Profile No. 23: Will Edmonson

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

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

Profile No. 15: Kara Eschbach and Janet Sahm

Profiles in the Gap

Kara Eschbach and Janet Sahm

JanetSahm_KaraEschbach_Verily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Profile No. 14: Ashton Mallon

Profiles in the Gap
Ashton Mallon
185_505522113128_7564_n (1)
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!

GUEST POST: Take the plunge

This guest post hit me like a ton of bricks. As I’ve written multiple times, dear readers, I (Mabel) am a pretty big coward. I’m afraid of so many things — barking dogs, sudden noises, hospitals, theme parks, confrontation of any sort, saying something stupid, broken bones, and many, many other things I won’t go into here. I’m grateful for Andrea’s candid look at her own fear, and her encouragement for all of us to stop letting fear get the better of us. Life requires courage. It isn’t by any measure “safe,” and it’s not really supposed to be. That’s part of the adventure. 

 Andrea Scott

I never have been one to be fearful.

If you would have told me, or many of my friends for that matter, that I was living in fear I would have laughed. “I’ve held babies with active tuberculosis in Haiti,” I’d say. “I’ve worked with the underground Church in China. I nearly got attacked by a man with chopsticks while sleeping in the Vienna train station.” Fearful? Not me.

A recent move from Chicago to Washington D.C. showed me how fearful I had become, however. I had settled into a comfort zone—and quite honestly an awful rut—at home, needed to shake complacency, and wanted to try something new. But I knew I had to face every fear and insecurity I had in order to make a change, and I had no desire to do that.

In June, right before I decided to move, I went to Hawaii with my soon-to-be-leaving-for-pilot-training brother. We spent five glorious days on Maui and then six days on Oahu. While on Oahu’s North Shore one day, we visited the famed jump rock at Waimea Bay. Ascending 30 feet in the air at the highest point, the gargantuan rock was a playground for locals and visitors alike—crowded with intrepid daredevils diving, flipping, and belly flopping into the ocean waves below.

The thought of jumping seemed exhilarating, but also intimidating. I’m not scared of heights, but I had never plunged off a cliff. After much coaxing, I nervously climbed the jagged rocks and crawled to the top. I peered down to the waves below, overwhelmed by the enormity of the gap. The more I hesitated, my legs teetering on the edge, the more scared I was to jump.

After a few minutes, I knew I couldn’t stand there anymore—the anxiety was too much. I needed to face my fear or leave the rock. Somehow, I mustered a deep breath and convinced my toes to leave the safety of a solid foothold. I breathlessly glided through the summer air and surged into the invigorating sea.

Image

That’s how my life was. The more I waited to take the plunge—to make a change I knew I could and should make, even if it was uncomfortable—the greater fear and anxiety grew. The longer I waited, the higher the jump looked and the more content I was to descend off the rock and not take any risk.

When I chose to jump, however, I chose to experience one of the most fully-alive, extraordinary moments of my life.  

I cannot lie—I miss the Midwest and the most beautiful city in the world (objectively Chicago, obviously). But every day I start to fall more in the love with what I have been given in D.C. And every day I realize another reason why I am here; I’m so grateful I will not have to live with a “what if.” A wise former colleague of mine reminded me of the familiar notion that I seemed to have forgotten: often we regret the things we don’t do, not the things we chose to do.

Matthew Kelly wrote in his book, The Rhythm of Life:  

“The measure of your life will be the measure of your courage. Courage animates us, brings us to life, and makes everything else possible. Fear stops more people from doing something with their lives than lack of ability, contacts, resources, or any other single variable. Fear paralyzes the human spirit. Life takes courage.”

No matter if you are at a turning point or merely the daily juncture of everyday life—it’s time to step out into the deep, whether that means moving halfway across the country or simply saying hello to the homeless man you pass each morning. There are moments in each and every day offering you the opportunity to take heart and choose to be courageous. There are opportunities to step outside of a settled-in comfort zone and live consciously, with passion and purpose. Retreating simply out of fear does not give us the opportunity to live an abundant life.

Choose courage. The measure of your life depends on it.

Andrea Scott is a writer and editor who works in DC. Follow her on Twitter at @andreajeanscott 

 

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. 

 

 

What are we most afraid of?

Father Rich Dyer spoke at Arlington’s Theology on Tap this week–the topic was “fear.” I almost never attend TOT these days, but being The World’s Biggest Coward, I thought this talk might be worth listening to.

It was.

At the end someone asked the question: “What do you think is the biggest fear among Catholic young adults these days?”

I thought, “If he says ‘commitment’ I’m going to punch the wall.” Granted, there’s some truth to the statement, “Today’s young people are just too afraid to commit,” but I’ve heard it so much that it just rings hollow. Besides which, I think the “fear to commit” is only the surface of some much deeper sociological, psychological, spiritual problems. So it becomes the easy, cop-out answer of an older generation that needs to have something to cluck its tongue at.

But I digress. Father didn’t answer the question right away. He paused and looked at the floor for a long minute. A really long minute. The guy in the booth next to me started to squirm a little and someone coughed. At last Father looked up and said, “I feel a little out of the loop these days, but I guess I’d have to say Catholic young adults are most afraid of being themselves.”

By that, he went on to explain, he meant too many YAs are afraid to be obviously Catholic. He gave the example of saying grace before meals in public. How many people refuse to cross themselves before and after grace, for fear of standing out?

Okay, so maybe many of us are okay with blessing ourselves in public. Some of us go so far as to wander the city streets with our rosaries on the walk home after work.

But how many of us (and I plead guilty) hide behind the old, “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words” excuse for not standing up for what we believe in when we’re faced with tough questions from our peers, maybe in social settings, in the work place, wherever? I fall into this trap all the time: I’ll be a nice person, they’ll know I’m a good Christian girl, and somehow or other they’ll all be won over to Jesus by the juxtaposition of those two things.

How often do I end up half apologizing for my weird belief system when people ask me to explain it? Or talking about the harder-to-swallow truths of our faith with just enough of a lilt to my voice that my hearers can pick up, “Don’t worry, I get how crazy this is”? Or falling into the corrosive “Well, this is what I believe, but you can believe what you want” mindset that ends in a relativistic approach to life?

I didn’t realize quite how wishy-washy I could be about this until I participated in a writing workshop this past spring. Not only was I the only conservative Catholic in the group, but we were all participating in a pretty intimate thing together: the writing of short stories. And I found myself embarrassed to let my Catholicism shine through in my writing. Would it turn people off? Wouldn’t they have trouble relating to my writing, unless I made myself out to be yet another angsty, questioning Catholic who isn’t quite on board with the whole deal?

It was easy enough to be Catholic boldly as a Catholic homeschooled kid, as a student at  a Catholic college, and even now as a Catholic young adult surrounded by like-minded peers. But to be Catholic in all settings, and to be so with pride is hard. Even scary.

And the hardest part is being Catholic with pride, and still loving and welcoming everyone we encounter on a daily basis, and letting them know they’re loved and welcomed. We can’t hunker down and shut the world out because “it’s evil.” That’s just another form of living fear.