? 

Yeah, I guess so. I am a really methodical and meticulous person, so acting emotionally and jumping into things quickly is not my way of living. Besides I’m in my 20s! This is the time to enjoy my free time, flexibility and friendships.

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

No, to be honest. I expected to be single, or maybe in a relationship that would blossom into something well over time. But young professional life is hard! What have changed things are the friendships that I have developed in my community. It makes life, and singleness, much, much better. So much so it has brought me to the point where it has changed my life and how I view things. I would probably be making bad decisions and very lonely if I didn’t have good friends around me.

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

Do I find fulfillment in my career? Not really, and that’s a very hard realization to come to as a young professional. Again, having a friend to share that with and talk to makes life much, much better and easier to cope with. My previous job was in the for-profit world. I think it’s a compelling thing to have people focused on one goal: making money/profit. We all need money to live (pay rent, etc.). But for me, that’s not enough. I want to really help people. So at the moment I find that fulfillment at my parish with the men’s group that I lead and volunteer activities in Anacostia.

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

Oh yeah, for sure. With all the changes and things that young professionals have to go through, like unemployment, loneliness, finding their passion, etc., I would have been in a pretty tough place if I didn’t have God and friends around me. It’s great having friends and people that genuinely listen to me and empathize with me. They most likely are going through the same thing. And that makes me feel like I am not alone! That really has helped me through it all. Don’t get me wrong, because of my faith, God has not exempted me from suffering. It just has changed the way I react to it.

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?

  1. A challenge that I am constantly confronted with is that of patience (I’m in my 20s!). One big thing I have learned is that if you see meaning in suffering and have the patience and grit to see it through, things will work out in the end. This sort of behavior also brews a ton of compassion.
  2. What if I didn’t have to worry about failure? Boy that’s a tough one, geez, Mary Beth (haha kidding!). I would probably have more faith in God. Sometimes it can be really tough to let go and not be in control.

 

 

Guest Post: When to Leave

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

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

When to Leave

By Trena Pilegaard 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Guest Post: When to Leave

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

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

When to Leave

By Trena Pilegaard 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Guest post: Ambition — friend or foe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer of Gratitude

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

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

Now, about discerning that goal. . . .

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

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

To Boldly Go….Where??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Virginia

August’s theme

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

Well, the calendar doesn’t lie. 

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

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

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

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

–Mabel