October 9, 2014
Last night I was blessed to spend an hour with my best friend, Nadia, on Skype. These conversations are few and far between. See, Nadia is in law school and, as it turns out, law school is harder than regular school. So I was not surprised when her screen flickered on a couple minutes late and Nadia was there, red-eyed and slightly frazzled (but beautiful as always).
I would be too if I had been up until 6:30am doing homework and gone to class at 8. I asked her how law school was going, though I felt like the answer was written across her face.
“Definitely in the top three worst things I’ve ever done. And we’re only a third of the way into the first semester.”
She proceeded to tell me about how many cases must be read before each class, just in case the professor decides to call on you that day. And how everything hinges on the grade of one test. And how there’s no telling how you actually did on that test because there’s no feedback. And how you make wonderful friends, but in the back of your mind you will always consider them the competition because everything is set on a strict curve. All these people that you grow to like are secret gunners who hope you fail miserably. And vice versa.
“Wow,” I said, newly grateful I opted out of grad school. “Are you happy?”
“Oh, for sure. I’m 110% positive I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
I smiled and listened as Nadia then told me how brilliant her professors are and about some of her interesting classes. How she started her homework late because she was spending time with her new friends (some things never change).
Nadia is living her dream and I am so proud of her.
This reminded me of a lesson I learned this summer at Pine Cove. Obeying God’s calling for us does not always lead us to comfort or make life more enjoyable, but the fulfillment and satisfaction we gain is worth so much more.
Driving to Texas in May, I made a list of some goals and prayers I had for my time in Columbus. One of them was that I would have the opportunity to build relationships with the other girl staffers. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to personally spend with campers, but I also knew I would be among the oldest summer staff members and thought maybe I’d be able to love on the college girls instead.
This was easier said than done. I got there and found I was the only girl in the band, with very few girls around me at work and cabin mates that I rarely saw before lights out. I brushed my mission aside. Second half came around and I planned to ask if I could move into a cabin with my friend, Cali – or “Granola”. She was the only girl in media and in a similar situation.
To my delight, I was offered a cabin switch, but I was given a choice. I could live with Cali and the other girl cooks who I saw pretty regularly, which would help me feel more connected and less isolated on a female island. Or I could move into the work crew cabin, where the girl counselors spend one week of their summer serving in the kitchen to take a break from having campers. This would mean new roommates each week and less time with my program staff girlfriends, but it was a direct answer to prayer. I would get to spend a full week with every single girl on staff. I wanted to live with Cali, but I decided to live with the work crew.
And to be honest, it wasn’t the most fun for me. As the only consistent resident in the cabin, I watched the cabin become a complete wreck every weekend as 6 girls tried to move their stuff in and out at the same time. Half the week, I wouldn’t feel like I belonged in my own cabin because I wasn’t a counselor and that’s naturally what they would bond over at the beginning. I felt like I needed to be the most welcoming and energized on Sunday when a new group would move in, but on Sundays I was exhausted and even bitter because I had just gotten comfortable with the last group of girls. On work crew week, counselors got two nights off- one to go to our directors house for games and one to go into town. So generally this meant going to sleep with the lights on so they wouldn’t wake me when they got back and then learning to stay up late to avoid the frustration of waking up anyway.
But all that’s to say this. I wouldn’t trade my weeks in the work crew cabin for the world. In our precious time spent resting in our room, I got to hear some of the most incredible testimonies from girls years younger than me. I learned of the hardships waiting for many of them back at home and saw so much strength and grace in their stories. I learned more from them in the week I spent with each of them than I could’ve ever hoped to teach. Answering God’s call did not make camp life easier and often frustrated me, but I was 110% positive that it’s where I needed to be.
When people ask me what I’m up to these days, I usually give a half-smile and say “living the dream”.
What that means is that I am working with my boyfriend, Evan, and our friend, Hunter, to form a non-profit to put our skills and education to a passion that’s set deep in our hearts. We are literally living out our dream, something that people daydream about, pin quotes about, and talk about, but few people actually do.
And now I know why. Because living a dream sounds exciting and fun and adventurous, and it will be one day, but right now that’s not what it looks like. It looks more like living with my parents, which is a blessing but goes against every independent bone in my body. It looks like working ~40 hours a week and having nothing tangible to show for it. It feels discouraging much of the time, when we struggle to understand legal and business concepts and when we measure what we’re going to charge for services against the salary we will need to live off of. It feels lonely when we live in towns that lack people our age or the time to build a community. Every lesson on patience we’ve ever had to learn in life is being lived out right now, as we go through the very slow process of getting a nonprofit status and wait for a definite client or destination.
We’re not yet galavanting across the plains of Africa, cameras in hand, but we are living our dream. And I’m 110% sure it’s where I need to be. And though many days I’m unhappy and wish for a paycheck or a group of friends down the street, I’m satisfied in a deep-soul satisfaction kind of way. And if there’s anything else I’ve learned, it’s that God gives us the strength to live out His calling. We are never in it alone and at the end of the day we can’t take the credit. Never before and never will I do anything worthwhile out of my own ability, which brings me great comfort.
If you have a dream but are afraid it won’t be easy, you’re right. But you can ask anyone who’s been there and they’ll tell you it’s worth it. And if you’re currently living out your dream and every day you’re tempted to give up and opt for something more comfortable- don’t. Not yet. Choose the soul-satisfaction that comes with living for something bigger than yourself.
And when someone asks you how you’re doing, you can share in my personal joke and say “I’m living the dream.” Most people will respond “That’s great! I’m jealous!”. But every once in a while you will get a knowing smile and a “I’m proud” or even better, “I’m praying for you.”
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