Recognizing Purpose, Quieting Fear
Just like basically every person living, I've had many, many, MANY times where I have questioned and double-guessed the ability to achieve my goals. I've even wondered if my goals and dreams are achievable, and I used to entertain the acceptance of settling for what looked right (and "logical") on paper. I would think to myself, "Well, it makes sense to work at this company because I need to pay my bills. I can teach history part time. I'm still doing what I want a little bit. It'll be okay." Do you know what, though? I wasn't okay. That was me settling. That was me listening to the voices of other people and their opinions. That was me ignoring my purpose. That was me choosing to leave my purpose on empty.
About two years ago, I came to terms with the fact that I wanted to be in control of things simply because I could think everything through, logically. I could map out the direction I thought my life should go, which would bring temporary ease. I would tell God what I wanted and expect him to just give me what I asked for, every time. WHAT. A. JOKE. I recently read in the book Grace Not Perfection: "God had been pouring grace on me, but all I wanted to do was prove to the world that I could do it all." I took a step back. That was me!
Last fall, while I was working at a pharmaceutical company and teaching a history class on my lunch break at the local community college, I decided one day that as much as I loved history, I had to shelf teaching. I couldn't physically and mentally keep doing it while working an emotionally draining, anxiety-inducing, full-time job, AND planning my wedding. I was upset. I had to say I couldn't do something. This was hard. This was new for me. There wasn't anything I couldn't do if I wanted to do it. Well, that was still true. I just had to keep my eyes on my purpose, even though it meant seeing my purpose's bigger picture. I knew I didn't want to keep teaching in a classroom, and I thought back to how much I had prayed and asked God to lead me and guide me, and to help me see which direction to go. I didn't think it'd be this way, though. He was answering my prayers the whole time. I just had to choose whether I would have it my way, or if I would trust God enough to lead me his way. Even though I didn't want to be at the pharmaceutical company in the first place, there was a reason I was there. I see that now. God had to humble me and show me that his timing is perfect in every way.
In February, I applied to graduate school to get another Masters degree, but this time in Conflict Management & Resolution. I quit my job at the pharmaceutical company in May, which meant saying goodbye to what I depended on financially (and for insurance benefits, lets just be real here). Today I am working part-time with at-risk and black youth. I'm starting grad classes in two weeks. I'm thirty. Did people have negative things to say about my decisions? Of course. But so what? I'm following my purpose and fueling my passion. I feel better mentally and physically. I chose to say "yes" to God's voice because he has told me "yes" so many times. When I didn't deserve grace, he still poured it on me. When I didn't deserve forgiveness, he forgave me. What did I look like telling God "no" to what he was calling me to do? One of my favorite quotes is "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." I love it.
This doesn't mean everything will be sunshine and rainbows just because you choose to say yes to your passion. It'll be difficult. Life is difficult. We just get better at it. We get better at hitting the curveballs and nurturing the bruises we get from some. You'll get better at saying "yes" to yourself. I know I have. You'll have that moment where you realize what your purpose is on this earth, and it'll start a flame. I know my purpose is to speak loudly about justice, to never stop telling the truth about history, to write posts like this to encourage and help others, and to give others what I didn't know I needed in the past. It doesn't matter what it looks like to anyone else. It doesn't matter if people disagree. What matters is that I'm doing what I know I'm supposed to be doing. This is also my passion. If you talked to me three years ago, I wouldn't be able to tell you all of this. But I've grown, and during that growth, I chose to ache, I chose to be alone, I chose to be honest with myself, and I chose to heal from things I didn't even know were weighing me down.
Do I still have days where I question things? YES, YES, YES!! Every single day. None of us are perfect. I have days where I just feel so defeated. I wonder if I'm making a difference in the lives of the children I'm with everyday. I wonder if they even care about my advice. I wonder if it even matters. But I know it does. I know it does because I'll have a day like I did last week when a 13-year old girl listened to my advice, cried in front of me, and opened up to me, after I told her that her pain and disappointment was valid, and that she wasn't alone.
We all need reminders.
See, we get so wrapped up in everything being pretty and presentable to others. We get wrapped up in holding ourselves to a standard we have created, forgetting that we are worthy, regardless. We get wrapped up in putting our goals off until tomorrow. We get wrapped up in telling God that the obstacles we will face are going to be too big. We get wrapped up in fear. Dismantle that fear. Unpack it. Sort through it. Then, everyday, work on ripping up parts of it and replacing those pieces with affirmations from that little voice in your head. The one that is sometimes a whisper, and other times it yells at you. Yep, that one.
You were not put on this earth to be mediocre. You were put here with a purpose. Choose to recognize what that really is. Yes, it will mean saying "no" to other things and prioritizing. Yes, it will mean saying "no" to the doubt in your head. It starts small, but never stop working at it. Your presence on this earth makes a difference, whether you see it everyday or not. It's so true. Let your faith be bigger than your fear.